Hart escapes late Moorpark rally to win CIF title, Ozella retires on top 

Hart celebrates after winning the Division 2 CIF SS Championship on Friday at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Hart baseball was pushed to the brink but found a way to win coach Jim Ozella his first and final CIF championship.  

The Indians defeated the Moorpark Musketeers, 7-6, after a chaotic Moorpark comeback fell just short at the Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium on Friday.

Moorpark celebrated on the field on what was momentarily ruled a walk-off home run by shortstop Taylor Busch. The ball clearly went over the fence, but it took some time for the umpires to decide whether it bounced over the 400-foot wall in left field. Some Hart players argued it was a foul as well, but the umpires ruled a ground rule double, forcing Busch and one Moorpark runner back on the basepaths.  

The play was ruled a ground rule double and set up Hart closer Ian Edwards into the tightest jam of the night: two in scoring position with no outs. The jam gave the Indians new life, but Edwards has been in big moments all season and wasn’t about to let Hart’s impressive 13-hit day slip away for silver.  

“That was eventful. We definitely made it interesting,” Ozella said. “Seven to two, with two outs and things kind of got away from us. Ian struggled coming out of the bullpen but much to his credit, him doing what he did in the seventh inning tonight, after the two hits, he’s done that all year. He comes in and makes quality pitches.” 

Hart baseball coaches celebrate after winning the Division 2 CIF SS Championship on Friday at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

The submarine pitcher forced a quick line out to third, where junior Michael Hogen was ready for the difficult, diving snag and held the runners on. Any misstep on the catch or throw could’ve allowed one to score but Hogen was ready in the hot corner. 

“They thought it was a homerun and so that whole scenario happened, and they were taunting our dugout and stuff, doing the cry face, but then it got overturned,” Hogen said. “That’s when I feel like momentum kind of swayed our way. Not necessarily because it was still second and third with no outs, but we definitely got some confidence. Ian definitely got confident and he did a great job. I just had to lock in and I was expecting that ball to come to me.” 

Edwards forced another ground ball before working a fly out to right field from his opponent.  

Hart right fielder Mathew Perez charged in and caught the ball in shallow right, securing the Hart title and stranding both the game-tying and winning runs.  

Hart celebrates after winning the Division 2 CIF SS Championship on Friday at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Both teams dogpiled on the field in the seventh but only Hart walked away with the CIF title.  

History now repeats itself as Ozella wins the CIF title in his final season, as did former skipper Bud Murray, in 1999, in his final year with Hart. 

“We’ve gone on a win streak here and we’ve put together some good games,” Ozella said. “I’m proud of them. We could have gone the wrong way after the Saugus series. We told them we believed in them and they believed in themselves. They just kept making improvements and kept taking care of business.” 

Moorpark was quite literally less than an inch away from exploding ahead in the sixth inning as well. 

After back-to-back batters struck by pitches with the bases loaded, the Musketeers were within two runs. Moorpark leadoff man Jacob Shannon-Wilkerson blasted what was nearly the game-tying play down the right field line. However, the ball struck the field umpire in the leg, keeping the ball in play where Hart was able to field it rather than it being a base-clearing double. 

Hart second baseman Jaiden Chathle makes the throw to first base for an out in the CIF Championship game.  Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Indians second baseman Jaiden Chathle scooped the ball up after one run scored and launched it home to catcher Ryan De La Maza, who forced the out at the plate.  

Moorpark’s rally nearly erased Hart’s 4-run inning in the sixth where Hogen, Ryder Frithsmith, Brayden Jefferis and designated hitter Taj Brar all brought in runs to go up 7-2. 

Frithsmith hit a huge RBI triple to right field while Jefferis added a double. Hogen led the team with a pair of RBIs as he also brought in Brady Werther in the inning.

Hart junior Michael Hogen bats in the CIF Championship game. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Brar finished with a championship game-high three hits in his final game in a Hart uniform. The Biola commit is grateful for everything Ozella brought to him and the team. 

“I’ve been here three years with coach O,” Brar said. “When I transferred from Notre Dame, he brought me in and showed me how a real man should play baseball. I sure did get a coach that really knows the game, taught me and taught everybody else and created men.” 

Brar and the Hart veterans have wanted this feat for years now, and talked about all the extra work to reach this point. 

“We’ve been working every single day, waking up at 5 a.m. to go weightlifting for an hour,” Brar said. “Every single morning we’ve been working and we knew that we deserved to play in this game. We know that we’re gonna come out and win it and that it was gonna be a really big dog pile because of how good of the fight was. Moorpark, they’re known for coming back and coming in strong.” 

Hart was ready for this one and scored in the first and third innings. The Indians got on the board right away with a sacrifice groundout from De La Maza.  

On the mound, senior Troy Cooper held his own under the lights against the Moorpark offense. 

Cooper went 5.2 innings strong, allowing just one hit and a couple walks before being pulled for Edwards. 

Hart senior Troy Cooper pitches against Moorpark in the CIF Championship game. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Cooper was perfect through three before the Moorpark bats finally found a way. Second baseman AJ Mai brought in two with an RBI single. The runs that scored were based via a walk and a hit by a pitch.  

A fielding error from Cooper put two in scoring position and gave the Musketeers the chance to steal the lead. However, Cooper shook off the shaky inning and punched out his final opponent to escape with the lead in the fourth. 

Cooper also kept his shortstop Jefferis busy as he forced close to a dozen ground balls to short, where the Michigan commit was ready to make the 6-3 groundout play with first baseman Eddie Gutierrez. 

Hart senior Brayden Jefferis makes a routine play at shortstop during the CIF Championship game. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

The Indians now leave their mark on 2024 as winners of 11 straight games, Foothill League champions and kings of the CIF, even if it feels too surreal for the players. 

“There’s a reason why this interview is so bad, I’m in shock right now,” Brar said. “I am in extreme shock and I’m speechless. I really have no words to say because all the hard work paid off. That’s exactly what I told my dad. All the hard work these past 14 years, for the most important game, and we did it. We won it.”  

All the work indeed paid off for Hart, which still returns a good group of non-seniors for next year’s season, including Hogen. 

“All the hours and hard work that we put in, the coaches and the team, it all paid off and it couldn’t have been better,” Hogen said. “It couldn’t have been a better game. It couldn’t have been a better environment. The fans were great. It just means so much, especially for our seniors. They’re a great group of guys.” 

2025 will be the first time this millennium Hart will not have Ozella at the helm.  

“It’s really surreal that (Ozella’s) leaving the year that we won the CIF championship,” Hogen said. “He’s stuck with me this whole time through ups and downs. I thank him so much because he’s given me so many chances, just countless opportunities. And I’m just really happy for him.” 

The skipper was asked if achieving this feat would change his mind on retirement, to which he, per usual, shifted away from himself and focused on his players on the field before adding a cliffhanger. 

“I’m just enjoying it for the kids, they have worked hard to get here,” Ozella said. “I’m fired up for the kids. I’m not worried about what I’m gonna do or what’s gonna go on with me. Something will happen.” 

For now, Cooper will gear up for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Brar is set to join Biola, Jefferis will head to Michigan while several other Hart seniors consider college options.  

No matter their next steps, they’ll forever be 2024 Foothill League and CIF SS Division 2 champions. 

Hart celebrates after winning the Division 2 CIF SS Championship on Friday at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium. Photo courtesy of Cole Franquiz Photography.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS