Late hit gives Hart win over Canyon

Hart's Kendall Thomas is embraced by teammates after hitting a walkoff single to drive in Rocco Saldivar and beat Canyon 3-2 on Monday, March 25 at Hart High School. Haley Sawyer/The Signal

Hart catcher Jakob Marquez sensed it from the dugout. He knew Kendall Thomas was about to end the Indians’ nine-inning game against Canyon.

“I saw the hit and I was like, it’s over,” Marquez said. “I knew it was going to be a walk-off. Kendall has been producing all year and I just had a feeling he was going to get it done.”

Thomas proceeded to hit a walk-off single to drive in Rocco Saldivar and complete Hart’s 3-2 win over the Cowboys on Monday at Hart.

Prior to that, Saldivar singled to get on base, then Isaac Kim grounded out to move Saldivar to second. Thomas hit his single, Saldivar crossed home plate and the entire dugout rushed to trample Thomas.

“I was just trying to get anything I can to move the ball over, try to get runners to advance and I got a good pitch so I tried to just pull it through the 3-4 hole as much as I could,” Thomas said.

“It’s always exciting. I feel like we battled throughout that game and just everybody’s spirits at the end, really intense, really hyped up, so it felt good.”

Hart (9-9 overall, 4-4 in Foothill League) began the game with significantly less intensity, allowing Canyon’s Tyler DeYoung to score on a passed ball in the first inning.

The Cowboys (3-11, 2-6), who were shut out by Hart on Friday, went into the game with a competitive mentality and were able to hold off the Indians until the fourth inning, when Marquez cracked a solo home run over the centerfield wall and onto the roof of a portable classroom.

“I’ve been seeing the ball well and swinging at better pitches, so he hit me with a curveball and I was just trying to get us back in the game so we can pull out a win,” Marquez said.

Marquez, who is referred to as “shark bait” by his teammates due to a resemblance to the actor Taylor Lautner’s character in the movie “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl,” was a cog in some crucial defensive plays on the afternoon.

The Cowboys’ Charles Harrison singled and stole second base in the fifth inning. As he ran home on a Justin Powell single, Pat Arman made the throw from first base to Marquez, who tagged out Harrison at home plate.

“I knew it was going to be a close play as soon as the guy started rounding and Pat threw a perfect throw and I just turned around, swept as hard as I could and I tagged him,” Marquez said. “It was a really fast and close play and it was really important to the game.”

Canyon kept building momentum, but Hart kept cutting it short with quick defensive plays. Second baseman Ben Niednagel threw to Arman to execute a double play and close the seventh inning. Arman picked off Harrison at first base in the eighth inning.

The Cowboys broke through in the ninth inning when Noah Blythe hit an RBI triple to score Conrad Meza and gain a 2-1 advantage over the Indians.

“That was the loudest it’s been all year,” Canyon coach Justin Stark said of his team’s reaction to the triple. “That was awesome. That was good, positive energy and that’s what we need to have.”

“They showed some fight. It was the first time I thought all year they showed some fight, some energy in the dugout. It looked like they were playing for each other.”

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Hart found some momentum of its own in the bottom of the inning. Arman hit a double, then Saldivar hit a single to move Arman to third base.

Isaac Kim grounded out to score Arman, then Thomas stepped up for his single on a one-two count to score Saldivar and win the game.

“I think you’ve just got remember like the game’s not over until it’s over,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to keep just every pitch, every pitch just think about what you’re doing and just keep staying in the game as you much as you can.”

Daniel Parra pitched five innings for the Indians, allowing one run and six hits while recording six strikeouts. Warner Rhodes threw for the final four innings, giving up three hits and one run. He struck out four batters.

“(Parra has) been pitching really well and in the beginning of the season he wasn’t doing as well as he should and now he’s really become one of the cornerstones of our pitching staff,” Marquez said. “And along with Warner, he just got back from the ankle injury and he’s been pitching really well. So that’s really good to see.”

For Canyon, Steven Cornell logged six strikeouts while allowing eight hits and one run through six innings. Jacob Melville closed out the game in 2 2/3 innings, yielding four hits while striking out two batters.

The Indians will play at Valencia on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Canyon will host Saugus on the same day at the same time.

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