By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
The Hart Indians (12-7, 6-0) dominated the Castaic Coyotes (7-6, 3-3) in their Friday league matchup.
Catcher Matt Quintanar did most of the damage, batting 3-3 with a big three-run home run in the fourth inning.
Hart would score in every inning but the second and got to work quickly.
The Indians hit three straight with one out. First baseman Ryan Egan got the first RBI before designated hitter Ryan De La Maza hit a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0 in the first.
Hart was hitting and reaching consistently. The team made a big jump in the fourth, getting three base runners on, starting with a leadoff hit from center fielder Caiden Helgeson.
Once the bases were loaded, Castaic starter Tyler Hawn was taken off the mound.
Aaron Gonzalez entered in relief with a harsh task asked of him. Bases loaded, no outs and a 2-2 Quintanar at the plate.
A wild pitch would first score one run before the reigning Foothill League player of the year launched a three-run bomb to center field, making the lead 7-0.
“I was just trying to barrel a ball,” said Quintanar. “I hit it and I thought ‘triple, triple, triple’ and they signaled home run.”
The Indians went through the order and ended where they started as Helgeson struck out, finally ending the fourth.
Junior Chris Downs got the start for Hart and kept the Coyotes in check during his 4.2 innings of work. Downs shut out Castaic through four innings and struck out.
The Coyotes finally got on the board in the fifth. Downs had two outs and was looking to get through five scoreless innings.
“I knew they weren’t going to hit the off-speeds,” said Downs. “So I just tried to dominate with the off-speed [pitch] and it seemed to work.”
The junior however, walked Castaic leadoff man Matt Airhart, who was brought in by an RBI single from center fielder Kyler Freude.
Downs is coming off an injury and with his pitch count already getting high, head coach Jim Ozella made the quick call to get his starter out.
Michael Rogozik came in looking for the final out of the inning. He would walk his first batter in Gonzalez but get the better of Coyotes first baseman Joji Sakata, who grounded out, stranding two base runners.
“Little things win big games,” said Ozella. “We haven’t done that very well at times this year. So hopefully things are starting to get better. We’re getting better and starting to improve.”
Gonzalez got into another jam after getting his first two outs. The pitcher found himself again in the middle of loaded bases after walking three straight as he struggled to throw strikes in the sixth. Hart center fielder Michael Hogen cleared the bases with a big triple, taking the lead up to double digits.
Hogen and second baseman Reagan Meyer finished with two-hit days.
Relief pitcher Gabriel Veltri came in for the final out and got it, retiring Isaiah Alvarado.
Castaic knew they had one more rally left in them. After all, this team scored eight runs late in their comeback win over Valencia earlier this season.
Airhart would lead off the inning again and ripped a big triple down the third base line off closing pitcher Andrew Salisbury. Freude quickly brought in his teammate with another RBI single.
Freude and Airhart both finished 2-3.
Gonzalez would then hit the second triple of the inning to score Freude, scoring two runs with still no outs. Sakata would bring in the last Coyote run with a sacrifice fly before the run came to an abrupt end.
“We’re not concerned,” said Castaic head coach Darrell Davis. “I don’t think we did a lot of things wrong. We just got beat by a better team today.”
The Coyotes now sit at .500 in league and still have some tough matchups with West Ranch and Saugus left this season.
Hart remains undefeated in league but still has tough matchups with Valencia and West Ranch, who are right on their tails in the standings.
“We’re going to go win league, then we’re going to make a run at CIF,” said Quintanar.
The explosive team is officially on spring break from the classroom but will have plenty of baseball during the vacation. The Coyotes will be back in action Saturday when they host Burroughs at 10 a.m. Hart will also play Saturday as the team travels to Chatsworth for a non-league matchup with the Chancellors at 10 a.m.