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7A-16 Preview: South Dade Stands In Way Of Palmetto Repeat

It’s rare to find a district these days with teams that still play a good amount of games between one another, but that’s exactly what happens in 7A-16.

South Dade is the top dog, but Palmetto played upset last year to Southwest and is looking to do so once again. The bottom half of the division is dangerous too, though. Ferguson, Coral Gables and Coral Reef have all secured wins against district opponents this season, which should make for some good action throughout the bracket.

Let’s take a look at each team’s prospects.

7A-16 District Playoff Schedule

Location: South Dade

Quarterfinals – Monday (5/1)

No. 4 Coral Reef vs. No. 5 Coral Gables @ 3:30 p.m.

Semifinals – Tuesday (5/2)

No. 1 South Dade vs. Winner (Coral Reef-Coral Gables) @ 5:30 p.m.

No. 2 Palmetto vs. No. 3 Ferguson @ 3:30 p.m.

Finals – Thursday (5/4)

Winner (Semifinal 1) vs. Winner (Semifinal 2) @ 6:30 p.m.

Coral Gables – Team Page

First-year manager Antonio Rodriguez is still working on restoring the Cavaliers to their former glory, and an upset win over Coral Reef in the quarterfinals would be a great way to close out Year 1 at the helm. The Cavs came out on top of that matchup on April 5 and are hoping to repeat the performance.

Pitching is the strength of the team. Seniors Idail Diago and Justin Bohanon have a combined 2.07 ERA and 71 strikeouts through 82.2 innings. If the offense can produce a few runs, the pitching staff should be able to get the job done. Israel Garcia and Andrew Ravelo are the team’s best bats and are nearing 20 hits on the year.

If Diago can repeat his performance on the mound against Coral Reef, the Cavaliers should be in a good position to advance to the semifinals.

Coral Reef – Team Page

The Barracudas may have dropped the last game they played against the Cavaliers, but Coral Reef took the first meeting against Coral Gables this season, 5-2, on Feb. 28.  What’s even more encouraging is that Coral Reef has two wins over Ferguson, a win over Palmetto and a pair of close losses to South Dade.

Ryan Romero is the team workhorse on the mound. He’s hurled 39.1 innings over eight starts, including one complete-game shutout. Offensively, the trio of Jordan Scantlebury, Darwin Vargas and Ryan Yaroshuk will have to step up after hitting above .300 all season long.

If everything goes right, the Barracudas could win the district, but there’s also a world where they are out in the first round. If there’s a wild card to look out for in this district, it’s Coral Reef.

Ferguson – Team Page

The Falcons have put together their best season since 2019, but they’ve played a pretty favorable schedule along the way. Winning six of the last eight has Ferguson feeling goof, but beating Palmetto in the semifinals won’t be easy.

At least four lineup regulars are batting above .300, including senior first baseman Rey Garcia, who provides the pop for the team with four home runs. On the mound, Frank Vila and Leonardo Alonso have combined for over 60 innings.

However Ferguson’s playoff run ends up, fourth-year manager Michael DiRosa has the program headed in the right direction and reaching the district semifinals is a new milestone to build on.

PalmettoTeam Page

The Panthers pulled off the upset a year ago to beat Southwest for the 7A-16 crown, and now it’s South Dade that Palmetto will have to upset to take home some hardware in 2023.

Up first is Ferguson, though, and the two clubs already split a two-game season series. The Falcons took the most recent encounter, so the Panthers will need to be at their best to return to the district championship. Blake Brookins is the bat to watch out for. His 26 hits lead the district and his .464 average is good for second behind a 10-for-20 batter. Luis Sosa has the lowest ERA (0.95) and second-most strikeouts (43) in the division.

Palmetto has the pitching to go deep in a tournament, and the offense seems to come up when needed. Could the Panthers repeat as district champions this season? It seems very possible.

South Dade – Team Page

At the top of 7A-16 are the Buccaneers, who have carved out a spot on the HSBN Miami-Dade Power Rankings all season long.

Manager Fred Burnside has three of the district’s few 20-hit players and the duo of Oskar Amaya and Brandon Roman has been elite on the mound. The defense is clean, which makes mistakes from the pitching staff bearable, and the offense usually provides enough run support to win.

South Dade can’t afford to enter the postseason cocky. A district championship is the only way any team from this district makes it to a regional, so the margin for error is slim.

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