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Hart baseball moves on to VIBL semis

Posted: July 19, 2014 11:15 p.m.
Updated: July 19, 2014 11:15 p.m.

Just a couple of months removed from its Foothill League championship baseball season, Hart is well on its way to replacing, adding and bolstering its talented roster.

Miles Tsujimoto pitched seven innings of two-hit ball on Saturday to boost Hart to a 2-1 win over the Gas House Gang — a.k.a. Granada Hills High — in a Valley Invitational Baseball League quarterfinal game at Hart High School.

Tsujimoto, who will be a senior in the fall, is one of many players who didn’t previously play varsity ball but is vying for a prominent role on the team with his productive summer.

He would add some nice depth to an already strong one-two punch of returning pitchers for Hart, Jack Ralson and Paul Richan.

“He’s really had a good summer so he was deserving of the start today and he took advantage of it,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella, whose team is going for its second straight VIBL title.

Tsujimoto struck out seven and walked three in the game, using all three of his pitches well and staying ahead in counts.

Hart got on the board when senior-to-be Dayton Provost drove in Nick Plaia, who got aboard earlier with a double.

Plaia later drove in the go-ahead run in the third with a sacrifice fly.

In the semifinals, Hart heads across town to face Saugus on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in a rematch of last year’s VIBL championship game.

The same two teams also faced off in the final series of the regular season this past spring, when Hart ultimately clinched its first Foothill title since 2008.

But in mid-July, no one is talking about the Foothill League.

Right now, it’s all about figuring out who the next crop of varsity players will be.

“It’s good for us because it gives us an opportunity to develop some depth, pitching staff, some other guys, see some guys that we haven’t seen on a regular basis and still create a competitive environment,” Ozella said.

As far as position players, Hart will need to replace the graduation losses of key players at catcher, shortstop and center field.

Playa is one young candidate to step into a middle infield position as a junior next spring with his tall, athletic frame, his versatility and his gap power.

Nick Hand and Mike Phillips will compete for those jobs as well.

At catcher, varsity returners Brad Meza and Robert Reeves are both showing potential while fellow returner and left-hander Julian Rea is a leading candidate for the center field spot.

“We had 10 seniors that did a lot of things and a lot of the guys who were not playing a whole lot learned a whole lot from those guys,” Ozella said.


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