Scoreless through two innings of play, Hart baseball’s Ben Niednagel stepped up to the plate for his first at-bat against Saugus pitcher Bobby Garcia at Saugus High School on Friday.
Connecting with a ball, Niednagel hit a single into left field to reach base safely. Ryan Benz was hit by a pitch with Rocco Saldivar on deck. Niednagel stole third base and on the next pitch Saldivar saw an opportunity and took off for second base.
The throw to second from catcher Dylan Murray was on time, but miscommunication by shortstop Hewitt Grissom and second baseman Jacob Beauchamp allowed Saldivar to slide into second base safely and Niednagel to score the game’s first run on an error.
Hart’s 1-0 lead didn’t last too long as Saugus came back and scored two runs in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead and never relinquished it, defeating Hart for the first time this year 7-2.
“We just put the ball in play for a chance,” said Saugus head coach Carl Grissom. “If we can just put the ball in play every once in a while, we have had opportunities to score runs and we just haven’t come through and today we finally broke through a little bit. I still feel that we are a lot better. It’s going to come, we just have to be patient.”
With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the third inning, Saugus’ Jarrett Farmer brought in the Centurions’ first run across the plate on a single to left field, scoring Tyler Hovey from third base.
Farmer finished the game going 4-for-4 hitting four singles and three RBIs.
“Practice yesterday was really serious,” Farmer said. “We have a lot to prove because we are better than how we have been playing and we proved that today.”
Saugus’ next batter, Anthony Ramirez was walked with the bases loaded and brought in Nolan Kutcher from third to give Saugus its first lead of the game.
Hart pitcher Ian Sockett got Beauchamp to hit into a double play but was subbed out in favor of Daniel Parra after walking Brandon Cruz to load the bases once again.
Parra salvaged the inning by getting the next batter to groundout.
In the fourth, the Centurions (4-7-1 overall, 2-4 in Foothill League) struck again, loading the bases for Farmer. He came through once again sending a ball into right field scoring Justin Austel and Murray to take a three-run lead.
Ramirez followed with a double into left field that David Holuby lost in the sun allowing the ball to drop and scoring the fifth run through four innings for Saugus.
Garcia ran into some trouble in the top of the sixth with two outs and Jakob Marquez on second and Saldivar on third base. Getting Pat Arman to pop up, Ramirez rushed toward the Hart (6-7, 2-4) dugout and caught the ball as he collided with the fence for the third out.
Garcia was pulled in the next inning in favor of Davis Brown after giving up a run on a Marquez single that scored Kendall Thomas from third base. Garcia lasted 5 1/3 innings, striking out four batters.
“It was a big day, we lost to them unfortunately on Wednesday and it was kind of a shock for us,’ Garcia said. “But we came out strong today and we knew that this game was important as far as our standings, so I think right out of the gate we had a little more confidence and a little more lock-in than we did on Wednesday.”
Saugus tacked two more runs in its final at-bats in the bottom of the sixth inning behind Ramirez’s third RBI of the night on a single to center field and the game’s final run on a successful pickoff attempt at first base, which allowed Farmer cross the plate safely.
Ramirez ended the game going 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
Brown closed out the game getting the final three Hart batters to fly out, strikeout and groundout to end the game and seal the victory for Saugus.
Both teams are in action on Saturday in the Redondo Tournament as Saugus plays West while Hart plays El Segundo. Both games begin at 11 a.m.
“If anything comes out of this game today, it’s got to be a learning situation where we learn and make changes,” said Hart head coach Jim Ozella. “Now the question is, Will we make changes,’ so you only learn by improving and making changes. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, then you’re not learning.”