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Hart wins by field goal

Indians nine-run first inning is enough to hold off Harvard-Westlake in Game 1 of quarterfinals

Posted: July 25, 2008 1:20 a.m.
Updated: September 25, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Hart's Kyle Henningfield steals second base during a nine-run first inning in the first game of the Valley Invitational Baseball League quarterfinals on Thursday. The Indians won 17-14 and will play again today at Harvard-Westlake.

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After spotting their opponent six runs in the top of the first inning Thursday, Hart's offense quickly countered - in a big way.

The Indians collected 20 hits in a football-like 17-14 slugfest over Harvard-Westlake in game one of the quarterfinals of the Valley Invitational Baseball League (VIBL) tournament at Bud Murray Field.

The Indians scored nine runs in the bottom of the inning; two scoring on third baseman Adam Bouyer's shot over the left center field fence, and three coming home on C.J. Millar's blast to right center.

After the Wolverines cut the lead to 9-8, Hart came back with two more in the bottom of the frame. And while Harvard-Westlake managed to tie the game in the third, Pat Valaika's one-out RBI double in a decisive bottom of that inning gave the home team a lead they would never relinquish.

Hart led, 17-11 after three, as the Indians amassed 20 hits, two days after hammering out 21 in a 22-10 second-round victory over Saugus.

"I thought we hit the ball hard." Indians head coach Jim Ozella said. "But this put baseball back 50 years."

Both Ozella and the home plate umpire mentioned that Thursday's 15-run first inning between the teams were the most they have ever seen. That fact is notable, considering Ozella has coached high school baseball since 1981, and the umpire has been behind the plate for at 20 years.

Hart pitchers walked 12 batters (five of those occuring in the rocky first) but allowed just eight hits.
Reliever C.J. Ruiz earned the win, giving up five runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Relief pitcher Kyle Cook threw three innings to earn the save. Cook surrendered just two hits, including a three-run homer in the sixth hit by Austin Wilson that put the Wolverines within striking distance. Cook struck out three and recorded the Indians' only 1-2-3 inning.

"Hopefully we're not too tired for tomorrow," Ozella said. "Our concern is if our pitchers can get ahead in the count. We walked too many guys, we hit too many guys, we allowed too many guys to get on base. You can't keep doing that. Our offense would wonder, ‘How many runs do we need to score?'"

Millar blasted the most important of Hart's four home runs, a three-run launch that landed over the portable classrooms behind the right field fence.

Millar - the younger brother of Baltimore Orioles veteran and Hart graduate Kevin Millar - went 3-for-4 with four runs batted in and three runs scored.

"It was a fastball inside," Millar said of his blast. "It was the second-farthest I've hit. I hit one over the 365-foot sign in right center. It was actually pretty nice and gave our pitching some slack. I think we have a lot of momentum (for game two)."

Some of Hart's insurance runs, which were eventually needed later in the game, came in the form of 6-foot-1, 250-pound Bouyer.

In addition to his clout in the first, he struck again with authority, smashing a two-run homer over the right-center fence in the third to give his team a 16-11 advantage. That came two batters after Spenser Souza's two-run blast.

"It was pretty much fastballs," Bouyer said of his shots. "I just attacked the first one he threw. We were pretty confident up there. Once the momentum changed, we kept going at them."

Wilson kept it close with his three-run blast, but Cook allowed a two-out single before striking out the game's last batter to lock the game down.

"I felt pretty good today," said Wilson, who hit two home runs. "A couple games ago, I was popping everything up, so I did some tee work and got everything down."

With the victory, Hart takes a one game to none lead in the best-of-three series. Game two is at 5 p.m. today at Harvard-Westlake in North Hollywood.

Sophomore-to-be Erik Vogel will start for the Indians.

Paul Putignano contributed to this story.

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