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Foothill League baseball: Cloney at his best

Pitcher throws six shutout innings as West Ranch wins fourth straight game

Posted: May 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch pitcher J.C. Cloney throws against Hart at West Ranch High on Wednesday.

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West Ranch baseball has never won a Foothill League title.

But it's been in the hunt each of the last three seasons late, only to falter down the stretch.

Now the Wildcats control their own destiny.

Starting pitcher J.C. Cloney gave West Ranch another stellar performance on the mound and the Wildcats defeated Hart 7-0 on Wednesday at West Ranch High.

The Wildcats (15-7-1 overall, 9-3 Foothill League) came into the game tied with Saugus and Hart for first place in the Foothill League.

West Ranch now has three league games remaining — one against Hart on Friday and two against Saugus, which beat Valencia on Wednesday, next week.

“Very bad,” Cloney said on how much his team wants the title. “It would be devastating this year (if we don’t win it).”
Cloney helped the Wildcats take their first steps toward a title.

The senior moved to 4-1 in Foothill League play and 6-1 overall this season by going six innings, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out a career-high 12 batters.

Cloney said he came out with a plan to get ahead on first-pitch strikes, set batters up with his cutter and mix in his change-up and curveball.

It was effective to say the least as he struck out the side in the first and sixth innings and saw slight trouble in only one inning — the fourth, in which he allowed a two-out walk two batters after surrendering a single to Tyler Webb.

The Long Beach State commit came back and struck out Matt Machin to end the inning.

“The guy on the mound is what starts it,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella about Cloney. “The guy on the mound was a good, quality (NCAA) D-I pitcher. In that situation, you’ve got to find ways to be successful.”

Hart couldn’t offensively, yet the Wildcats could early.

They scored two runs in the second inning — first on an RBI double by Tony Slauson then on an RBI single by Jake Bird.

West Ranch added three more in the third, first taking advantage of an uncharacteristic error by Hart’s Luke Persico at shortstop.

Following the run-scoring miscue, Tyler Woldanski pushed across a run on a squeeze bunt, then Casey Gahan drove in a run on a double.

In the fifth, West Ranch scored twice more, first on another error by Persico, then on a sacrifice fly by Cloney.

After winning five straight Foothill games, the Indians have now lost three straight.

“Get ready for Friday,” was Ozella’s message to his team after the game. “I’m a little disappointed in our battle today. We didn’t battle today. We have a lot of opportunity still left.”

As does West Ranch.

The Wildcats went into the penultimate week of league in 2009 in first place and trailed first place by one game in 2010 and 2011, each time failing to win the title.

In those three seasons, the Wildcats were 6-6 down the stretch.

Cloney said things are different this year. This team is tighter and no Wildcat wants to let another Wildcat down.

West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill acknowledged that.

“The spirit and drive of this senior group will be the deciding factor,” Burrill said. “This is the tightest group we’ve had as 16 guys on a roster. They’ve got each other’s backs.”

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