Hart baseball cruises past Royal to advance to VIBL semifinals

Hart's Daniel Parra fires home in a VIBL playoff game against Royal of Simi Valley at Hart High School Monday evening. Cory Rubin/The Signal

It may have been 100 degrees at Hart High School on Monday, but Indians pitcher Daniel Parra warmed up the atmosphere a little bit more after bringing the heat against Royal High School in the VIBL playoffs.

The soon-to-be senior pitcher threw 11 strikeouts in just four innings of work and didn’t give up a hit to help lead Hart to a 5-2 victory.

“I was going curveball, fastball the whole game because they weren’t really hitting it,” Parra said. “I wasn’t going to go to the changeup until I saw they were going to hit it, but that didn’t happen today. I knew I was going to be able to throw as hard as I possibly could, but I was trying to focus more on location and it worked out today.”

Jake Villar replaced Parra in the fifth inning and made quick work of the Highlanders, giving up just two hits with one strikeout in two innings.

Massimo Vega took the mound in the seventh inning and gave up two runs, including walking in a run with the bases loaded, but he was able to escape another bases loaded situation to secure the win.

“I’m really impressed with the way that they’ve been pitching, they’re cruising right now,” said Hart assistant coach Brad Meza. “They’re blowing guys away and I couldn’t be more happy about that.”

“Daniel was amazing, he was fantastic and Jake did really good too, he shoved it,” said first baseman Isaac Kim. “Mass got out of that tough spot, all our pitchers did good.”

With the Highlanders unable to get anything going against Parra, the Indians were able to capitalize and take an early 5-0 lead through the first four innings.

Jackson Dow got the offense going in the bottom of the second inning, crushing the first pitch he saw to center for a double. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored when Tyler Vannix hit into a fielder’s choice.

Ben Niednagel hit a double to center and Reagan Meyer, batting in the nine-hole, hit a single to score Niednagel.

Hart’s Jackson Dow fist bumps teammate Ben Niednagel after scoring in a VIBL playoff game against Royal of Simi Valley at Hart High School Monday evening. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Meyer finished the game 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored and Niednagel finished 2-for-3 with two stolen bases and a run.

“It’s a luxury to be able to interchange guys. I could put the guys at the bottom of the lineup to the top of the lineup and they’d do the same thing,” Meza said. “It’s a blessing to have hitters like that and players like that.”

Hart added another run in the bottom of the third inning, starting with a single from Matt Quintanar, who then stole second base. Kim hit a single to left to bring Quintanar across home plate.

Kim finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI and Quintanar went 1-for-3 with a run, but it was his work behind the plate that really stood out. 

“It’s great to have a guy like him who commands the whole field, communicates with everyone and he knows me, knows what I like to throw,” Parra said about his catcher. “It’s really great having him come in.”

“I’m very impressed with him. We talk about it all the time, when one guy goes down, the next guy has to come in and step up and he’s done just that this summer,” Meza said about Quintanar. “Bright future ahead for that kid.”

Hart’s Will Johnson rounds third in a VIBL playoff game against Royal of Simi Valley at Hart High School Monday evening. Cory Rubin/The Signal

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Eddie Tejada got on a base with a single and was able to advance to third after Meyer executed a precise bunt. Tejada scored after Ryan Benz hit into a fielder’s choice, with Meyer being forced out at second.

Benz stole second base and then advanced to third on an error from Royal’s catcher, before coming home on a sacrifice fly from Will Johnson.

With the victory, Hart advances to the VIBL semifinals and will face El Camino Real on Wednesday at 5 p.m. on the road.

“We just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” Parra said. “If we stay calm, we can get out of jams and win games.”

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