Park Vista Poised For Another Deep Playoff Run
December 18, 2014
By Nathan Rode
Forida's Park Vista HS is looking to break through and win its first state championship and 2015 is as good of a chance as any. The Cobras have advanced beyond the district tournament every year since 2006—with the exception of 2010. They lost in the state championship game in 2008 and reached the state semifinals in 2009, 2011 and 2014. The 2015 squad has 14 seniors, 13 returning from last year and an out-of-state transfer.
“We feel we’re very talented and we hopefully can get back to that point, but it’s not going to be easy,” head coach Larry Greenstein said. “People aren’t just going to step aside and let us through.”
Leading the pitching staff will be RHP Austin Smith, a Florida Atlantic recruit and one of the top draft prospects in the state. Smith logged a team-best 77.2 innings pitched in 2014, going 12-1 with a 0.36 ERA. He struck out 96 and walked 24. The lone loss came in a complete game effort as Park Vista fell 1-0 to RHP Logan Crouse and Bloomingdale HS in the state semifinals. He returns with hopes of avenging that loss while scouts bear down and assess his status as a draft prospect.
“It’s just like anywhere else,” Greenstein said. “When you get that guy on the hill that can dominate a game—you know he’s throwing strikes, going after hitters, I think the defense plays better and the guys can relax at the plate a little more thinking maybe we don’t have to score four and five this game. One or two could do it. It just gives us an edge offensively. He’s a bulldog on the mound. He goes after guys and doesn’t get intimidated. With that said, guys behind him respond really well obviously.”
Offensively, the Cobras’ spark will come from SS Matthew Mika, a high-energy player with one speed—fast. Mika, a Central Florida recruit, stole 48 bases in 2014—a school record at an institution that produced Trea Turner, who is known for his top-of-the-scale speed and was the first-round pick of the Padres out of North Carolina State this year. Mika also hit .435 and scored 43 runs last season while striking out just five times in 85 at-bats.
“He’s unbelievable,” Greenstein said. “He’s what I call a game changer, not only offensively. Just his athleticism in the field. He’s our own web gem machine. He’s one of the most exciting players I’ve seen on a high school field, period. Offensively, defensively, he’s just a special player and a special kid. No one is going to outwork him.”
Greenstein noted they do have a bit of a void to fill in pitching as they lost about 60 innings to graduation, but the Cobras have the pieces that can step in. RHP Colin Smith, who is committed to Florida Southwestern JC, was injured for a majority of the season, but he came up big in the region semifinal, shutting down Palm Beach Gardens HS in four innings of relief. The Cobras also got a transfer student as LHP/OF Jordan Poore comes in from Indiana. Committed to Florida Atlantic, Poore can get his fastball up to 91 and has good bat speed from the left side.
“What a great kid,” Greenstein said of Poore. “Man, we lucked into that. That’s a first for me. Just a kid from the clear blue move in. He can pitch. He’s a throwback player. There was a reason why FAU offered him. They don’t just hand out scholarships.”
Park Vista has the talent and experience on paper to get the job done plus this group has been playing together for a long time as high school field and Little League fields share a complex. But that doesn’t guarantee anything and Greenstein has simple message for his players going into the 2015 season:
“Take nothing for granted,” he said. “Last year was last year. It was a great season. Make no mistake about it. Play every game like it’s your last game and let the chips fall where they may. Stay focused 100 percent of the time.”
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