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A new arms race

Despite two big departures, Hart baseball is still relying on pitching

Posted: March 28, 2009 1:23 a.m.
Updated: March 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Hart's Spenser Souza slides under a Saugus player to steal his third base Friday at Hart High.

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There will be no comparisons between this Hart pitching staff and last year’s.

A Major League Baseball first-round pick in Michael Montgomery and a phenom in Trevor Bauer (now playing for UCLA when he should be a high school senior) rarely if ever come along together.

Yet this week, a pair of pitchers showed just how important they will be to the Indians’ success this year.

Josh Wagner went the distance Friday, often evading disaster, to lead Hart to a 3-2 win over Saugus at Bud Murray Field.

On Wednesday, Trevor Brown nearly no-hit Golden Valley.

“We’re not telling our guys to pitch like the guys last year,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “We have to pitch and play a little better defense (than last year).”

And pitching and defense were so key for the Indians (5-4-1, 2-1) Friday.

Wagner struck out eight Saugus batters, walked one, hit two and allowed seven hits, surrendering two runs — both unearned.

But his defense picked him up during prime scoring situations for the Centurions (4-4, 2-1).

After Saugus’ Tommy Meza singled to score a run and cut Hart’s lead to 2-1 in the fourth inning, runners remained on the corners.

Centurion Aaron Hooper then followed with a grounder to first base that Hart’s Devin Rodriguez turned into an inning-ending double play.

After a bad-hop RBI double by Darren Schweitzer in the sixth cut Hart’s lead to 3-2, Hooper grounded sharply to third baseman Nolan Simons.

Simons, whose error earlier in the inning opened the door to a possible Saugus rally, slammed it closed by snagging the grounder on his knees and throwing Hooper out.

“The defense saved my butt all game,” Wagner said.

Saugus stranded nine runners in the game.

Had the Centurions won, they would have appeared to be the early Foothill League favorite, having defeated Valencia, then walloping West Ranch 15-3 on Wednesday.

“This is a true testament to how league is going to be,” said Saugus head coach John Maggiora. “People have been saying that this league is all hitting, no pitching. Today showed there was actually pitching in this league.”

And there were plenty of scouts surrounding the backstop to emphasize the point.

The object of their desire, tall Saugus right-hander Kyle Hooper, struggled in the first inning to find his control.

A leadoff walk cost him when Rodriguez doubled in the runner for an early 1-0 Hart lead.

Hooper then balked in another run in the first to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.

He regained his composure, but found trouble in the fifth inning after a leadoff double from Jeremy Villalovos.

Four batters later, Simons slapped a hard grounder that ricocheted off the mound and under the glove of Saugus’ Brett Piper at second base.

Villalovos scored, giving the Indians the eventual winning run.

Hooper pitched a complete game, allowing four hits, four walks and three earned runs. He also struck out seven Indians.

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