Broward High School Baseball
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6A-14 District Tournament Preview

Host: Pembroke Pines Charter

Schedule:

Monday April 21st

7:00 PM (3) Stranahan vs. (2) Boynton Beach

Wednesday April 23rd

7:00 PM Championship: Stranahan/Boynton Beach winner vs. (1) Pembroke Pines Charter

Overview – It’s a whole different landscape in this three-team district. It is a scenario that has greatly benefitted the top seeded Pembroke Pines Charter Jaguars, who have earned a bye straight to the district championship as well as a berth in the regional playoffs. Knowing they are already in has given the Jaguars the chance to prepare accordingly, as well as to set higher goals much sooner than other teams. Should Pines Charter beat the winner of the semifinal and win a district championship, they would then host the opening round of regional play.

The greatest asset for both Boynton Beach and Stranahan is that they have the motivation for some payback, after each lost their regular season meeting against the Jaguars. But first they must get by each other. For the Tigers, the goal in this second meeting with the Dragons will be simply to replicate the first time when they batted over .400 and pitched a shutout for a big victory.

The winner of this game will then face a Jaguars squad that is focused and hungry for a district title. Upon learning that they had won the top seed, the Pines Charter players told their coach that was just the beginning.

“I told them they had clinched and a couple of guys said we haven’t finished yet, that we still have to win the district tournament,” said Jaguars Manager Carlos Iglesias. “That’s a good sign; they know what their goal is.”

Brett Ayalon and the rest of the Jaguars are hoping to celebrate a district title this season.

1. Pembroke Pines Charter – Although they may not get the fan fare they may deserve, the Jaguars have quietly come along to prove a formidable contender all season long. The team had two separate five-game winning streaks and has proven able to both hit and pitch. Pines Charter has thrown six shutouts this season, while the club has showcased a lot of pop in their bats with an offense that bats over .300 as a group.

“This year we have a lot of leadership,” said Brett Alayon. “We have come together as a team. We take a lot of pride in what we do.”

Pines Charter has down well in big moments, playing a tough schedule and staying I every game all year long. They earned the top seed and the regional berth by outscoring their district foes by a combined scored of 24-1. They have played great team baseball and have earned the distinction of being the favorite heading into the district tournament.

The offense has shown a lot of power, with four starters hitting over .300 and six guys putting at least one hit over the fence. Daniel Rodriguez-Velez has been the leader both on the team but also in the county in home runs, and he supplies a dangerous bat in a very lethal lineup.

Not to be lost amidst all the balls flying around the yard has been the way the Jaguars have pitched. Alayon, Danny Melgarejo and Derick Garcia have all tossed big innings to lead the club’s pitching staff, giving them the type of depth a team needs to make a serious playoff run.

For years Pines Charter was always chasing national power Archbishop McCarthy in their district, but now the Jaguars find themselves as the team to beat.

Kyle Tedesco is one of many capable hurlers for the Tigers.

2. Boynton Beach – It has been a resurgent year for the Tigers under new Manager John Drouin. The team has played .500 ball for most of the season, and also surprised a few clubs along the way. The team has relied heavily on a much improved pitching staff that has an ERA just above 1.00. The addition of Virginia transfer Brandon McCabe alongside veteran Kyle Tedesco has paid big dividends. Senior catcher Victor Hughes has also shown some brilliance on the mound, giving the team depth and versatility with their hurlers.

The offense has improved collectively by over 70 points from last year’s team average, even though the club has managed nearly the same run totals. McCabe also leads the way form this side of the diamond, batting over .400 and leading the team in RBIs. Ian Acevedo is another newcomer who has shined for the Tigers, leading the club in runs. Meanwhile veterans Luis Cepeda, Christian Perez and Hughes have all supplied solid offensive contributions for the up-and-coming club.

Boynton Beach has shown the ability to make waves in the playoffs. What it lacks is experience in such environments, as it has been nearly a decade since the program’s glory days. While the team will aim high with their playoff goals, it cannot be understated how important their first game against Stranahan is. A victory in that game will earn the team a berth in the regional playoffs, which would be a great reward for a roster of guys that has come along together for several years working towards just such a day.

“People laughed about Boynton Beach high school baseball for the past five or six years, and made fun of the program. But they’re not going to make fun of us anymore,” Drouin vowed back in the fall. “We’re going to change that philosophy. Hopefully that will change.”

Chris Ford has been a leader both from the plate and on the mound for Stranahan this season.

3. Stranahan – First-year Manager Marc Ianatto has taken his team in the right direction this season. Although the district games were tough on the Dragons, that has been the case for several years. Following a tough opening stretch Stranahan has slowly come along, as they work to build experience with a young roster of players.

“Unfortunately, our bats have been dying as the season has gone on,” said Iannatto. “Early on in the season when we played them we were hitting well and unfortunately our bats have weakened. It showed in this game. At the same time, it’s been a long season and we’ve had some difficult losses, and I think that is holding in their minds. So kind of breaking that from these young guys is what we need to work on. It’s still a young team, so they haven’t been able to bounce back yet.”

The family duo of brothers Chris and Austin Ford has been the driving force on the club. The elder Chris is a senior who has led the team at the plate and also pitched the majority of the innings on the mound. With so many new players on this year’s roster, the veterans such as the Fords, Wilfred Santiago and Kenny Stanley.

With only five seniors on the team, Stranahan knows the future holds a brighter tomorrow. But that future can also start now with a district playoff victory over Boynton Beach.

“I would love for these kids to step up and show their true potential and really be a team to be feared someday,” Ianatto said before the season began. “Obviously there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done.”

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