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Hart baseball upsets West Ranch to sweep season series

Posted: May 3, 2013 9:41 p.m.
Updated: May 3, 2013 9:41 p.m.
 

Something didn’t feel quite right about the Hart Indians being up six runs on the West Ranch Wildcats on Friday at West Ranch High.

It was more like it with Hart nursing a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.

And add some emphasis on nursing as Hart relief pitcher Jack Ralston faced clutch-hitting Wildcat Tyler Woldanski with runners on first and second.

But Ralston, on a 2-1 count, forced Woldanski to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the game with Hart winning 9-8.

It’s the 17th one-run game for Hart this season and the 12th in 13 Foothill League games.

The Indians are now 6-6 in those games.

“What do I call it? We’re in every game. We’re battling in every game,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella of all the close contests.

He followed that with: “Blood pressure. Thank God I’m not on medication.”

Hart (10-14 overall, 6-7 Foothill League) looked like its playoff hopes were dead two weeks ago. However the Indians split their series last week with Valencia and beat West Ranch twice this week (to not only take the season series over the Wildcats, but in doing so knocking West Ranch out of first place in the Foothill League) to keep their hopes alive.

Hart can finish in third place in the Foothill League, guaranteeing it a spot in the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs.

In order to do that, the Indians would have to beat Golden Valley twice in the regular season’s last two games to finish at 8-7 in the Foothill League.

First-place Canyon would have to sweep third place Valencia, thereby the Vikings finishing with a league mark of 7-8.

West Ranch (14-9, 8-5) would have to beat Saugus twice, giving the Centurions a 7-8 record.

Saugus and Valencia both won their season series over Hart meaning the Indians would lose the third-place tiebreaker.

Another way the Indians would get in is if Canyon and Saugus both swept next week, as Hart now holds the third-place tiebreaker over West Ranch.

“Nobody’s talking about it,” Ralston said.

Nonetheless, the Indians are playing like they want in.

Ralston was a major key because the Indians pitching fell apart in the fifth inning after a strong start by Aaron Hamilton.

Hamilton limited the Wildcats to two runs through four innings, with both scores coming on a first-inning single by Jordan Benty.

In the fifth, Hamilton couldn’t get anybody out.

He allowed a leadoff home run to Jagger Rusconi, then loaded the bases.

The ball was handed to reliever Josh Randall, who also had a difficult time holding onto the lead.

He gave up a two-run double to J.D. Krauskopf, but got out of the inning.

Hart’s Colby Kaneshiro knocked in a run in the sixth with a single, then the Wildcats added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead to 9-8.

Hart went to Ralston with runners on first and second and he struck out Krauskopf and Benty to end the inning.

The seventh started strong for Ralston, who struck out Jake Spurlin, yet he allowed two of the next three batters to reach base.

Ralston, who looked so good early on with his fastball, curveball, changeup mix, was on the ropes.

“No panic at all,” Ralston said.

He then got the groundout to end the game.

Hart built its lead early by knocking West Ranch ace Cody Bennett around.

Indians leadoff batter Dayton Provost hit a home run to start the game. Three batters later Baggio Saldivar knocked in a run with a single.

Hart plated single runs in the second and third innings and had its breakout inning with a four-run fourth.

An uncharacteristic error by Rusconi at shortstop opened the door for that inning as later on Cody Miller and Provost each had two-RBI singles.

Provost was 3-for-4 in the game with the three RBIs.

The two losses to Hart could really change the Wildcats’ fortunes for the season.

They led the Foothill by one game coming into the week, Now they’re one game back of first place.

Needless to say, both games are must wins next week for the defending Foothill League champions.

“We do set out every season to win the Foothill League title and everything after that in the playoffs is gravy,” said West Ranch head coach Casey Burrill. “From our standpoint, we’re giving everything we’ve got to win that title.”

 

 

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