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Hart baseball punches ticket to CIF title game 

Hart High celebrates their win against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal
Hart High celebrates their win against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Michael Hogen remembers going to Cooperstown when he was younger for a baseball tournament, making it all the way to the championship game before coming up short. 

Hogen will have a shot at redemption on Friday as he and the other members of the Hart Indians baseball team have punched their ticket to the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship game, scheduled Friday in Lake Elsinore. 

The Indians (25-5) beat the visiting Arcadia Apaches (22-8) on Tuesday, 7-2, to secure their spot in the title game after a five-run fifth inning broke the deadlock and gave head coach Jim Ozella a chance to pick up some hardware in what could be his final game as the Indians’ skipper. 

“It’s a group of guys that we’ve had on the same team for a long time now … So, it’s almost like it’s kind of redemption for us,” Hogen said. “And we’re locked in and ready to go.” 

Carson Maymo pitches against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Carson Maymo pitches against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal

Friday’s championship game pits the Indians against the Moorpark Musketeers (19-10-1), who beat Ayala in the other semifinal on Tuesday, 7-5, and knocked out the Valencia Vikings in the second round. 

“This is a goal that we had from early on,” Ozella said. “This is a thrill. I mean, come on. This is what you dream about as a baseball player, right. It’s what it’s all about.” 

Hart was buoyed on Tuesday by its starting pitcher, junior Carson Maymo, who gave up just one earned run, four hits and a walk, striking out four over 5 2/3 innings pitched. 

Maymo breezed through the first inning before giving up a leadoff single in the second to Arcadia starting pitcher Fernando Palencia, a University of San Diego commit. Palencia came around to score for the first run of the game, but the Indians struck back in the bottom of the frame after Hayden Rhodes led off with a single and scored on Jaiden Chathle’s RBI single. 

Dominic Miraglia (5) celebrates with the Hart dugout after he scored in the fifth inning against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Dominic Miraglia (5) celebrates with the Hart dugout after he scored in the fifth inning against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal

Arcadia pulled back ahead in the third inning after an error allowed leadoff hitter Keyonn Chatman to reach base before getting to third base on a single and then scoring on a sacrifice fly. 

Maymo settled down after that and kept his team in a position to fight. 

“I definitely grew, and it just took determination,” Maymo said. “My first few innings, I was lackadaisical and unfocused, and then I realized that this isn’t gonna be a cakewalk and I have to take this seriously.” 

Hart catcher Ryan De La Maza said it was clear the Maymo was getting stronger on the mound as the game went on. 

“He’s just a stud. Anything you say to him, he’ll listen and then he’ll just improve,” De La Maza said. “I mean, he’s just battling every single thing. And then as you can see, he got stronger the next inning.” 

The Indians found it tough to bring runners across until the fifth inning. Taj Brar secured a leadoff walk followed by a hit-and-run single from Hogen and back-to-back hit batters. A wild pitch in the middle of all that gave the Indians their first lead of the game at 3-2, before they eventually picked up five runs on just one hit. 

Ozella said he knew Palencia would be a tough guy to beat, but that the patience of the Indians paid off.

Hayden Rhodes (16) beats the throw as he steals second base against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Hayden Rhodes (16) beats the throw as he steals second base against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal

“He kind of blew up a little bit, you know, which that happens when you put some pressure on the guy,” Ozella said. “In that fifth, we executed a hit and run, kind of put them on their heels a little bit. Early on, I don’t think we played very well. I don’t know if we got over the jitters or whatever it is, but our pitchers were good. Carson was good, and obviously Ian (Edwards) was real good.” 

Edwards came on in relief of Maymo in the sixth inning and proceeded to strike out two of the four batters he faced. A sidearm right-hander, De La Maza said Edwards is a “hitter’s worst nightmare.” Ozella praised Edwards for being ready at any moment after he started in Hart’s quarterfinal win over Newport Harbor, while Rhodes said that while he doesn’t think he’s ever had to face him, he knows how nasty his stuff can be. 

“He hides it really well on his backswing, and then it’s just fast on you and it rises a little bit,” Rhodes said. “And then he has a nasty slider.” 

The Indians are feeling confident going into Friday’s title game having won 10 in a row going back to the regular season. Ozella said the plan is to give senior Troy Cooper the start on the mound and see where the team’s ace can take them. 

Hart pitcher Ian Edwards (6) finishes the game against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Hart pitcher Ian Edwards (6) finishes the game against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We got our guy going over the weekend, so watch out,” Ozella said. “He’ll be ready. He’s biting at the bit.” 

Hogen, who had two of the six hits, all singles, for the Indians on Tuesday, said the goal for the season has been to win a championship, and it would only be proper to give Ozella his first CIF title in his last season at the helm. 

Ozella took over the program prior to the 2000 season, a year after the Indians won their last, and only, title. He led the program to the Division 1 championship game in 2015, but fell to Huntington Beach. 

The Indians will be playing in their fifth section championship game overall. 

Brayden Jefferis (2) stops a ground ball for the first out of the fifth inning against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal
Brayden Jefferis (2) stops a ground ball for the first out of the fifth inning against Arcadia High at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal
Hart head coach James Ozella waves his hat during a ceremony in his honor at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Hart head coach James Ozella waves his hat during a ceremony in his honor at Hart High on Tuesday, 051424. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We all believed it at the beginning. We knew we had a team in order to do so,” Hogen said. “The coach, he’s just amazing. He never lets us down, he always picks us up when we’re down. It’ll mean a lot to him if we go out with a win.” 

Friday’s championship game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Storm Stadium in Lake Elsinore. The stadium is the home of the Lake Elsinore Storm minor league team. 

To purchase tickets ($15 for general admission and $5 for students and children), visit tinyurl.com/4am7a865

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