How much parity is there in the high school baseball playoffs that begin Monday?
Two defending state champions and one state semifinalist from last season are No. 4 seeds.
The fact Class 8A champion South Dade, Class 6A champion Mater Academy, and 4A semifinalist North Broward Prep are capable of upsetting the top seeds in their districts makes for some intriguing matchups this week that will shape the path to the state tournament next month in Fort Myers.
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South Dade defied the odds last season behind then starting pitcher Erik Manoah on its way to winning to its first state title.
The road this season for South Dade has been a lot tougher.
A three-game district losing streak midseason almost dropped the Bucs out of the top four spots it needed to be in to qualify for the District 16-8A tournament. But South Dade responded by winning nine of its final 11 games to notch the No. 4 seed.
The Bucs (16-6) will play three-time reigning district champion Miami Killian, which just finished GMAC tournament runner-up, at 3:30 p.m. Monday in a semifinal at Coral Reef High School. Part of what made the district slate tougher this season was the improvement of No. 2 seed Palmetto (14-8) and No. 3 seed Varela (13-5-1), which will square off Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at Coral Reef in the other semifinal.
South Dade has responded behind Manoah’s brother, Alek, catcher Gabe Cruz, second baseman Artie Paula and the pitching of senior Jose Gorordo, who pitched in last year’s state tournament.
Mater Academy found its momentum at this time last season and carried it to the school’s first state championship in Class 6A.
The Lions are hoping for a repeat of both.
Last year, Mater entered the district as a higher seed, but not having won a game for nearly the previous month.
The Lions haven’t gone that long without a victory this time around, but have gone 3-3 since losing to Coral Gables in the final of the HSBN Spring March Madness tournament on March 26.
To keep its title hopes alive, Mater Academy (14-8) must beat top-seed TERRA (19-5), one of the most improved teams in South Florida which swept its six district games, when they play Monday at 3:30 p.m. at Belen Jesuit.
That contest will be followed Tuesday with the other District 16-6A semifinal between Doral Academy and host Belen Jesuit at 3:30 p.m. Doral (17-7-1) will enter that game on a nine-game winning streak as it faces Belen (14-11), the district runner-up to Mater last season.
One of the deepest and most competitive districts resides in Broward County – District 14-4A.
The top four teams in the seven-team bracket in order – Calvary Christian (19-6), Pine Crest (17-7-1), Somerset (17-9) and North Broward Prep (15-10) – are all at least five games over .500. Coral Springs Charter is not over .500, but has won four district games this season. University School is led ace pitcher Evan McKendry and Chaminade-Madonna has a win over Somerset and played some of the district’s top teams tough down the stretch.
The tournament runs Monday through Friday at Nova Southeastern University.
District 11-8A quarterfinal at Taravella: Deerfield Beach vs. Coral Springs, 6:30
District 14-8A semifinals at Flamingo Park: Hialeah vs. Hialeah Gardens, 3:30; Miami High vs. Miami Beach, 7
District 15-8A opening round: Ferguson at Southwest, 7
District 16-8A semifinal at Coral Reef: Killian vs. South Dade, 3:30
District 15-7A opening round: Hollywood Hills at South Broward, 6
District 14-6A semifinal at Pines Flamingo Park: Stranahan vs. Boynton Beach, 7
District 16-6A semifinal at Belen Jesuit: TERRA vs. Mater Academy, 3:30
District 14-4A opening round at Nova Southeastern University: Chaminade-Madonna vs. University School, 7
District 15-4A quarterfinals at Monsignor Pace: Florida Christian vs. Booker T. Washington, 4; Mater Lakes vs. La Salle, 7
District 16-4A quarterfinal at Gulliver: Ransom vs. Coral Shores, 4
District 14-3A quarterfinals at Westminster Academy: Coral Springs Christian vs. Westminster Academy, 4; Jupiter Christian vs. Oxbridge, 4; Highlands Christian vs. Lake Worth Christian, 7