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West Boca Starts Off Strong Over Spanish River

Kyle Morgan was the model of efficiency in earning the win for the Bulls.

The West Boca Bulls versus the Spanish River Sharks has become something of an opening night tradition in Palm Beach County, with the two teams squaring off to start each of the past four seasons. The first of those two contests went to the Sharks and the third to the Bulls. On Tuesday night at Spanish River, West Boca evened the series, dispatching their rivals by a score of 8-1.

The win came as a relief to a Bulls team that struggled during their two games in the High School Baseball Network Preseason Challenge last week. On Tuesday, Bulls’ manager Nathan Underwood took a different approach to getting his players focused and ready and it rewarded him handsomely.

“We struggled our first two games, our preseason games, but we came out with a completely different mentality,” said Bulls leadoff hitter and center fielder Oscar Bustamante. “We came out more intense and we came ready to play today. A completely different team.”

That intensity manifested itself in Bustamante’s very first at-bat, when he began a 2-for-3 night by driving a 2-2 pitch down the left field line for a single. Jordan Bernstein followed with a single of his own, and the two were driven home later in the inning when Chris Charlock split the left-center gap for a double. Charlock extended the lead to 3-0 by scrambling home while Michael Lazarus was caught in a run-down between first and second base, after Lazarus drew a walk to reach base.

Kyle Morgan drew the start for West Boca and immediately set to work protecting his team’s lead by fanning the first two batters he faced in a three up, three down bottom of the first. He added four more strikeouts in his six full innings of work, while walking none. He allowed only one run and one hit, both at the same time, when Austin Hurwitz powered a ball over the right field fence for a solo home run in the second.

Austin Hurwitz went yard in the second inning for the Sharks’ only run.

From then on, Morgan was the epitome of efficiency. Up until the sixth inning he faced just one batter over the minimum, and at one point he retired five Spanish River batters on just eight pitches.

“From me stretching and warming up I knew I felt really good today,” said Morgan. “I knew from the bullpen everything was working, all three pitches. I tried to use all three effectively, keep them off balance and I thought I did a really good job at that.”

His mound opponent, Billy Marion, found his groove after the first inning as well. In four innings pitched he struck out six but also struggled with issuing three free passes. The last of those walks went to Corey Bruno, the first West Boca batter of the fifth inning, and sparked a five-run rally that broke open what had been a tight 3-1 game.

After the walk to Bruno, the Sharks turned to Brandon Boyle, but to no avail. Bruno swiped second base and scored when Bustamante deposited a ball just fair of the left field line for a double.

“I had two strikes on me, I was just trying to get something, I was just trying to move the runner over actually,” said Bustamante, who scored on an error later in the inning. “He threw me an outside pitch and I took it down the line for a double.”

That opened up the flood gates for the Bulls. They brought all nine of their batters to the plate in the inning, taking advantage of two Spanish River errors, a Jordan Keller walk and back-to-back RBI doubles from Cory Kuchta and Lazarus to close out the scoring at 8-1.

“Really disappointed in the way we played defense tonight,” said Sharks Manager Bill Harvey. “Obviously, if we continue to play like that it’s going to be a long year. We had opportunities to get out of innings and didn’t get it done. You want to give them the credit they deserve; they hit the ball when they needed to. They didn’t take big swings and put the bat on the ball and made sure they got the job done.”

For Underwood, it was not just the first win of the season, it was the first win of his career as Manager of the Bulls. He does not see that as anything special.

“Not to sound cliche, but it’s just another game,” Underwood said. “The biggest thing is just coming out and playing hard because that’s what we had not done in the two pre-season games.”

Bulls first baseman Chris Charlock had a slightly different take.

“It feels good, you know,” said Charlock. “We work every day, six days a week to get the ‘W’ and it feels good to come out and beat our rival.”

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