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22 posts from March 2008

March 22, 2008

Al Leiter on Pine Crest, Marlins & More

Mention that Al Leiter is coaching at Pine Crest, and the response goes something like this:

“What, does he have a kid there or something?”

Well, yes…in second grade (and in fifth and in seventh). So even a cynic might point to a few more reasons as to why the former Marlins ace – who easily could be coaching some pro team, or at least could be calling more than 50 or so games for the Yankees Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network up in New York – is commuting every day from his Weston home to the Fort Lauderdale private school.

As documented here in today’s Miami Herald, Leiter loves coaching. But he also loves Pine Crest’s academics. A lot. He compared Pine Crest to colleges like Stanford and Northwestern – schools he almost attended before selecting the University of Florida and ultimately signing with the Yankees.

In fact, when asked if he hoped his presence as a part-time pitching coach for the Panthers would be a recruiting tool, Leiter said yes – as long as the incoming player is a committed student.

“Absolutely I hope so,” Leiter said, “I don’t know if it will. But yes, if there was somebody who was worthy and able academically to get in, and was a good athlete – particularly a good baseball player – you bet I hope my presence and being around the program would help that particular student.”

Not exactly what you’d expect from a guy who spent 19 years in the Majors and (assumedly) knows little but hardball. Guess that assumption is wrong.

Here are a few more tidbits from Leiter:

-Just because he loves Pine Crest’s academics, that doesn’t mean he wants passive baseball players. “Some of the kids are so used to kind of an intramural kind of mentality, that winning isn’t always a [priority],” Leiter said. “It’s not just about participation – it’s about winning. … There are a handful of guys that actually do want to do well and want to win, and it’s not fair that you have a group of guys on any team that are just there to put it on their resume.”

-Why South Florida? Not just his stint with the Marlins. Leiter and his Plantation-native wife bought their Weston house in 1990, after Leiter fell for the area during his numerous spring-training stints. And after he retired in 2005, he said, “it made sense that we came back to our home that we maintained.”

-Leiter, who after a World Series reuinion last year told The (Newark, N.J) Star-Ledger that the struggles of the Marlins franchise were a "travesty" and a "tragedy," had a few positive things to say about the new stadium deal. "I believe creating and having and maintaining a state-of-the-art Major League facility helps the community," he said. "And I believe had we lost [the Marlins], it would have been a big loss."

Leiter wasn’t as happy with the site of the new stadium, saying building it at the Orange Bowl site means “you kind of cut yourself off from Broward or Palm Beach County.” Still, he said, “that’s where the money was, and that’s what they needed to follow.”

-On the Broward baseball front, Leiter had some words for Pine Crest’s District 14-3A rival American Heritage. Good ones. “I’m not good with names,” Leiter said, but he alluded to first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Adrian Nieto – both top-20 prospects, according to RISE Magazine – along with the entire team (13-1 after dropping Russell (Ala.) County Friday night). “I know why they are who they are,” Leiter said.

--Patrick Dorsey

March 16, 2008

*Update* Pines Charter softball: A win for all of Florida

Pembroke Pines Charter softball coach Tom Fadul, weary from a 3 a.m. wakeup call and a cross-country flight, still found time to make a Sunday declaration:

“I think we put Florida on map and put Pembroke Pines on the map,” Fadul said after his team won the Nike Faster to First Classic in Orange County, Calif.  “All the hype was California this and California that, and it was kind of nice to go out there in their backyard and take it to ’em.”

That the Jaguars did. Pines Charter was the only team from east of Texas in the 26-team field – one that was as deep as the nearby Pacific Ocean.

StudentSportsSoftball.com, which is partnered with Rivals.com and produces national rankings, had 16 of the tournament’s teams in its preseason top 50. Pines Charter was No. 19 – well behind Sacramento’s Sheldon (No. 4), which the Jaguars beat 1-0 in the final.

The Jaguars (now 16-0, and sure to skyrocket in the rankings) also beat No. 12 Hart (Newhall, Calif.), No. 20 El Modena (Orange, Calif.), No. 39 Notre Dame (Belmont, Calif.) and unranked Wilson (Long Beach, Calif.) on their way to the title.

Fadul praised his team – especially his talented senior class – and the field, of which he said “everyone was deep in the lineup and every game was a game.” But he warned not to get too caught up in those rankings.

None looks better, at least on paper, than Pines Charter.

Behind the pitching of Audrey Broyles (who started three games and closed one) and Lauren Sewell (who started the other two), along with some timely hitting in the cold, windy weather, the Jaguars beat El Modena 2-0 Saturday afternoon and Sheldon 1-0 that evening.

Broyles earned the tournament’s MVP award, while Britanie Block, Brianna Chierico, Kandyce Redondo and Cassie Sigler were named to the all-tournament team.

The big picture, beyond what this means for Florida? First, there’s the obvious confidence boost.

But the real benefit: Getting five games of preparation – for the Kissimmee Klassic next month, then districts and state.

Fadul thinks the weekend win did just that.

“They’re very motivated,” he said of his players, “and they’ve got their eyes set on a better prize.”

Results:

Pines Charter 4, Hart 3 (Thursday); WP: Broyles

Pines Charter 6, Notre Dame 2 (Friday); WP: Sewell

Pines Charter 9, Wilson 3 (Friday); WP: Broyles

Pines Charter 2, El Modena 0 (Saturday); WP: Broyles

Pines Charter 1, Sheldon 0 (Saturday); WP: Sewell

--Patrick Dorsey

March 14, 2008

Two more football coaches hired in Broward

Westminster Academy athletic director Alan Wackes announced the hiring of Jameson Allen to oversee the school’s football program.

Allen, who will replace Miami Varela-bound Rod Payne, last coached at Windsor High in Imperial, Missouri. He held four different offensive coordinator posts at various Missouri high schools and served as a collegiate defensive assistant.

In addition to his coaching background, Wackes cited Allen’s strong participation in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his work overseeing strength and conditioning programs as reasons for the hire.

Earlier this week, Coral Springs Charter hired Robb Wilgoren to replace Otis Mounds, who resigned following the 2007 season.

The hirings still leave vacancies at Coral Springs Christian, Monarch, Nova and Western.

March 11, 2008

Belt-ing out a win

Deep into Broward's three-day FCAT sports freeze (or near-freeze, at least), there was quite a boys' volleyball showdown Tuesday, with host Cardinal Gibbons knocking off rival St. Thomas Aquinas -- the same thing that happened in last year's District 9 final.

The match, score-wise, wasn't overwhelmingly close -- the Chiefs won three straight (25-20, 25-17, 25-20) after dropping the first game 25-23 -- but there was plenty of talent out there: The Raiders (2-1), even without senior outside hitter Tommy Samartino (ankle), saw some spirited play from senior hitters Lane Porter, Matthew Lunny, Kevin Garbizo and others, while the Chiefs got strong stuff from seniors Tyler Hall and J.T. Downs, juniors Nick Williams and Kenny Veliky, and several others from their 4-0 squad.

But the one who stood out: senior setter Austin Belt, who basically was Gibbons' Steve Nash -- not just because of his assist total (he had 40 of them, the same amount he had against South Broward last week), but also because of his cleverness. Many times he fooled St. Thomas' front line, sending the ball over the net instead of at one of his teammates, or vice versa.

And then there were all those assists...

"I mean, I love Austin -- he's a great setter," said Williams, who had 20 kills Tuesday. "He really spreads the ball around great, keeps the other team guessing. He doesn't go to the same place over and over again, so the other team doesn't know what's coming. It helps all the hitters -- getting the ball, and have less blockers up, because he spreads it around so much."

After the season -- one in which Belt hopes to place another state-championship banner alongside Gibbons' one from 2005 -- Belt could get some volleyball-related accolades. Then, he said, he's headed to the University of Alabama.

For more time on the court?

"No, just going for college," Belt said.

Maybe, but a look at Alabama's website reveals: the school does have intramural volleyball...

--Patrick Dorsey

March 09, 2008

Pines Charter softball looks like team to beat

...or at least after this weekend, when the hosts won the hotly contested Speedball tournament for the third time in five years, dropping Cooper City 4-2 in Saturday's "gold bracket" final.

The Jaguars went 4-0 -- and didn't give up a run until the championship game. They beat Jensen Beach 10-0 and Monsignor Pace 14-0 on Friday, then reached the title game by blanking Space Coast 4-0.

Is a state title next? It's way too early to say, but last year's 6A champ, Everglades, won Speedball. The last two times Pines Charter won -- in 2004 and 2005 -- they took second at state.

Here's a look at the results for the tournament's four brackets, listed by order of finish:

  • Gold Bracket: Pines Charter (4-0), Cooper City (3-1), Space Coast (3-1), American Heritage (1-3)
  • Silver Bracket: Jensen Beach (3-1), Flanagan (3-1), Lake Wales (2-2), Everglades (1-3)
  • Bronze Bracket: Cypress Bay (3-1), Coral Springs Charter (1-3), McArthur (2-2), Monsignor Pace (1-3)
  • Copper Bracket: McCarthy (3-1), Key West (1-3), Florida Christian (1-3), Hollywood Christian (0-4)

--Patrick Dorsey

March 08, 2008

State cheerleading wrap: Big weekend for BCAA

BOCA RATON -- The first FHSAA State Cheerleading Championships are done, and to use the cliche that they "went off without a hitch," would be, well, a bit inaccurate.

Douglas coach Jessie Metzger and athletic director Dave Grad claimed a timing error -- one that they say wasn't their fault -- knocked them out of the finals, and Michael Blosser of the Universal Cheerleaders Association wouldn't listen to their calls to appeal the penalty, which cost the Eagles 25 crucial points in the final judges' tally.

More on the controversy in Sunday's Herald, but it was -- cliche alert No. 2 -- a small dark cloud over an otherwise sunny weekend at FAU Arena.

Though only one South Florida team, Miami's Dade Christian School, earned a trip to the finals Saturday (more on the Crusaders' ninth-place finish in Sunday's Dade-edition Herald, too), several Broward squads did well Friday.

Stranahan took second -- South Florida's highest finish -- in the non-tumbling division. Dillard took fifth in that category, while Deerfield Beach and Everglades tied for sixth and McArthur finished 10th. Flanagan took sixth in co-ed small, Coral Springs Christian sixth in all-girls small and Coral Glades ninth in all-girls extra-large.

And beyond the teams, it was a solid weekend overall for the Broward County Athletic Association.

No stranger to putting on cheerleading competitions -- its annual county-wide competition started back up in January at Dillard -- the BCAA worked closely with the FHSAA over the weekend in staging the state championship. While Blosser and the UCA worked with the FHSAA on the judging-and-scoring part of the event, the BCAA -- helped largely by Coral Springs athletic director Dianne Sanzari and Coral Springs cheer coach Denise Reed, both members of the BCAA cheer advisory committee -- worked the "behind-the-scenes" portion.

Despite hailing from one county south of FAU, Sanzari, Reed and other BCAA leaders gathered volunteers from throughout Broward -- everyone from principals to athletic directors to random students -- to take tickets, work the parking lots and perform various other tasks.

They also got an up-close look at another major cheerleading competition, which could go a long way toward helping Sanzari fulfill her vision of multiple regional competitions throughout Broward, each leading up to the yearly BCAA Championship and then, ultimately, state.

And it was, Reed said, "all about the kids" -- giving cheerleaders county- and state-wide an inexpensive and previously unavailable chance to get together, network with other cheerleaders and coaches, and, most of all, compete.

"If you weren't here," a glowing Reed said of all the Broward schools not represented, "you missed out on something really great."

Said an enthusiastic Sanzari: "It was a learning experience for all of us."

And that includes coaches.

"I took notes all day," Reed said.

--Patrick Dorsey

March 06, 2008

Something to cheer about

It sometimes gets play on ESPN, FoxSportsNet, etc., and now it's in Florida -- competitive cheer.

For the first time ever, this sport will be recognized as, well, a sport, with seven state champions crowned (one per division, according to the schedule -- non-tumbling, all-girls small, all-girls medium, all-girls large, all-girls extra large, co-ed small and co-ed large) between Friday and Saturday at FAU Arena in Boca Raton.

And South Florida is no competitive cheer wasteland, either -- in late January, Dillard High played host to the Broward County Athletic Association's own competition, and a number of teams from the area will hope to get that title of "first state champion ever."

Here are the local teams competing this weekend, along with times and divisions:

Friday morning:

  • Miramar, 8:16 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Deerfield Beach, 8:24 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Coral Glades, 8:52 a.m. (extra-large)
  • Stranahan, 9:12 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Everglades, 9:28 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Lourdes, 9:56 a.m. (extra-large)
  • Dillard, 10 a.m. (non-tumbing)
  • Coconut Creek, 10:08 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • University, 10:20 a.m. (extra-large)
  • Gulliver Prep, 10:24 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Mater Academy, 10:48 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Calvary Christian, 10:52 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Cardinal Gibbons, 10:56 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Coral Springs, 11:04 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • South Broward, 11:12 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Boyd Anderson, 11:24 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Pompano Beach, 11:28 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • Key West, 11:36 a.m. (non-tumbling)
  • McArthur, 11:52 a.m. (non-tumbling)

**Non-tumbling and extra-large finals are set to start about 1:15, with the champions crowned at around 3:15 p.m.

Friday afternoon/evening:

  • Archbishop Carroll, 4:04 p.m. (co-ed small)
  • Sagemont, 4:28 p.m. (co-ed small)
  • Calvary Christian, 4:40 p.m. (all-girls small)
  • South Plantation, 4:44 p.m. (co-ed small)
  • Coral Springs Christian, 5:20 p.m. (all-girls small)
  • Central, 5:52 p.m. (all-girls small)
  • Ransom Everglades, 6:08 p.m. (all-girls small)
  • Flanagan, 6:52 p.m. (co-ed small)

**The co-ed small and all-girls small finals are set to start around 8:30 p.m., with the champions crowed at about 10.

Saturday:

  • Dade Christian, 8:04 a.m. (medium)
  • Taravella, 8:48 a.m. (medium)
  • Pine Crest, 9:48 a.m. (medium)
  • Northeast, 9:52 a.m. (medium)
  • Cypress Bay, 9:56 a.m. (medium)
  • Nova, 10:08 a.m. (medium)
  • Coral Springs Charter, 2:28 p.m. (all-girls large)
  • Doral Academy, 3:08 p.m. (all-girls large)
  • Douglas, 4:24 p.m. (all-girls large)
  • Fort Lauderdale, 4:56 p.m. (all-girls large)

**The finals for the all-girls medium and co-ed large divisions are set to begin around 11:20, with awards coming at 1 p.m. For the large all-girls division, finals begin at 6:30 p.m. and champions are crowned at 8.

--Patrick Dorsey

South Florida home to 2 of the nation's top 10 baseball prospects

RISE Magazine released its top 50 high school prospects list this week.

Braddock shortstop Harold Martinez and American Heritage pitcher/first baseman Eric Hosmer each made the top 5.

Hosmer (6-4, 210), an Arizona State commit, is ranked 3rd and teammate, catcher Adrian Nieto, a South Florida commit, is ranked No. 18.

Martinez, a commit to UM, is ranked No. 4 and figures to be a 1st-round pick. He will likely be the highest Dade player selected since former Hialeah pitcher Gio Gonzalez was a 1st round sandwich pick three years ago.

March 05, 2008

"The best tournament in South Florida"

That's what Tom Fadul called the annual StrikeZone's Speedball softball tournament, which starts Thursday and runs through Saturday.

Sure, Fadul's team (Pembroke Pines Charter) is the tournament's host, so he isn't the most objective of commenters. But looking at the 16 teams in this year's field, it's hard to argue with the Jaguars' coach:

  • Two reigning state champions -- defending Speedball champion Everglades (6A) and Lake Wales (4A)
  • One team bounced in the regional finals last year -- Pines Charter (4A)
  • Five that made the regional semis -- Cooper City (6A), Archbishop McCarthy (4A), American Heritage and Florida Christian (3A) and Hollywood Christian (2A)
  • Three more that made it out of districts -- Monsignor Pace, Key West and Space Coast
  • And then there's Jensen Beach, McArthur, Cypress Bay, Coral Springs Charter and Flanagan -- which is 9-1 and also considered a contender at Speedball.

The tournament also has an interesting format -- instead of a typical 16-team bracket, each pool's teams are seeded 1 through 4. Then all the 1s play in a four-team bracket, as do the 2s, 3s and 4s. The winner of the "No. 1" bracket is declared champion.

Here's the schedule and pool division for the tournament, which kicks off at 4 p.m. Thursday at SilverLakes Park-South with is at 178th Ave. and Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines:

  • Pool A: Pembroke Pines Charter, Hollywood Christian, Jensen Beach, Monsignor Pace
  • Pool B: Lake Wales, McArthur, American Heritage, Archbishop McCarthy
  • Pool C: Everglades, Cypress Bay, Space Coast, Key West
  • Pool D: Cooper City, Flanagan, Coral Springs Charter, Florida Christian

Thursday's games: 4 p.m. -- American Heritage-McArthur (field SL-2), Coral Springs Charter-Flanagan (SL-3); 6 p.m. -- Pines Charter-Monsignor Pace (SL-1), Cooper City-Florida Christian (SL-2), Archbishop McCarthy-McArthur (SL-3).

Friday's games: 2 p.m. -- Florida Christian-Flanagan (SL-1), Hollywood Christian-Monsignor Pace (SL-3); 4 p.m. -- Pines Charter-Jensen Beach (SL-1), Lake Wales-American Heritage (SL-2), Key West-Cypress Bay (SL-3); 6 p.m. -- Cooper City-Coral Springs Charter (SL-2), Key West-Everglades (SL-3); 6:30 p.m. -- Space Coast-Cypress Bay (SL-1); 8 p.m. -- Hollywood Christian-Jensen Beach (SL-2), Lake Wales-Archbishop McCarthy (SL-3); 8:30 p.m. -- Space Coast-Everglades (SL-1).

Saturday: Bracket play begins at 8, with a new round set to start every two hours. The No. 1 bracket starts at 2 p.m., with the championship and consolation games beginning at 6.

--Patrick Dorsey

Mike Manning coach to Cooper City football

I just got an update on the Cooper city football job:

Cooper City athletic director Paul Megna announced the hiring of former Nova and Archbishop McCarthy head coach Mike Manning as its new football coach on Wednesday.

Manning replaces Jim Elder, who resigned following the 2007 season due to family issues.