Hart baseball pitcher works out of tough spot, stymies Vikes

Hart's Matt Elser (5) looks back toward home as his teammates congratulate him on bringing home the Indians' sixth run to put them up 6-2 over Valencia during a baseball game on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Hart starting pitcher Bryce Collins was in the zone from the start in the series finale against Valencia.

The right-hander struck out the side in the first and continued to keep the Vikings off balance throughout, pitching the Indians to a 6-2 victory Thursday at Valencia.

“He threw fastballs in and out, and his angle was good,” said Hart coach Jim Ozella. “Usually when the wind is blowing out of here, the ball jumps out of here, and he did a good job keeping the ball in the yard.”


Collins finished with seven strikeouts and limited Valencia’s high-powered offense to two runs and six hits – two for extra bases – over 5 1/3 innings.

And some of his best work came when it mattered most.

The Vikings (14-6 overall, 5-2 in Foothill) threatened in the third, as they had runners on first and third with only one out and the top of the order due up.

After falling behind to both hitters, Collins went back to the dugout unscathed by striking out Trace Eldridge and getting Cody Minnis to pop up in the infield.

Valencia had another chance to cut into the deficit in the fifth with two guys on and Ben Fariss at the plate. But Collins avoided the damage by getting the UCSB signee and reigning All-Santa Clarita Valley Baseball Player of the Year to fly out to right.

“Just trust my catcher (Matt Elser),” Collins said regarding his approach in high-leverage situations. “Know that the pitch (he calls) is correct and location will be good if I execute.”

Valencia’s Tyler Erne (15) watches his base-hit fly during a baseball game against Hart on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Leading by one run, the Indians (12-7, 4-3) widened the gap in the fifth by plating three runs on only two hits.

Fariss beaned three consecutive Hart batters and reliever Zack Brown threw a wild pitch, which led to two runs. Braedan McClain capped the scoring with a two-out single to drive in Brendan Henry and make the score 5-1.

“We just lost command a little bit, and then they got a key, clutch base hit after that,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger. “It was just a lot of little things that got us.”

Hart’s Cody Jefferis went 2-for-4 with two runs and two steals, while Josh Cerpa added a 2-for-3 effort with two steals and an RBI. McClain finished 1-for-3 with an RBI, and Henry went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored.

Chris Mueller went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI, and Tyler Erne finished 2-for-4 for Valencia.

The Vikings will continue Foothill League play next week against Saugus, while Hart matches up with first-place West Ranch.

“Two big games next week,” Jefferis said. “Just got to work hard and strive to win both of them.”

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