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Hart led 9-0 after four innings, then West ranch exploded for 11 to win a Foothill League classic

Posted: May 15, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: May 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
With Hart baseball up nine runs in the middle innings Friday at West Ranch in a Foothill League finale, talk in the Indians’ dugout swirled around on how second baseman Spenser Souza would complete his cycle.

Sitting on the end of a steel bench in the same dugout, Hart head coach Jim Ozella said, almost under his breath, “Don’t wake a sleeping dog.”

The dog, rather the ’Cats woke up and scored 11 runs in the fifth and sixth innings and defeated the Indians 11-9.

“To be honest with you, absolutely nothing,” said Souza of the meaning of his cycle, which he achieved in the sixth inning with an infield single.

He went 4-for-4 in the game with five RBIs. His three-run home run in the first inning gave Hart a 3-0 lead. It was his team-leading ninth of the season.

Hart (14-11-1, 8-7) was up 9-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, then things fell apart.

Allen Sarkissian started the scoring with an RBI single off the left field fence.

Two batters later, Casey Watkins hit a grand slam over the right-field fence.

At that point, a 9-5 deficit seemed not so deep.

“Casey has been like that all season,” said Wildcats designated hitter Nico Rusconi. “He has that drive, that energy. He’s the spark plug to the engine.”

It’s been an engine that has sputtered of late.

The Wildcats (20-7, 11-4) started last week as the No. 1 team in CIF-Southern Section Division I and in first place in the Foothill League.

But a sweep last week at the hands of Valencia and a 4-2 loss to Hart on Wednesday drove the Wildcats to rock bottom in the confidence department and second place in league.

Head coach Casey Burrill credited the downturn to West Ranch’s inability to get the big hit.

Two batters after Watkins, the Wildcats got another big hit when Cody Howard slugged a solo home run to cut the Hart lead down to 9-6.

Until the fifth, Hart pitcher C.J. Millar held the Wildcats down, but his defense failed him in the fifth, as Indians shortstop Patrick Valaika, who hit a solo home run in the fourth to give hart a 6-0 lead, dropped a pop-up.

Then the defense failed reliever Josh Wagner in the sixth.

A three-base error started the Wildcats’ scoring in the sixth.

Sarkissian’s sacrifice fly then cut the lead to 9-8.

Rusconi then socked a two-run double to give West Ranch a 10-9 lead.

“It kind of felt like he shut the door and we got all the confidence in the world,” Watkins said of Rusconi’s double.
Mitchell Thompson gave West Ranch an insurance run with an RBI-single, two batters later.

Howard then retired the Indians in the seventh.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s 11 unearned runs,” Ozella said after the game. “We were doing things the right way, but then we let this turn around like this. It’s disappointing.”

Only five of West Ranch’s runs were earned.

Hart can look back on three games this season where things went very wrong.

The Indians lost to Golden Valley 4-2 on April 15. Golden Valley won a total of four games in Foothill League play.

One week later, the Indians led Valencia 8-0 after two innings and eventually lost to the Vikings 17-10.

Then there was Friday’s game.

An 8-7 record in league could have been 11-4, which would have tied West Ranch for second place in league. Worse for the Indians, it might have made a three-way tie for first place in the Foothill League because Valencia ended 12-3.

The Indians would have been guaranteed a spot in the Division I playoffs.

Now they have to hope for a wild-card selection.

The Indians haven’t missed the postseason since 1986.

Those selections will be announced Monday.

West Ranch, on the other hand, finishes in second place in the Foothill League and will now make its first-ever baseball playoff appearance.


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