Palm Beach Gardens earns state baseball berth
Friday, May 11, 2012
by Matt Porter
No one in Palm Beach County this season hit more home runs than Palm Beach Gardens senior James Jean.
He knocked one out Friday, but his sacrifice bunt was just as vital to Gardens' 5-4 win over Pembroke Pines-West Broward in a Class 8A regional final, which sent the Gators to state for the first time since 2005.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jean advanced sophomore first baseman Pavin Smith, who drew a leadoff walk. Junior third baseman Matt Williams hit a bouncing ball to second that snuck through, scoring Smith with the go-ahead run.
"We don't worry," said Gardens coach Joe Russo, who advances to state for the fourth time in his 19 seasons. "We know if we bunt the county leader in home runs and RBI, someone's going to come through."
Once again, Gardens (21-10) got a big effort from junior right-hander Joey Boyd. The hero of Gardens' extra-innings, regional quarterfinal win over Park Vista, Boyd (4-3) threw a five-hitter with 11 strikeouts and three walks.
Boyd threw 105 pitches, 65 for strikes, and kept the Bobcats off-balance with his fastball and off-speed stuff. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings.
"He's been dominant all year," Jean said. "What can I say? Joey's been the guy to go to, all day, every day."
After Jean smacked a 2-2 changeup over the left-field wall in the second, West Broward (20-5) got to Boyd in the third. The Bobcats scored four on an RBI triple by right fielder Danny Pardo, an RBI single by shortstop Mike Mordente and a two-run single by catcher Cody Swavely.
But Boyd struck out the side in the fourth. He came up with two men on in the bottom of the inning and hit a two-run triple off West Broward senior lefty Tyler Draughon (7-2). That pulled Gardens to within 4-3 and snapped an 0-for-5, five-strikeout slump for Boyd.
"It's good to help yourself every once in a while," he said.
Shortstop Nick Oberg followed with a sacrifice fly that tied it. The score stayed that way until the Gators manufactured the run that earned them the state berth. Next Saturday in the state semifinals at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie they'll play Miami-Columbus, a 1-0 winner over Hialeah.
"We were one bad hop away," West Broward coach Sergio Ambros said. "But that's baseball. It's a hop away for you, and the next time it's not."
Russo knows the breaks of the game. He also knows smart baseball, a balanced lineup and a pitcher like Boyd can get a team to state.
"I'm glad to be there," Russo said. "I hope we can win a couple more games."