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Foothill League baseball: Only one with zero

W.R. defeats Hart to become only undefeated league team

Posted: March 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch’s Jagger Rusconi (5) heads to second base as Hart’s C.J. Witkowski yells to a cut-off man on Friday at Hart High School on Friday. Rusconi was 3-for-4 in the game with an RBI.

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The target on West Ranch baseball’s back keeps getting bigger.

But as the Wildcats continue to pick off Foothill League teams one after the other, they only gain more swagger.

And as for their ace pitcher J.C. Cloney, he’s not showing any signs of slowing down either.

The senior left-hander turned in his second straight strong complete game to knock off Hart 3-1 on Friday at Hart High School, giving Hart its first loss in league play.

West Ranch (8-1-1 overall, 4-0 Foothill League) is the last remaining undefeated Foothill team.

“As you beat teams, they get better and they come at you harder,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “We understand that.”

Much like he did a week earlier against Valencia, Cloney pitched seven steady, no-nonsense innings, allowing a run off two hits and striking out eight along the way.

After giving up two hits in the first two innings, he settled down and retired 17 of the last 19 batters he faced in the game.

“I kind of got used to the mound,” Cloney said. “The mound they have is a really steep slope and I just had to get used to it.”

The Wildcats made the most of limited opportunities at the plate.

Hart starter Caleb Bae gave up four singles to the first four West Ranch hitters of the game, one of which was an RBI hit by Justin Hovis to bring home leadoff hitter Jagger Rusconi.

Rusconi pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 2-0 the following inning when he smacked and RBI double to left-center, plating Tony Slauson.

That was the last batter Bae faced before he was relieved by Ricky Torres.

Rusconi went 3-for-4 with an RBI, a run and a stolen base.

“We were in position to be OK and we did some things that were a little sloppy on defense and on the mound and gave away some runs,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella.

The Indians (6-5, 3-1) fired back with a run in the second after Cody Miller singled, stole his way to third and scored on a groundout by Conner O’Brien.

That made it a 2-1 score, which stood for the next three innings.

No problem for Cloney.

“I love pitching in games that are one run, two runs,” said Cloney, who also went 2-for-3 with a double at the plate.

His double came in the sixth inning, when a seemingly routine fly ball dropped in right-center field due to a communication error between outfielders.

The hit moved Josh Heinz to third base and set up Michael Silva’s pinch-hit, RBI single later in the frame to give West Ranch its final run of the ballgame.

“Today was their day,” Ozella said of the mental error. “It wasn’t our day.”

Torres pitched solidly for Hart, going 3 1/3 innings without giving up a hit.

Hart plays Golden Valley on the road on Wednesday and West Ranch will try to complete the first sweep through league unbeaten when it hosts Saugus.

661-287-5535

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