Hart baseball walks it off, sweeps Valencia 

Hart players run out to the field to celebrate their win against Valencia on Friday, March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Hart players run out to the field to celebrate their win against Valencia on Friday, March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
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Hart senior Taj Brar became the latest hero, or villain, in the historic Indians and Valencia baseball rivalry.  

Brar, a Biola commit, fired an RBI single up the middle to score teammate Hayden Rhodes to lead Hart to a walk-off 3-2 victory in the eighth inning on Friday at Hart. 

“Horns down, that’s what we wanted,” Brar said. “We lost to them twice last year. My JV year, we lost a league championship to them. So going out there, something to think about was the past. I was able to bring that as motivation and so did the rest of the team.” 

Brar finished the day 1-for-4, while Rhodes led the Indians (7-3, 2-0) with two hits. 

Hart catcher Brady Werther (1) celebrates outfielder Hayden Rhodes' (16) run to home plate during the eighth inning against Valencia on Friday, March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Hart catcher Brady Werther (1) celebrates outfielder Hayden Rhodes’ (16) run to home plate during the eighth inning against Valencia on Friday, March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Friday’s game marked the fourth straight year Valencia (4-6-1, 0-2) and Hart have battled in extra innings and Valencia coach Brad Meza knows how special the rivalry is as a former Indian player.  

“It’s great, it’s Yankees-Red Sox,” Meza said. “It’s the game that everyone wants to come see. It’s the game that both teams play for. You feel the energy, the passion, you feel everything when you’re here at Hart and Valencia.” 

Hart struck immediately in the first inning with a solid one-out rally. The Indians got the better of Vikings senior pitcher Owen Brusmann early in the game and back-to-back RBI singles from Michael Hogen and Ryan De La Maza put Hart up 2-0 right away. 

Brunsmann had a shaky start to Foothill League play but rebounded quickly in the loss. The Viking pitcher retired his next seven batters and played well in his 5.2 innings of work with three strikeouts and just one walk. 

Valencia senior Reid Farrell tied the score in the fourth inning with an RBI single that scored a pair of runs off Hart ace Troy Cooper.  

Valencia first baseman Justin Gaisford (14) tags out Hart infielder Matthew Perez (22) during the third inning of Friday's game on March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Valencia first baseman Justin Gaisford (14) tags out Hart infielder Matthew Perez (22) during the third inning of Friday’s game on March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

Farrell is the Vikings’ starting shortstop as well as former CIF Defensive Player of the Year in football and will likely be seen playing linebacker at a Division 1 school next season. Meza knows there are not too many athletes of that caliber around.  

“I haven’t heard of anything like that in a while,” Meza said. “(Farrell’s) a quality kid and I think that’s what makes him a quality player. He’s all about the team. It’s all about family and that’s what we try to preach. He’s grabbing it and running with it. He’s doing a good job for us.” 

Farrell finished 1-for-3 and was one of three Vikings to hit off the Cal Poly SLO commit Cooper. Junior Noah Jaquez led in that department as he finished the day 2-for-4 with a double. 

Hart was inches away from walking off in the bottom of the seventh. Hart junior Brady Werther was walked and found his way to third when senior Matthew Perez stepped up to the plate. Perez hit a ball, similar to Brar’s eventual game-winner, straight up the middle. However, Farrell was able to make a stellar snag and throw that just beat the diving Perez at first base. 

Brunsmann was pulled in the sixth for reliever Chad Stanchfield, a hard-throwing righty. Stanchfield escaped the two-on jam in the sixth and pitched two strong innings despite giving up the game-winning run. 

Valencia pitcher Owen Brunsmann (17) pitches during the fifth inning of Friday's game against Hart on March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal
Valencia pitcher Owen Brunsmann (17) pitches during the fifth inning of Friday’s game against Hart on March 8. Habeba Mostafa/ The Signal

“Those two guys kept us close,” Meza said on his pitchers. “I tell them every time they warm up in the bullpen, ‘Keep us close,’ and they did just that. You go eight innings, you get two off Cooper, that’s big, too. He’s a quality kid with a quality arm and we got two off him to tie it up. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re here for it. We’re here to just keep competing.” 

Cooper went a full six innings with five hits, six strikeouts and three walks. 

The win ended the Valencia series with a sweep for Hart as the Indians won on Wednesday, 5-0. 

Hart couldn’t ask for a better start in league play but the team still has a long road ahead with some big goals. 

“A league championship, that’s our main goal as a team and we’ve been working hard for it every single day,” Brar said. “Summer ball, fall ball, it’s all for right now. We’re looking to get some good baseball.” 

Hart will take its league bye week early but will be busy with some tough non-league games while Valencia gears up for its league series with Saugus.  

The Indians head to Villa Park on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m. while the Vikings host the Centurions on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. 

“We just gotta keep competing,” Meza said. “We’re getting runners on base, that’s a big thing. Now we’ve got to get the big hit, get the clutch hit. They’ll bounce back. We’re gonna get back to work at it, hit and just keep pounding away. 

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