The Hart Indians baseball team was forced to forfeit its Friday win over the West Ranch Wildcats on Saturday, due to a violation of CIF pitching rules.
The Indians initially won the game, 6-2, but with just two outs left in the game, an ineligible pitcher finished off the Cats.
Senior Mikey Rogozik closed out the game, but it was later announced Rogozik had gone over 51 pitches on Wednesday, requiring him to take two days’ rest from the mound.
The Indians (12-11, 5-3) needed a win after falling to the Wildcats (15-6, 7-1) on Wednesday, and ace Troy Cooper delivered on Friday.
The junior pitcher shook a two-run second inning and blanked the Cats through the rest of his 6.1 innings of work.
“My curveball is gross,” Cooper said. “I started them all out with it and changed my arm angle a little bit so they wouldn’t get used to it. Then they just can’t catch up to my velocity. I’m throwing high 80s up there and they weren’t ready for it.”
Cooper finished with two earned runs, five strikeouts and three walks while holding the top of the West Ranch order off base. The ace credits the then-win and not allowing too many base runners to his defense’s stellar performance.
“I was really just trying to attack the zone and get players to swing and get a ball in play,” Cooper said. “I didn’t care about strikeouts or hits at all, I just went straight towards guys and brought everything. It’s just all with my defense and just attacking hitters.”
Hart has scored six or more runs just five times this season. The Indians looked ready to bounce back from Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to West Ranch and got to work quickly in the first inning.
Hart worked a long two-out rally against pitcher Jackson Banuelos. The Cats’ ace retired his first two opponents quickly but then walked his next two.
Indians second baseman Ian Edwards then opened up the scoring with an RBI single with the bases loaded to bring in a pair of runs. Junior Taj Brar then brought in Edwards for a lightning-quick 3-0 Hart lead.
Edwards led the Indians, going 2-of-3 at the plate.
West Ranch coincidentally jumped on Cooper after two consecutive walks in the top of the second inning. Senior Matthew Lloyd brought in a pair of runs to cut the deficit to one but the Cats couldn’t get another runner past second base for the rest of the game.
Hart added some insurance runs in the fourth inning thanks to an RBI single from left fielder Cole Nguyen. Nguyen then scored on the next play after a Brayden Jefferis double led to a mishandled checkdown at second from the Cats’ defense. The ball rolled into the outfield, clearing an easy path home for Nguyen.
“We knew that they were going to give us their best shot today,” said West Ranch coach Ryan Lindgreen. “We were prepared for that and we had a couple of innings that got away from us and that was the difference in the game.”
Cats’ pitcher Ryan Shalkevich was then called upon to finish the game in the fourth inning. The reliever got out of the jam in the fourth and shut the door on any more Hart runs to close the game.
Cooper entered to finish the game in the seventh with the sixth through eighth hitters due up. The ace walked his first opponent but struck out his first batter before being pulled for the final two opponents, the only two he’d previously allowed hits to, including second baseman Ty Diaz, who led West Ranch with a 2-of-3 day at the plate.
Rogozik entered the game needing just two outs and delivered them promptly after a strikeout and a ground ball force-out at second base.
“I knew we were going to win because these boys, they play with their hearts out and they were putting everything they had towards it,” Cooper said.
It was a solid bounce-back for Hart at the time after head coach Jim Ozella didn’t think his team played too well in Wednesday’s loss.
“It was just a matter of competing,” Ozella said. “Just coming out and playing better. The other day we didn’t play very well on offense. We didn’t play very well on our pitching staff but our pitchers pitched well today.”
The Wildcats remain tied with Valencia for first place in league while Hart is in a tie for third with Castaic. West Ranch will look to bounce back with Golden Valley while Hart will have its series with Canyon.
“We have to finish strong,” Lindgreen said. “Nothing’s going to be easy for us and we have two huge weeks to make sure that we do things the right way. We can’t take anybody lightly.”