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West Boca Sets Up Dwyer Rematch With Regional Win

West Boca celebrates the run to take the lead.

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When a manager and his coaching staff come in and take over a new program, there can be some growing pains, and it sometimes takes a year or two to instill a culture.

They are having no such growing pains at West Boca. The Panthers have caught fire down the stretch of the season under new Manager Jerry Albert. West Boca took another step Wednesday night towards getting to Fort Myers, coming from behind to defeat Southwest 5-2 in a 6A regional quarterfinal.

“Right from the beginning when we came in, these guys have been great,” said Albert. “We set the culture, and they have taken to it. Tonight was a great come from behind win against a very good, and well-coached team in Southwest.”

The game started rocky for the Panthers, as the Eagles rattled starter James Litman. Roman Reyes led off the game with a double, and scored when Joel Cabrera hit the second double of the inning.

“Anytime you come out in the first inning and give up an immediate double, it rattles you a little bit. But I was able to refocus after that, and just kept throwing strikes and getting ahead, and eventually settled into the game.”

The junior, however, did not stay rattled for long, as he settled in, allowing only one run and three hits the rest of the game.

“James was fantastic when he settled down after that first inning,” said Albert. “He has been doing that for us all year. He is such a competitor, and is extremely resilient. The whole team was resilient tonight, staying focused until we could put those four runs on the board in the fourth.”

Panthers starter James Litman.

Eagles starter Jesus Moreno, who is only a sophomore, pitched with poise of his own. In the fourth, a couple walks and defensive miscues led to the big inning.

“Anytime you walk two guys, it is important that someone make a play to stop the momentum,” said Southwest Manager Mandy Palaez. “We just couldn’t stop the bleeding in that fourth inning, and the game got away from us a little bit. That is how quickly it can happen in baseball. Up until then, I thought we were playing a great game.”

The big hit in the inning came off the bat of Tyler Cordero, a two run single, giving the Panthers a 3-2 lead.

“We always know someone is going to come through for us offensively, and tonight it happened to be me,” said Cordero. “I was able to barrel up a ball in the fourth and help us get the lead, and then James took it from there.”

It was the lower half of the order that did most of the damage for West Boca, who has as potent a lineup as any team in Palm Beach County.

“We have a very deep lineup,” said Albert. “We have confidence that anybody in the lineup can get it done, and tonight it was the bottom half, with a great at-bat from Tyler to give us the lead.”

The Panthers would add on a run and take a 4-2 lead into the sixth, when Litman again ran into a jam. Matthew Ferrer reached on an error to lead off the sixth, followed by an Albert Bell walk. A fielder’s choice put runners on first and third. Litman then struck out the next batter, and got an inning-ending groundout to squash the threat.

“We had our chance there in the sixth with runners on and the heart of our lineup up, but we just couldn’t come up with that one big hit,” said Palaez.

The Eagles then went in order in the seventh, sending the Panthers to the regional semifinals, and a district championship rematch with Dwyer.

“We know they have a good team and I’m sure will come in here highly motivated after last week’s game,” said Cordero. “But we also will be ready. It is going to be a fun game.”

Players celebrate for the Panthers.

As for Southwest, it is never easy saying goodbye to the seniors after their last game, but Palaez knows the team has a bright future.

“We have a lot of young guys that were playing varsity baseball for the first time this year, and they will all get better and learn from this. I told them they have to remember what this feeling feels like, so when they come back next season, they work hard to not have the feeling again. Our future is bright, and overall, I am happy with the season that we had.”

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