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4A-13 Playoff Preview: Gibbons, Pompano Looking To Spoil

American Heritage Delray and Jensen Beach have been mainstays in the Palm Beach County Power Rankings all season long, but only one team can come out on top of the district tournament.

The good news is that both clubs are likely to make the regional tournament, and two Broward programs — Cardinal Gibbons and Pompano Beach — also have shots at an at-large bid. This could end up being one of the most competitive districts in the tri-county area.

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

4A-13 District Playoff Schedule

Location: American Heritage Delray

Quarterfinals – Monday (5/1)

No. 2 Jensen Beach vs. No. 7 Boynton Beach @ 7:30 p.m.

No. 3 Pompano Beach vs. No. 6 Northeast @ 5:30 p.m.

No. 4  Cardinal Gibbons vs. No. 5 Somerset Academy – Canyons @ 4:00 p.m.

Semifinals – Tuesday (5/2)

No. 1 American Heritage Delray vs. Winner (Cardinal Gibbons-Somerset Academy) @ 7:00 p.m.

Winner (Jensen Beach-Boynton Beach) vs. Winner (Pompano Beach-Northeast) @ 4:00 p.m.

Finals – Thursday (5/4)

Winner (Semifinal 1) vs. Winner (Suncoast-Okeechobee) @ 7:00 p.m.

American Heritage-Delray – Team Page

The Stallions play a tough schedule and still win most of their games, which means manager Carm Mazza has his more than ready to tackle the postseason.

Josh Ramos and Anthony Tralongo have put together 20-hit seasons, and Sean Collins and Evan Hernandez will likely cross that threshold in the postseason. Justin Aron paces the team with three home runs, and Ayden Gurevich is an RBI machine with 24 runs driven in.

Uncommitted Noah Lucia has been dominant on the mound with 61 strikeouts and a 1.72 ERA through a team-high 44.2 innings pitched. Dane Rossi is another elite arm that has a 0.98 ERA and 52 strikeouts through 43 innings. Joey Abazzia is a lights-out closer/reliever with three saves, a 0.79 ERA and 28 strikeouts.

Overcoming a regular season loss to Jensen Beach will be key, but this team has the talent to make a serious regional push.

Boynton Beach – Team Page

The Tigers have won more games in 2023 than they did in the prior two seasons combined, but  Jensen Beach is a tough draw in the quarterfinal round.

Juniors Angel Marroquin and Andrew Throop lead the team with averages just north of .350 on the year. To advance, the pitching staff will have to limit runs, which has been a challenge against elite clubs all year long.

Cardinal Gibbons – Team Page

The Chiefs have dealt with injuries all year and struggled through some tough stretches to a 9-10-2 record. Longtime manager Jason Hamilton said earlier in the year that he believed his team would play its best baseball come playoff time, and a 3-1 finish to the regular season might be the start of that run.

Senior Brad Dunn leads the team with 33 hits, and Tugg Hollandsworth and Michael Vazquez have each belted five home runs. Cole Cozzolino has 39 punchouts through 33.2 innings on the mound, and Brenden Trujilo’s 1.75 ERA through 28 frames leads the program. George Stringos (37 K, 26.1 IP) is another strong starting option, giving Gibbons enough pitching talent to make a deep playoff run.

Making the regional tournament is certainly doable for the Chiefs, but it will take an upset in the semifinals over Heritage to guarantee it. A regular season matchup didn’t go Gibbons’ way, but now the team has an opportunity to get revenge.

Jensen Beach Team Page

The Falcons went to the state finals for the first time in school history last year and nearly won a championship game that took extra innings to decide. There’s a realistic path to Fort Myers for manager Corey Cooke again in 2023, but redistricting to 4A-13 means a different group of opponents to face in the postseason.

Chris Knier and Jake Breen have combined for a 1.43 ERA and 95 strikeouts through 73.2 innings. Breen can work out of the bullpen or as a starter, which helps during a long playoff run. Offensively, Dylan Fatovich leads the team with 24 hits, and Cian Copeland and Dominic Donatucci are tied for second with 22 apiece. Kevin Smith is also a threat in the batter’s box, and he’s been successful in 22 of 23 steal attempts.

The pieces are here for another deep run, and winning the district championship will only help when regionals are seeded. A 2-1 win over Heritage a week ago might be a good omen, but a one-run margin is as slim as it gets.

Northeast – Team Page

The Hurricanes are under new leadership and looking to build a foundation for the future. The flooding wiped out a good chunk of the team’s April, but they did get a few games in before the district tournament.

Adrian Martinez leads the offense with 14 hits and nine RBIs and a home run. Upsetting Pompano Beach in the quarterfinals might be tough for Northeast this season, but stranger things have happened in the past.

Pompano Beach – Team Page

The Golden Tornadoes are the No. 3 seed in 4A-13 and have a path to a regional berth with a win or two in the district tournament.

The offense is led by Evan Russo, who has a team-high 22 hits, and Eddie Marshall, who has driven in 18 runs and belted four home runs. Brady Williams is also at the 20-hit mark, and Ryan Ward (19 hits) should join the club throughout the playoffs. Ward also leads the team in innings pitched with 27. He’s struck out 35 and has a 3.11 ERA.

Pompano Beach is in a similar position to Cardinal Gibbons in that a semifinal win would guarantee a regional playoff appearance. Getting past Jensen Beach might be tough, though.

Somerset Canyons – Team Page

The Cougars finished with their best record since 2018, and things seemed headed in the right direction under second-year manager A.J. Quinones.

Trajan Johnson and Kellen Sanguillen are tied for the team lead in hits with 18 each, and Sanguillen stands alone with 18 RBIs and nine doubles. Matt Hanlon and Jake Norton have struck out a combined 60 in just under 50 innings of work.

Somerset might be catching Cardinal Gibbons at the wrong time in the district quarterfinals, but don’t expect the Cougars to roll over.

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