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Foothill League baseball: Two big arms put Wildcats at the top

West Ranch wins fifth straight game behind a strong outing from its No. 2 pitcher Cody Bennett

Posted: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch starting pitcher Cody Bennett delivers against Hart on Fridy at Hart High.

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Depth wins championships.

And West Ranch’s depth on the mound could win it a Foothill League title.

Wildcats pitcher Cody Bennett was stellar on Friday and his offense was opportunistic in a 12-1 victory over Hart at Hart High on Friday.

West Ranch needs one victory in the final two league games of the year, both against second-place Saugus next week, in order to claim at least a share of its first ever Foothill League title. Two wins mean an outright title.

“It’s very exciting,” Bennett said. “If we come out and play like we have the last two weeks, we got it.”

The Wildcats (16-7-1 overall, 10-3 Foothill League) have now won five straight games, including the last two against a Hart team going the opposite direction.

The teams came into this week tied for first place.

Now, after its fourth straight loss, Hart (13-11, 8-5) is out of the league title race and worse, could finish fourth (based off a head-to-head tiebreaker with Valencia) in the Foothill League.

“It’s a matter of we’ve got to learn from today,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “Next week we’ll be ready to play and be aggressive. We don’t know who will be in the lineup. We’re day to day with every guy.”

Hart was without its starting first baseman (C.J. Witkowski), second baseman (Dayton Provost) and shortstop (Nick Valaika, who has been in and out of the lineup all season with injuries) on Friday due to injuries.

Had they been in the lineup, it might not have mattered.

Bennett was that good.

With his three-quarter delivery, he mixed in three pitches — fastball, curveball and change-up — which appeared like it came out of a chute and danced around the plate.

The junior went six innings, allowing five hits and walking one, while striking out five.

He gave up a single run in the game on a first-inning sacrifice fly off the bat of Luke Persico.

“He’s been a solid strike thrower all season,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill of his No. 2 starter. “Being a three-quarter guy, he can have a little run on his pitches to right-handed hitters that gives him an advantage. His pitches have movement that’s not generic to right-handed hitters.”

Bennett said he got a sense of comfort by his offense, which pounced when Hart made four errors in the game.

West Ranch scored four runs in the fourth, three more in the fifth and five in the sixth.

The game had a feel like it might be a pitcher’s duel between Bennett and Hart’s Zachary Hanks until Hart shortstop Luke Persico rushed a possible inning-ending double play in the fourth inning.

In the fifth, it was all hitting as Josh Heinz, Justin Hovis and Tony Slauson all had RBI singles.

Slauson had three RBIs in the game.

In the sixth, the big hit was Jagger Rusconi’s blast that fell in the left-center field gap. A run came in on the hit, then an error in the outfield allowed Rusconi to score.

Rusconi was 3-for-4 in the game with three runs.

Now comes Saugus in games on Tuesday and Thursday.

Saugus won the only other meeting this year 6-4 on March 28.

“They’re going to come out hard, heavy and loud,” Burrill said.

661-287-5529

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