Bold Predictions: Second Half Stew
This is the inaugural of our new HSBN feature, Bold Predictions. As the second half of the season begins, HSBN Co-Founder Anthony Uttariello and Editor-in-Chief Rick Duteau give their bold predictions for the stretch run. Enjoy!
Anthony’s Bold Prediction #1: Look out 9A-14, an upset is lurking.
9A-14 has shown to be one of the toughest districts in the county this season. Coral Gables and Coral Park currently hold the top two spots, and came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Miami Beach and South Miami, however, have been playing better of late. If one thing is a constant each season in Miami, it is that there will be upsets in the district tournament. This district is as ripe as any for a possible upset or two. Miami Beach has ace Nolan Santos who is capable of beating any team on a given day. South Miami Manager Howard Cuervo has his team always playing hard, and upset-minded. I’m not saying the top two current seeds will go down. But would it surprise me if it happened? No.
Rick’s Bold Prediction #1: Dr. Krop will win District 9A-13 this season.
The Lightning turned heads last season with a run into the regional playoffs as the district runner-up, and the club returned stronger and more dangerous this season. Dr. Krop has already locked up the number one seed in the district tournament and has beaten all three teams. The Lightning have not won a district title in over a decade, but this may be the best team the program has seen over that time. Manager Paul Barrios is getting the most out of every player and it is a group prepared for playoff success it knows it can achieve. After breaking into the HSBN Miami Power Rankings at #15 this week, the Lightning are hungry for more.
Anthony’s Bold Prediction #2: Columbus will enter the playoffs on an eight game winning streak.
Yes, the obvious assumption here is that the Explorers only have eight games left, so this prediction means they will win them all. That is quite bold for a team that still hasn’t found that long winning streak run they are capable of. But that is wht they are called bold predictions. Looking at the schedule, Columbus will first have to avenge their last loss, to a surging South Dade team. After that, its Westland Hialeah, Braddock, Hialeah Educational, Coral Reef, Southwest, a big district match-up against Ferguson, and Somerset Academy Charter. Although not an easy run, Columbus will be favored in all of those games. It may just be a hunch, but it feels like the Explorers are ready to kick it into playoff mode.
Rick’s Bold Prediction #2: The Carol City Chiefs will finally end their losing streak.
Since HSBN made its way south and began covering Miami-Dade County in 2012, the Carol City Chiefs have not earned a single win on the field of play. So far this season that stubborn losing streak has continued, but for those paying attention the results have showed a tremendous improvement. The margin of victory that teams are gaining in what has become known as a sure win has shrunk tremendously. Last year Carol City was outscored 208-10 in an 0-13 campaign, while this season opponents are scoring only half as much. The struggles are offensively, as close losses of 3-1 to Jackson, 8-5 to Norland and 6-4 to Mourning have reflected. First-year manager Darrell Pender has the Chiefs playing as well as ever, and ace Jose DeLeon has proven he has the arm that could pitch the team to victory. With just three games left on the schedule, Carol City is poised to make the moment happen.
Anthony’s Bold Prediction #3: Pace, through all of their struggles, is still the team to beat in 5A-15.
It has been a long time since Pace has looked this vulnerable in district play. The team, which has been mired in what appears to be a season-long funk to this point, has never looked this vulnerable in district play. The Spartans looked to be loaded coming into the season, but have experienced many issues both on and off the field that have made this a challenging year. Through it all, however, and with all eyes on their demise, Pace still comes into the second half of the year as the top team in the district. My guess is that at some point soon, the Spartans put it all together and the talent starts to take control. Will it be an easy run? No. Every team in this district has an ace that can win on any day. That will make getting out of the district tough. Even once out of the district, Key West, and a strong contingent of teams from Broward’s loaded 5A district await. But if there’s one thing I have learned through the years, it is that Manager Tom Duffin will have his team ready when the big lights of the playoffs come on.
Rick’s Bold Prediction #3: Miami Jackson’s Yordy Cabrera will win the triple crown pitching this season as the county leader in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
Cabrera has enjoyed a tremendous high school career as a four-year varsity starter on the mound for the Generals, and his senior campaign is his best work yet. The right-hander has yet to allow an earned run on the year, while piling up 51 strikeouts against just five walks. Cabrera is 5-0 on the year and also has a good chance of surpassing 300 career strikeouts by season’s end. The Generals are 10-3 and threatening to make noise in the district playoffs and reach the regional playoffs, and Cabrera will be relied upon heavily to help make it happen. Since seeing him as a freshman closer four seasons ago I have enjoyed watching Cabrera’s career, and I truly believe he is capable of earning such a rare accomplishment like the pitching triple crown.
Anthony’s Bold Prediction #4: The 7A regional champion will come out of 7A-16.
This is probably the least bold prediction of all of these. Belen Jesuit, Doral, and Miami Sunset are all competing for the top spot in the district, but the three are basically interchangeable in terms of talent. Each has had their moment in the sun so far in 2018, and each has also experienced some struggle. Those are the type tribulations that it takes to win a region. Whichever two teams come out of the district playoff, will be favored in their regional quarterfinal match-ups with Browards’ 7A-15 teams. Assuming both survive those challenges, they would meet again for a spot in regional finals. Dwyer, the team that has split the last two regional championships with Belen, will likely be waiting. It will be an epic game, but my guess is the Miami 7A team, whoever that may be, gets to Fort Myers this year.
Rick’s Bold Prediction #4: There will be an upset in the 9A-16 district playoffs.
The District of Death never sleeps and it will claim more victims this season. If history has taught anything, it has shown that this district tournament is as unpredictable as any. The lower end of the district bracket still features plenty of firepower from Southridge, Killian and Coral Reef, any of whom may unseat South Dade to move into the second seed. Palmetto has looked as good as any team in Miami-Dade County this year and should go confidently into the district playoffs as the top seed, but this is also the year of Loyola Chicago. Should the Panthers secure the final district wins they need to lock up the top seed, they need not forget the heart of the underdogs that will be coming for them. If I had to pick a sleeper to watch out for, it would likely be Killian. Based on the offensive firepower and the tough schedule the Cougars play down the stretch, they could enter the district tournament with an offense that is clicking and capable of hitting against anyone.