Had Hart senior Matt Elser elected to watch the ball after it jumped off his bat with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday, he would have seen it rise up, up, up.
He would have seen Saugus’ left fielder stop, acknowledging the futility of tracking the ball any closer to the fence.
He would have seen it touch down just shy of the warning track, teammates depart the dugout and Grant Thuente scamper home from third to score.
Instead, Elser put his head down and hustled to first base.
It was a walk-off single all the same, lifting Hart to a 4-3 home win over the Centurions, the 19th one-run game between the schools in their last 33 meetings.
“It was a good game, a Hart-Saugus game,” said Hart coach Jim Ozella. “That’s what usually happens: one run games.”
Hart (8-3 overall, 2-2 in Foothill) held a 3-1 lead entering the sixth inning on the strength of Brendan Henry’s arm and his bat.
Henry drove in the game’s first run with a first-inning single. Then he held the Cents (3-10, 1-3) to one run through five innings.
The outing was all the more impressive in light of how recently it’d been thrust upon him.
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“He was told at 7 a.m this morning he was going to start because (Bryce) Collins is sick,” Ozella said. “He’s Mr. Dependable and Mr. Knows-How-to-Get-It-Done.”
Henry ran into trouble in the sixth, though, and Ozella lifted him for Jacob Cevene with two on and one out.
A hit batter and a bases-loaded walk cut Hart’s lead to 3-2. Then Tony Jacob Jr. tied the score with a sacrifice fly.
But Cevene buckled down.
The onus then fell to Hart’s offense.
Thuente walked to lead off the seventh, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
With less than two outs, Elser only needed a fly ball. Instead, he made contact and ran as if to beat out an infield single.
“I put my head down all the way to first, and then I saw (my teammates) running after me,” he said. I don’t stop until the play is done.”
Said Saugus coach John Maggiora, “Another one run Hart-Saugus game. …Our guys competed. I had no fault with their effort. They left it all on the field.”
Saugus pitcher Jacob Jr. allowed three earned runs over five innings.
Centurions Chase Lindemann and Michael Frazier each two hits. Hart’s Josh Cerpa went 3-for-4.