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Lake Worth Christian Hangs On For 2-1 Win Over University

Zjeanuwayne Braafhart earned the win for the Defenders, after striking out seven in five-and-two-third innings of work.

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The Lake Worth Christian Defenders made it a point to schedule as many challenging opponents as they could this season, to help better prepare them for the rigors of the playoffs. Thursday night the club traveled down from West Palm Beach to take on the University Sharks at Ian Besner Field on the Nova Southeastern University campus, in a non-district game against one of the toughest teams in the 4A state playoffs last season.

After the way his club responded with a balanced, 2-1 victory, Defenders manager Kraig Lawrence had a tough time finding anything to be disappointed by. Zjeanuwayne Braafhart and Alden Stacie combined for a great outing on the mound, while the club played mistake-free defense and also made the most of its few offensive opportunities against Sharks crafty left-handed starter Will Frank.

“Everybody played great,” Lawrence said. “I am just really, really happy for them. We’ve worked really hard and we’ve played some better teams this year, like Santaluces and Forest Hill, teams that are better for us. This is also only our second night game of the year, and it is tough and different for our outfielders who were having a hard time seeing the ball because they are not used to seeing it pass through the lights.”

The way the Defender pitchers were working on Thursday meant very few baseballs ever found their way into the outfield. Braafhart struck out seven in five-and-two thirds innings of work to earn the victory, while also scattering five hits and four walks. Lawrence admitted that he has a veteran pitching staff, which also includes the team’s starting catcher.

“Zjeanuwayne has been around for a couple of years now, and he came out tonight. That was a great game; he pitched well and he kept his emotions in check, for the most part,” Lawrence said. “His catcher, Tanner Martinez, has played varsity since sixth grade and he’s only a sophomore who still has three years left with us. He’s the one calling all the pitches and he’s the general of the game. He looks over every once in a while, if he has a question.”

The Defenders’ defense did not commit an error and controlled the Sharks’ running game.

Stacie came on in relief in the pivotal point of the game, and he delivered to help preserve the victory. After Nicholas Pfister worked a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, Sharks pinch-hitter Jonathan Ostrow laced a shot deep to center field for an RBI triple that put the tying run ninety feet from home. But Stacie responded with a strikeout that left Ostrow stranded, and he struck out two more in a scoreless seventh inning that closed it out and earned him the save.

Tahir Mulens accounted for both runs for Lake Worth Christian. The shortstop led off the game by dropping down an excellent bunt and then showcasing his speed to beat the throw to first base. Roy Glaum moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Tanner Martinez drove Mulens in when he ripped an RBI single past the diving second baseman.

Mulens then scored the deciding run in the third. He started with a single up the middle, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error, and then scored thanks to a sac-fly RBI from Stacie.

Those were the club’s only hits on the night, however.

“We’ve got to hit a little bit more, but that’s not who we are,” Lawrence said. “We bunt and move guys over and get guys on and use our speed. We’re blessed with youth and speed and that has been fun.”

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