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Prep baseball: Hanging tough

Wildcats match up well with nationally ranked opponent

Posted: March 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Jagger Rusconi (5) beats the tag of Harvard-Westlake’s Brian Ginsberg on Thursday at West Ranch.

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The good news was West Ranch baseball had advanced to the semifinals of the Easton Tournament.

The opponent, though, was the bad news.

Nationally ranked Harvard-Westlake stood in the way, and the Wolverines took advantage of defensive errors by the Wildcats and showed why their pitching staff is one of the most hyped in the nation in a 2-0 victory on Thursday afternoon at West Ranch High School.

Wildcats starting pitcher J.C Cloney went toe-to-toe with the Wolverines’ Jack Flaherty on the mound, but two costly errors proved too much for West Ranch to overcome.

The first came in the second inning when Harvard-Westlake’s Arden Pabst reached first on an error by the shortstop.

Pabst came around to score on an RBI single by Ryan Vanderschans.

“We just relaxed too much on defense,” Cloney said. “We didn’t expect the ball to be hit to us, but our defense is good.”

Cloney went 6 2/3 innings in a losing effort, allowing just three hits and two runs — one earned — and striking out eight.

At the plate, Cloney and teammate Justin Hovis each went 2-for-3.

“Cloney’s faced us (a lot) and that’s the best he’s looked (on the mound),” said Harvard-Westlake head coach Matt Lacour. “(West Ranch) will be good this season.”

All five hits Cloney allowed were singles.

“I feel this was my best game throwing against them,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I know we have a good chance at a Foothill League title. We were expected to lose (to Harvard-Westlake) and we fought them.”

Cloney’s counterpart, Flaherty, was just as sharp.

The sophomore is the third starter for the Wolverines (4-0) behind top recruits Max Fried and Lucas Giolito.

“I don’t know if I’d call him a No. 3 pitcher,” Cloney said. “I’d call him their third ace.”

Flaherty pitched seven innings, allowing five hits, four strikeouts, one walk and no runs to pick up the win.

The Wildcats (2-1-1) had only two batters reach second base and accumulated no extra base hits in the contest.

West Ranch tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh, as Hovis reached with a leadoff single and moved to second on a wild pitch.

But Flaherty settled down to get the next three batters and end the game on a strikeout of Gabe Peralta.

In the top of the sixth, the Wolverines added to their one run lead when Flaherty came around to score after reaching on an error by Cloney.

With runners on first and second, Joe Corrigan hit a grounder to short, but the shortstop’s attempt to beat the runner to second failed and the Wildcats had to settle for only the out at first.

Flaherty, running from second, rounded third and beat the throw home for the Wolverines’ second run.

West Ranch will play Alemany in the final game of the Easton Tournament on Saturday. Alemany defeated Valencia on Thursday, but the coaches agreed to change the bracketed matchups because Alemany and Harvard-Westlake are due to play each other next week in Mission League play.

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