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Hart shortstop Nick Valiaka hits a walk-off home run

Posted: May 2, 2014 10:32 p.m.
Updated: May 2, 2014 10:32 p.m.

Hart shortstop Nick Valiaka (4) approaches home plate after he hit the game-winning home run against West Ranch on Friday at Hart High School. Hart won the game 3-2.

Hart Indians shortstop Nick Valaika redeemed himself in a big way in the series finale against West Ranch.

After committing two errors that allowed the Wildcats to tie the score in the top of the seventh, Valaika belted a solo home run in the bottom of the inning to give the Indians a 3-2 walk-off victory over West Ranch Friday at Hart High School.

“I knew in my mind that I had an at-bat coming up in the last inning, so I knew I couldn’t go up thinking, ‘Oh gosh, what did I do that last inning?’” Valaika said. “I needed to back up my boy Paul (Richan). He threw a heck of a game.”

Following West Ranch’s 4-3 walk-off victory over Hart (17-4-1 overall, 8-3 Foothill League) on Wednesday, Richan put the Indians in a position to return the favor.

The junior right-hander picked up his third Foothill League victory of the season, as he allowed two runs — no earned — with six strikeouts over his complete-game effort.

He scattered five hits and issued only one walk.

“Paul Richan I thought was outstanding again,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “Today he was firm in the zone. Wherever he wanted to put the ball, he was putting the ball.”

But for as good as Richan was, Hart’s defense behind him continued to lead to Wildcat runs.

An RBI single by Jack Ralston to score Valaika in the bottom of the first gave Richan early run support, but a passed ball in the top of the fourth let Nick Ruffino advance home from third and tie the score 1-1.

Cody Miller’s sacrifice fly to score Dayton Provost gave the Indians a 2-1 lead in the fifth, but Hart’s errors gave the Wildcats (14-8, 7-4) life in the seventh.

Following an outfield assist by Provost to gun down Addison Jackson at the plate and maintain Hart’s one-run lead, Valaika’s second error of the frame allowed Cade Spurlin to come home and tie the score 2-2.

But the senior and UCLA commit would make up for it.

On the second pitch of the at-bat, Valaika crushed his second home run of the season over the center-field fence to preserve Hart’s tie with Saugus for first place in the Foothill League.

Valaika finished 1-for-3 with two runs scored and a steal.

Provost extended his hitting streak to eight games as he went 1-for-4 with a run scored and three steals.

West Ranch sophomore Jason Drees went 1-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, but junior shortstop Jagger Rusconi saw his 16-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-3 day.

Ruffino and Spurlin both finished 1-for-3 with a run scored for the Wildcats.

“We’re pleased that we’re involved in one of the better games of the year. But we’ve got our work cut out for us, and need to win the next four games if we’re going to have a shot at the league title,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill, whose team sits one game down in the league standings.

West Ranch will take on Saugus next week before wrapping up with Canyon in the final week of the Foothill League play, while Hart takes on Golden Valley next week and finishes against Saugus the week after.


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