Hart baseball fell just short of winning the Easton Tournament after falling to Thousand Oaks in a 9-2 outing at Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa.
“We would have rather gone out a little better than that,” said Hart head coach James Ozella. “Give Thousand Oaks some credit, though.”
The Indians (4-1) had a chance to flip the script on the Lancers in the fifth inning. Down 4-1, Hart drove in another run to bring the game within two runs. Matt Quintanar came up to bat with two runners in scoring position.
Quintanar was unable to capitalize on the situation to give the Indians their first lead of the night. With two outs, a hard grounder ended Hart’s comeback attempt.
“After that we kind of broke down a little bit,” Ozella said. “We used a couple of pitchers that we used yesterday. (Thousand Oaks) hit some balls through some holes and drove in some runs. I thought our guys pitched well near the end, but Thousand Oaks swung well.”
To make matters worse, the Lancers (5-0) turned around and tacked on another five runs in the bottom of the inning to ice the game. In reality, the five-run inning from Thousand Oaks was the knockout punch it delivered on a Hart team that it had landed solid punches on all night.
The Indians struggled from the get-go on both sides of the plate. The Lancers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
“We have to get better pitching early in the game. We can’t fall in a hole,” Ozella said. “When you got somebody’s ace throwing against you, you have to match it. We didn’t get that done.”
The Indians responded with a run of their own in the top of the second, but the Lancers negated, scoring in the bottom of the inning. They added a little extra pressure in the bottom of the third, tacking on another run.
Part of Hart’s struggles came in the pitcher-batter faceoff. Hart consistently struggled there, falling behind in the count both at the plate and on the mound.
“You can’t play the game of baseball from behind, you’ve got to play form ahead,” Ozella said. “If we could do a better job of dictating the game into our favor, then we have a better chance of being successful. You face a good hitter and you get behind in the count they’re going to burn you. Offensively when you’re facing a good arm you’ve got to compete and fight off pitches.”
The Indians didn’t struggle completely, however. A few players were able to make small impacts on the team. Junior right fielder Will Johnson created opportunities for Hart, going 2-for-3 on the day. He also put the Indians on the board, batting in a run and scoring one himself.
Ozella also called senior pitcher Judah Silverman out on to the mound in the sixth inning. He didn’t record any strikeout, but he also kept the Indians out of trouble, keeping all the batters he faced off base.
Despite the loss, Ozella still had a positive outlook on the tournament. His team is dominated by an armada of juniors and a few freshman and sophomores who have not played at the varsity level before. He hopes the tournament and the loss that ended it are a learning experience for the new players.
“Were not a veteran team. They haven’t played varsity baseball,” Ozella said. “Tonight’s valuable because they can kind of see this is how high of a level you need to have to compete. Well learn from this tonight, sleep on this and tomorrow go back to work.”
The Indians return to the diamond on Saturday. They will be playing a double-header against Newbury Park. First pitch is at 10 a.m. at Hart High School. The second game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. but is subject to change depending on how long the first game takes.