4A-14 District Tournament Preview
Host: University School @ Nova Southeastern
Monday, April 20th
7:00 PM: (7) Chaminade-Madonna vs. (6) University School
Wednesday, April 22nd
4:00 PM: (5) Coral Springs Charter vs. (4) North Broward Prep
7:00 PM: Chaminade-Madonna/University School winner vs. (3) Somerset Academy
Thursday, April 23rd
4:00 PM: Highest remaining seed vs. (2) Pine Crest
7:00 PM: Lowest remaining seed vs. (1) Calvary Christian
Friday April 24th
7:00 PM: Semifinal winners
Full stats for 4A-14 can be found on the 4A-14 Stats Page!
Overview – This district has lived up to the billing as one of the most competitive in the county, if not the state. Each game has been a challenge, and this seven-team district had each team playing one another twice. With so much of the schedule taken up by these games, it seems as though the power structure within the district has been in constant flux the entire time.
One change the teams agreed to prior to the season was to add greater reward to the higher seeds. Both the top two seeds now receive a bye in the opening round of district-tournament play, with top seed Calvary Christian hosting the lowest seed that survives and number two Pine Crest facing the highest seed that survives to the semifinals.
1. Calvary Christian – Even with all the parity across the district this season, Calvary has quietly gone about its business and worked its way into the top position. The program has not been to the regional playoffs since 2012, and the team has not won in the regional playoffs since 2009. If ever there was a team capable of ending those streaks, this is that group.
Calvary has as strong a group of starting pitchers as any in Class 4A. Senior Andrew Gottfried has blossomed into one of the best hurlers in the county in his fourth full varsity season, and third as the premiere pitcher on the staff. With him on the mound, the team is capable of beating anyone.
The team has plenty of other pitchers who are just as talented and also as important to the team’s success. Fellow starter Tommy Taborda is an excellent compliment to its ace, while Winn Allen, Noah Yager and Christian Scott lead a strong relief corps.
Overall the team is as experienced as any, led by seven core seniors who have all started together for the past three years. Now all those tough lessons learned along the way have begun to pay off into valuable experiences that the Calvary players have grown from and corrected.
“Our strength is our senior leadership,” Manager Gregg Mucerino said. “The seniors are all good kids, they have good continuity and excellent chemistry.”
Gottfried also leads a strong offensive unit. Taborda and Nick Benevento have also been strong contributors, while Tommy Orr has been of the top hitters in Broward County this year. As a group Calvary hit well over .300 for the season.
The club also earned a big victory over a talented Highlands Christian squad to win the 4Him Classic over Spring Break. This experience helped the players prove themselves in a tournament environment, and it could pay big dividends as the team looks to make a historic playoff run this year.
2. Pine Crest – This is the final playoff run for a core group of seniors led by Zack Kone, Griffin Conine and Adam Saks, who have represented this program for many years together. With those guys set to head off in different directions at various elite colleges, now is their final chance to make a serious run and forever leave their marks.
There is little question that the team has the talent to win and advance in the playoffs. Kone and Conine have been two of the most successful hitters in the county this year, and Saks recently returned from injury to a pitching staff that already features senior Tom Walker, sophomores Sam Wurth and Jordan Schulefand and junior ace Garret Rukes.
“It starts on the mound, and especially with our team,” Pine Crest Manager Wayne Stofsky said earlier this season. “Garret’s our horse, and Tom Walker just keeps getting stronger and stronger behind him.”
Earning the second seed was a big accomplishment for the squad, and it puts the players in excellent position in the district playoffs. Pine Crest will be rested and ready with its ace, while whichever team it faces will have had to play a game earlier in the bracket and use some of its pitching just to win and reach that game.
Pine Crest played a tough schedule this season. It had a nice showing against excellent competition in the HSBN March Madness Shootout during Spring Break, advancing to the semifinals of the Gold Bracket before dropping a close game to defending 6A state champion Mater Academy. Besides a 9-3 mark in the district, the team posted a winning record in non-district play against very fierce opposition.
3. Somerset Academy – Somerset was knocking on the door last season, winning in the quarterfinals before losing a tough battle with Chaminade in the district semifinals. This year the team has returned even stronger, securing a better seeding in the district bracket and giving itself a much better opportunity to advance to the semifinals.
Offense has been important for Somerset. The club hit over .300 for the season, led by Kenny Moreno-Costa and Derek Cartaya. Juan Teixera and Mike Van Degna have also been big contributors in a batting order that runs nine deep.
“Even if you are a good hitting team, you’re not going to score a lot of runs every game,” Somerset Manager Onel Garcia said. “Eventually, pitching is going have to get us a few games.”
The pitching has been less successful, as the club holds a high team ERA and has fallen into shootouts in numerous contests. But when the team needed it most, Somerset delivered its best three performances of the season in its final three district games to change its fortunes in the bracket. Brandon Valentin picked up the win in two of those games, and Angel Perez the other.
If that pitching can get the team a few more wins like that, it will find itself heading to the next round of the playoffs.
4. North Broward Prep – North Broward has most of the guys back from the team that went on a run to the state tournament last season. The club is anxious for its third trip to the Final Four in the past few years, but knows first it must survive through a tough district bracket.
North Broward put together another winning season under the guidance of Manager Brian Campbell, who always schedules a tough slate of games. The team also had five losses by just one run, a turnaround that could have given the squad 20 victories this year.
“Our expectations as a program are to be better year in and year out, and if we want to be better we need to do better than just replicating getting there. We need to win,” Campbell said.
This squad does not flinch under pressure, and it is used to playing in high-pressure situations. North Broward has proven it can perform well in tournament environments like it will face in districts, as it won the district crown last year and also played to the runners-up in the HSBN March Madness Shootout during Spring Break. It is a group that thrives in pressure situation, and typically plays its best in those settings.
Pitching and defense have long been the staples of this program, and that has been the case this year. Brian Fagan and Anthony Masiello have led the starters, while CJ Roth, Max Tannenbaum and Ryan Mash have been the main guys out of the bullpen.
The Blue and Gold have been led by Jared Schwait on the offensive end. Masiello serves as the designated hitter and has been very reliable, while Franco Comacho has provided some power with five home runs and a team-high in RBIs.
North Broward split the series with Coral Springs Charter this season, and has won three of the last four meetings in this storied district rivalry. This next meeting will just be the latest chapter in a series that has unfolded in many playoff meetings over the years.
5. Coral Springs Charter – Coral Springs Charter posted its first losing season in many years, and a turnaround in the playoffs would be an excellent way to erase that fact. The team has plenty of talent in key positions, but has struggled to bring it all together with consistency this year.
The playoffs start with a rubber match against North Broward Prep, the reigning district champions that are intent on defending that title. Charter must count on its key role players to lead the way if it wants to grab the upset victory and avoid a quick end to its season.
Pitching has been the strength of the team. Starters Tommy Romero, Ryker Faircloth and James Doherty are all capable of throwing strikes and going deep into games. Romero got the start in both meetings with North Broward this season, and he could again get the call in the rubber match.
Scoring runs has been the biggest struggle for this team, as it averaged only three runs per game.Tyler Ray and Michael Perugini have excelled at getting on base this year, but the hitters have not been very successful in driving runners in.
Charter played a tough schedule this year that included several state champions and some worthy state contenders.
“We planned it this way. We did this on purpose,” Coral Springs Charter Manager Mike Higgins said. “I want to be the team that when we come to the end of the year we have hit all of the peaks and valleys. When it comes time for the districts, I hope we are a little angry and ready to get at it.”
6. University School – The Suns have been chasing the same goal for the past two seasons since Dan Rovetto took over as Manager. The plan is to end a playoff drought that dates back to 1991, and this desire pushes the entire small group of players everyday.
“The kids want to be that team to get over that hump,” Rovetto said. “It’s the same conversation we had last year, this team has not won a district since 1991. This is not a state contender, and we all dream for that, but this team needs to get a playoff game. If we can accomplish that goal, we will have a nice season and a positive experience for ourselves.”
It is no small task to make 2015 that year. First the Suns must survive a play-in showdown with the ever-dangerous Lions, then take on an equally talented Somerset squad. If University School can manage back-to-back wins in those games, the team will be one game away from ending the streak. One last upset would be necessary, and in that scenario it would come against top-seeded Calvary Christian.
While this motivation is the driving force, it should not be the measuring stick for the team’s season. The team graduates five important seniors this year, but also returns a strong junior core. The battles throughout this season have molded them into a stronger and more competitive force, with results that could manifest later on down the road.
For the present, the team will rely on Evan McKendry to lead the way. The junior has led the pitching staff all year, and is likely to get the call against Chaminade for the second time this season. McKendry was victimized by some tough defense in a loss during the season, and now his guys could get a chance to pay him back for that day.
Jesse Crosno and Buddy Heyward have also provided big contributions for the pitching staff this season. Both could either come in relief or else start a game in the playoffs.
The offense made tremendous strides this year, and has improved dramatically from the year before. Evan Klugerman led the way, while McKendry, Heyward, Kyle Oren and Michael Glantz have all put up solid numbers this season.
It would be a special story for the Suns to make some magic happen this season. Nothing worth having comes easy, and there are no easy games in this district.
7. Chaminade-Madonna – The Lions have a history of making serious playoff runs against all odds. Just last year the team stormed its way to the district championship, and then won to advance to the regional semifinals. Now Chaminade will need an even bigger streak to make another such run this season.
Chaminade comes in as the lowest seed, needing to first get past University School in the play-in round just to earn a spot in the quarterfinal game against Somerset Academy. The Lions split the regular-season series with the Suns this year, and both games were tight to the wire. It can only be expected that the same thing will be the case in the rubber match.
Depth has been an important asset for a pitching staff that has struggled for consistency. Michael Callari, Alex Smith and Ryan McManigal have been the most reliable arms in a deep group that also includes Damien Fornash, Zach Bramlett, Michael Blanco and Brendan Tuttle.
One of the brightest spots on the season has been the performance from Shane Stockelman, who is among the top hitters in Broward County this year. The senior led the club in hits and RBIs and batted well over .400 for the season.