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Posted: March 22, 2008 2:29 a.m.
Updated: May 23, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Hart High senior pitcher Michael Montgomery delivers a pitch Friday afternoon at Saugus High in the Indians 12-1 victory. Montgomery allowed one run and struck out 12.

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The tag of area's best team just changed like a spring sale.

Hart baseball went into Saugus High Friday and pounded the highly-touted Centurions 12-1 and now wears the label.
Saugus, ranked No. 18 in the state coming into the season, and Hart, widely considered one of Southern California's best teams, were supposed to play a low-scoring teeter-totter battle, considering the arms on the mound.

What happened was a complete dismantling of the Centurions, thanks to three Hart home runs and a masterful pitching performance from senior Michael Montgomery.

Montgomery went six innings, allowing six hits, a walk and one earned run while striking out 12.

His only mistake of the day was a change-up he said he hoped Aaron Hooper wouldn't swing at in the second inning.

Hooper knocked it over the fence in left field for a solo home run.

Hart was definitely more powerful, though, offensively speaking.

A Jenzen Torres two-run home run in the first inning started it.

Torres and Montgomery both said the hype surrounding Saugus was a motivator for the Hart team.

"Oh yeah," Torres said of the motivation with emphasis. "Definitely yes. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely we were. Yeah. All the hype, we wanted to prove ourselves."

Hart (8-3, 3-0) has had quality wins, but the talent on the Centurions team has led many to tout them as the valley's top contender, complete with quality arms, great offensive potential and college baseball talent.

Hart boasts some of that as well - including Montgomery (Cal State Fullerton) and Torres (Cal Poly Pomona).

That offensive talent got to Saugus starter Micheal Hebert early and often.

The Saugus senior couldn't escape the third inning.

After Hart added another run in the first inning off a Saugus error, the Indians unloaded in the third.

After a walk with the bases loaded to Devin Rodriguez plated Hart's fourth run, catcher Bryan Lucas swatted an Hebert pitch into the gap in left-center field for a two-RBI double.

Hebert was pulled in favor of Sean Smith, who immediately induced a fly out from Trevor Matern. But a run scored, nonetheless, giving Hart a 7-1 advantage.

Montgomery then faced his biggest crisis in the game in the bottom of the third.

The book on the left-hander in the past was that he could be rattled. Normally a second-and-third situation would have done that, but the 6-foot-5 hurler struck out the next three Saugus batters looking.
"I bet it is," Montgomery said of his previous reputation. "You can't get rattled. It affected me my sophomore year a lot because it was intimidating. I've gotten past it and focused on what I need to do."

He was lights out from there, striking out two batters in each of the next three innings.

He gained more support from his offense in the fifth and sixth innings with home runs from Spenser Souza, a two-run blast, and Jon Chiusano, a pinch-hit solo shot, respectively.

Souza has homered in three straight games.

A two-RBI double from Danny Susdorf set the score at 12-1.

Saugus is now in a hole, being 4-4 overall and 1-2 in the Foothill League.

"We knew we were going to take everybody's best shot," said Saugus head coach John Maggiora.

But Saugus dug some of its own holes Friday, committing four errors and throwing 159 pitches.

Maggiora said the way he dealt with the loss was telling his players the season starts over next week.

Three-year varsity player Zachary Vincej, a junior bound for Pepperdine in 2009, said the team looked back at the scoreboard during Maggiora's postgame speech.

They came out of it positive, he said.

"We just have to go into the next game with a chip on our shoulders," said Vincej, who was 2-for-3. "There's still a lot of season left. We're not a .500 team."

Note: Casey Burrill and Nolan LeMar homered in four straight games as Indians.

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