Hart baseball rallies to beat West Ranch, takes control of Foothill League race

Hart High School players celebrate after defeating West Ranch 5-3 Friday, April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

SANTA CLARITA – The Hart baseball team’s 5-3 win over West Ranch on Friday afternoon moved the team one step closer to the program’s 33rd league title.

The come-from-behind victory left them as the lone Foothill League team that can control their own fate.

Hart has two league games remaining, both against Canyon. They have a 22-game win streak against the Coyotes dating back to 2015. Winning both would allow the Indians (19-5, 8-2 Foothill) to win the league outright despite two losses against Saugus (7-3 league).

West Ranch (16-7-1, 7-3) has two league games remaining against Golden Valley.

“We’ve talked about that for the last six games – it didn’t matter we lost two against Saugus,” said Hart coach Jim Ozella. “Give Saugus credit, they beat us, we out coached us, they outplayed us. We still had destiny in our own hands. We knew if we came here and we took care of business, we’d be all right. We’re still in the same situation, so nothing’s really changed.”

Pitcher Ian Edwards celebrates as Hart defeats West Ranch in Foothill League action April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart players celebrate after defeating West Ranch 5-3 April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School starting pitcher Troy Cooper celebrates as they defeat West Ranch April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High’s Jaiden Chathle lays down a bunt against West Ranch April 19, 2024. Hart defeated West Ranch, 5-3.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart’s Brady Werther scores in the sixth inning against West Ranch April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Brett Ishikawa of West Ranch make a throw to first base on a Hart bunt during Foothill League baseball action April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School baseball coach Jim Ozella talks with players as they play West Ranch April 19, 2024. Hart won the game, 5-3.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School starting pitcher Troy Cooper delivers a pitch against West Ranch April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart’s Ryder Frithsmith celebrates after scoring in the 6th inning against West Ranch. Hart won the game, 5-3.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart’s Brady Werther celebrates after knocking in a run against West Ranch in Foothill League action April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School baseball coach Jim Ozella looks on against West Ranch April 19, 2024. Hart won the game, 5-3.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School’s Ryan DeLaMaza is all smiles after hitting a two run double in the 6th inning against West Ranch April 19, 2024. Hart won the game, 5-3.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart players celebrate after defeating West Ranch April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Matthew Perez completes a double play for Hart as they defeat West Ranch April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

Hart High School players celebrate after defeating West Ranch 5-3 Friday, April 19, 2024.(Photo by Andy Holzman, Contributing Photographer)

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Senior right-hander Troy Cooper worked out of multiple jams as he pitched 5⅓ innings. He gave up two unearned runs.

“The defense wasn’t the best that’s been behind him,” said Ozella. “We let him down a little bit, but he handled it and stayed with the process.”

Cooper, a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo commit, seemed unfazed as he gave Hart a chance to win in comeback fashion.

“You really have to think about the other person’s perspective, too,” said Cooper. “Sometimes guys just make errors. Sometimes I don’t make the best pitches or a guy gets lucky, and they’ve made saves for me. And I know they’re going to go and pick themselves up and pick me up and just get the job done like they did today.”

Senior Ian Edwards picked up the save in relief of Cooper. He induced an inning-ending double play to finish the sixth before striking out two and allowing an unearned run in the seventh.

Hart trailed 2-1 entering the top of sixth and wound up scoring four runs to take a 5-2 lead.

Sophomore Hayden Rhodes got the rally starrted with a single up the middle. Hart followed with a pair of bunt singles from juniors Ryder Frithsmith and Jaiden Chathle.

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“We’re not a very good bunting team but today we were a very good bunting team,” said Ozella. “We’ve struggled all year with it and we practice it a lot.”

Junior Lincoln Riley delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly that scored Rhodes before Brady Werther brought Frithsmith home with a go-ahead single up the middle.

Senior Ryan DeLaMaza provided Hart with two more runs when he belted a double to deep left-center field.

“There was just something in the air,” said Cooper. “The chemistry was just different this week. We really wanted to beat West Ranch. And that’s the only thing that was going through our heads. We’re going to win this game. There’s no doubt about it.

“Even though we’re down, we know we can come back. We’ve had maybe two or three comeback games this year. So why can’t we do it again, especially in the biggest game of the year?”

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