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Hart baseball refuses to share Foothill title

Indians are outright champs

Posted: May 15, 2014 9:53 p.m.
Updated: May 15, 2014 9:53 p.m.

Hart's Nick Valaika, right, throws to first as Saugus' Roy Verdejo slides on Thursday at Saugus.

Two of the Foothill League’s best pitchers faced off at Saugus High on Thursday, but the game didn’t play out like a pitchers’ duel.

The Hart Indians used 12 hits to hold off the Centurions 9-8 and win the Foothill League title outright in the process.

“That’s baseball. You think it’ll be 1-0 ... (but) you deal with what’s given you,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella of the slugfest.  On Tuesday, the Indians (21-4-1 overall, 12-3 in Foothill) had to overcome a one-run, seventh-inning deficit against Saugus (17-10, 9-6) to earn at least a share of the league title.

They had to work around a 6-4 deficit, produced by a five-run Saugus fourth inning, on Thursday.

But knowing they could do no worse than tie Valencia High for the league crown (with a Viking win and Hart loss) helped the Indians stay relaxed, said Hart shortstop Nick Valaika.

Hart scored three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a 9-6 lead.

“(The) guys were really loose and played confident,” said Valaika of knowing the worst-case scenario.

Valaika finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a double. Jack Ralston hit a solo home run for Hart, which posted six hits and four runs off Saugus starter Eric Little.

On April 2, Little struck out 11 Hart batters in a 6-1 Saugus victory.

He lasted just 2 2/3 innings this time around.

“Little wasn’t getting the outside strike today,” Valaika said. “He dominated the outside (in the first meeting).”
Hart’s Paul Richan didn’t outlast his counterpart by much, surrendering six runs (five earned) in four innings.

“I had a feeling each pitcher wouldn’t be out there too long,” said Saugus head coach John Maggiora, referring to the 99-degree game-time temperature.

Troy Williams finished 1-for-4 with a three-run double for Saugus, which scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull within 9-8 but left the tieing run at second base.

“It was a fun high school game,” Maggiora said. “Fans sitting in the stands got their money’s worth today.”

The Centurions entered the week with a chance to win the league but finished as the Foothill-League’s fourth seed and will likely be an at-large team for the playoffs, which likely means a wild-card game next week.

Hart, on the other hand, finishes as the one seed and will host a first round game.


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