The Palm Beach Central High School boys varsity baseball team has been playing well and winning games in recent weeks. After a rough start to the season where the Broncos lost four out of their first seven games, the squad has rallied and won seven of its last eight games. The only loss during this eight-game stretch was a 9-8 road loss against Palm Beach Gardens High School on Friday, March 25.
Palm Beach Central’s record is 11-6 after its first 17 games. The most recent victory was a 15-9 home win against the King’s Academy on Tuesday, April 5.
Palm Beach Central head coach Tony Gullo is pleased to see how his team has responded to its early season defeats.
“Other than that Friday night against Gardens, things have started to come together,” Gullo said. “We have been playing more complete games. At the beginning of the season, it seemed we couldn’t put it all together. We would have hitting, but no pitching or defense, or we would throw the ball well on the mound and not have hitting.”
But now, things are different on the diamond for the young Broncos. For the most part, they are hitting the ball in all the right places and playing good defense, too.
Based on the team’s current .387 batting average and .493 on-base percentage, the team’s offense is in sync, and the pitching is improving.
“Juan Hung has been consistent most of the season on the pitcher’s mound,” Gullo said. “He has a steady mix of pitches and is usually around the plate. Bryce Szala struggled earlier in the season and was thrust into action when our scheduled starting pitcher couldn’t go about five minutes before gametime at Santaluces. Bryce, who was scheduled to be in relief, was immediately inserted as the starter and had a great game. David Urrutia, Hector Camacho and Brody Gullo have also contributed on the mound as of late.”
As is the case with many teams, it takes time for players to understand what is taught and emphasized in practice. “We throw a ton of new stuff at our players at the beginning of each season,” Gullo said. “It takes some players longer to grasp our concepts.”
One of the big reasons why Palm Beach Central is winning is because of the play of senior Cameron Smith, the team’s starting shortstop.
“Cam Smith is having an outstanding season,” Gullo said. “Cam’s success is only possible by others getting their job done around him. Our players have been stepping up and delivering when they try to pitch around or intentionally walk Cam. It’s also critical to get on base in front of Cam to prevent this from happening.”
Smith is scheduled to be playing college baseball next season at Florida State University, or he might turn pro this summer.
“He could possibly go as high as the first or second round in this year’s MLB amateur draft in July,” Gullo said.
One of the strengths of this year’s Bronco baseball team is its veteran leadership provided by 10 upperclassmen. Two of those seniors are Smith and the coach’s son, Brody Gullo. In the most recent win against TKA, both Smith and Gullo hit home runs.
“We have 10 seniors,” Gullo said. “Six or seven usually start, depending on the pitcher for the day.”
If the pitchers keep finding the strike zone and hitters continue finding the outfield gaps with line drives, Palm Beach Central will be a tough out in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state playoffs, which take place in May.
“Hopefully, with some luck, we can keep piecing this together and have a successful ending to our season,” Gullo said. “We love coaching players who work hard and play hard. My team is working hard and finding ways to win.”