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West Ranch's Justin Hovis, Josh Heinz and Gabe Peralta: Run’s the word

Wildcats’ offense has been an unheralded part of playoff push

Posted: May 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2012 1:55 a.m.

(From left to right) West Ranch seniors Justin Hovis, Josh Heinz and Gabe Peralta have been important cogs in the Wildcats’ run to the CIF-Southern Section Division I semifinals, helping prove the team is more than just great pitching.


It’s brilliant.

Probably been said before — many times in fact.

But you could see it now — sportswriters and baseball players alike using it.

Just like the old “defense wins championships” cliche in football.

“You don’t win games if you don’t score runs.”

Words said by West Ranch senior shortstop Justin Hovis.

For most of the season, and for the last couple of seasons, the Wildcats have been highly touted because of their pitching.

Yet for as much as that pitching has carried West Ranch this season, and into today’s CIF-Southern Section Division I semifinal against Corona, its offense has taken it to the next level — especially in the postseason.

Clutch hitting has resulted in more than six runs per game, mostly done against staff aces.

The Wildcats have a dynamic mix of underclassmen and upperclassmen, on-base guys and mashers.

But head coach Casey Burrill says its the seniors who have led the way, namely three guys — Hovis, leadoff batter Gabe Peralta and middle-of-the-lineup guy Josh Heinz.

“There’s no doubt that any league title or CIF run is driven by the seniors,” Burrill says. “This is something they’re committed to. They want to let the underclassmen say there is no next year because for them, there’s not.”

Hovis, a three-year varsity infielder, is batting .319 this season and is 6-for-10 with four runs in the playoffs.

Peralta, a two-year varsity outfielder, is batting .415 and is 4-for-10 in three postseason wins.

Heinz, a three-year varsity player, is at .337 and is hitless thus far in the playoffs, but Burrill points out how he has been consistently making contact and has provided the Wildcats with a stable force at catcher.

Together, the coach points out how each player has led the team in his own way.

Heinz burst onto the scene as a sophomore with a Foothill League-leading 46 RBIs. But since, has seen his numbers diminish.

Yet his teammates still have a lot of belief in the Cal State Monterey Bay-bound senior.

“He’s the heart of this team,” Hovis says. “If he goes down, we go down.”

Heinz admits that it’s been frustrating to see his numbers fall, but Burrill says it’s all not on him.

Pitchers are simply not offering him much to hit.

Besides, Heinz takes a different view on things.

“There’s always stats and accomplishments. But after what we’ve done this year, it’s more about team,” he says. “At the end of the day, we want to help the team win.”

Peralta is one who has helped his team win without a lot of fanfare — similar to the way he did on the football field in the fall.

Despite not being the most noticeable or headline-grabbing player on the football field, the strong safety and backup quarterback was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.

Burrill says Peralta struggled early coming over from football.

But a month in, things changed.

“When we hit league play he was an on-base machine,” Burrill says.

Peralta was 21-for-40 (.525) at the plate in Foothill League play and walked seven times and was hit by a pitch seven times.

“I just try to see a lot of pitches to let everyone know what’s coming, and I try and get deep in the count,” Peralta says of his approach at the plate.

As for Hovis, his approach to the game could rub some people the wrong way — as in opponents.

Teammates and the coaching staff love his self-described “feisty” style.

In the Wildcats’ 5-4 win last Friday over Orange Lutheran — then the No. 1 team in the nation according to — West Ranch pitcher J.C. Cloney tried to pick a runner off at second base. His throw hit the player’s back and bounced into center field. As the player left second base, he verbalized his disgust with Cloney’s throw and Hovis immediately replied, letting the player know he wouldn’t stand for it.

“If anyone has anything to say to us, he’s the first to bark back,” Burrill says.

But it’s his bat that spoke louder in the game as he was 3-for-3, including a leadoff ground-rule double in the sixth inning that led to Jagger Rusconi’s two-run double that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.

Now the Wildcats have Corona to deal with at Long Beach State’s Blair Field in today’s Division I semifinal at 4 p.m..

They’ll need every bit of what these three players have contributed thus far if they want to get to Friday’s final at Dodger Stadium.

West Ranch would be the first Foothill team to reach a final since Canyon did in 2002.

“Ah, it would be amazing to play at Dodger Stadium,” Peralta says. “It’s every little boy’s dream. ... We just have to not try and change anything. Stay the same. Be consistent.”

It’s led them this far.



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