West Ranch’s Trent Bird stepped on the mound in the sixth inning to replace JD Callahan, who had just given up a hit and walked two other Hart players.
In the following moments, the Wildcats were able to execute a double play, forcing David Holuby to ground out and getting Ryan Benz out at second. And just as soon as Callahan was off the field, he was back on it.
“The first guy out of the dugout when Trent Bird got the ground ball double play was JD,” said West Ranch assistant coach Ryan Lindgreen. “Knowing that Trent came in there and was going to get us through that inning. They do a great job of pushing each other to be really good and we’re the benefactors of that.”
The mentality among the pitching staff paid off on Wednesday as the Wildcats were able to beat the Indians 3-0 in the Foothill League opener at West Ranch.
Callahan started the game and pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings before Bird stepped in for 1 2/3 innings to finish the shutout. Callahan gave up one hit while striking out seven batters and Bird gave up one hit and dealt one strikeout.
“I think the biggest thing that they do really well with each other is the fact that they know that they’re good and so they challenge each other to be good,” Lindgreen said of the pitching staff, which also includes Cade Nicol and Connor Harrison. “Rather than just kind of being okay with who they are.”
Offensively, the Wildcats (4-2 overall, 1-0 in Foothill League) were able to score all three of their runs in the first inning.
Jovan Camacho reached first after he was hit by a pitch, then Ryan Camacho hit a single two at-bats later, then proceeded to steal second base.
Garrett Monheim stepped up for the following at-bat and hit a two-run single that drove in both Jovan and Ryan, giving West Ranch a 2-0 advantage.
“Going into that at-bat, I was just thinking about driving in those runs, getting those runs on the board for JD to have some support in there,” Monheim, who is in his third year on varsity, said.
Ryan Ilan closed out the inning with an RBI single that drove in Monheim to bring the score to 3-0.
The Wildcats return experience to the top of the batting order this season, with Jovan leading off and Nick Perez, Ryan Camacho and Monheim filling out the first handful of batters.
“Having all returning players for the first (four) batters is really strong,” Monheim said. “I would say that we have one of the top lineups in the league this year, so we’re coming out strong. You should expect big things this year.”
Hart’s two hits came from Angelo Lucchese on a bunt in the sixth inning and from Kendall Thomas on a single in the seventh inning.
The Indians (4-4, 0-1) are playing with a depleted roster, with three returning starters sidelined with no timetable for return. Rocco Saldivar has a fractured jaw, Cooper Austin has a fractured arm and Isaac Kim has a pulled hamstring.
“You know, we have to make a quick adjustment because we are in the Foothill League,” said Hart coach Jim Ozella. “So nobody is feeling sorry for us, we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. It’s just the way life is in baseball. This happens sometimes.”
The Indians, who dropped their two prior contests to Crespi and Newbury Park, now have six sophomores on the roster. Three different pitchers saw time on the mound against the Wildcats: juniors Warner Rhodes and Ian Sockett and sophomore Ben Niednagel.
Rhodes cleaned up in the last inning, giving up one hit and recording two strikeouts.
“We’re not here for moral victories,” Ozella said. “We’re here to try to win, we’re here to compete. We’ve just got to get better.”
Hart and West Ranch meet again on Friday at Hart. Game time is 3 p.m.