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Hart baseball, Valaika see end in CIF playoffs

Hart loses 7-2 to Orange Lutheran in last game for family

Posted: May 23, 2014 10:04 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2014 10:04 p.m.
Hart High shortstop Nick Valaika doubles in the first inning in the first round of the CIF-SS Div, I playoffs on Friday at Hart High. Hart High shortstop Nick Valaika doubles in the first inning in the first round of the CIF-SS Div, I playoffs on Friday at Hart High.
Hart High shortstop Nick Valaika doubles in the first inning in the first round of the CIF-SS Div, I playoffs on Friday at Hart High.

The end of the era could have been at the plate with Nick Valaika up in the bottom of the seventh inning and his Hart Indians down six runs to Orange Lutheran in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I playoffs on Friday.

But Valaika hit a missile down the third base line for an RBI double.

He reached second base and held back some tears.

The next batter Jack Ralston took a tough breaking ball from Lancers pitcher Garrett King that bent inside for a called strike three.

It was the end of the game and end of the season for Hart in a 7-2 loss.

And it was the end of the era.

“It’s all coming to an end. It hit me,” Valaika said on why he almost cried on second base.

In the last 15 seasons, Hart High has called a Valaika its shortstop 13 of those years — from Chris to Matt to Pat to Nick.

Nick Valaika went 3-for-4 in his final game with two doubles and the RBI.

“He came into the program with a lot of pressure. Too much pressure. Not a chance to make a mistake,” said Hart High head coach Jim Ozella. “He’s very deserving (of all his accolades and respect). He’s going to be a star (at UCLA). His best days are still ahead of him.”

Hart had nine hits off Orange Lutheran starter King, but his fastball and curveball command were excellent and allowed him to avoid doom.

Plus he got a big boost from his offense in the first inning.

It started with speedy freshman Tristan Hanoian’s leadoff bunt single off Hart starter Paul Richan.

Richan was occupied with Hanoian on first base and walked the next batter and UCLA commit Josh Morgan.

Richan struck the next two batters out looking, then the Lancers jumped on him.

Joey Sanchez doubled in two runs, then Leo Hernandez knocked in a run with a double.

Bobby Fulkerson, who came into the game with two extra-base hits on the season, then hit a two-run home run over the wall in right field.

Hart (21-5-1) blinked and it was 5-0 in the first inning.

“In high school baseball, the team that scores first usually wins the game. That took a lot of pressure off our pitching and defense,” said Lancers head coach Eric Borba.

King allowed back-to-back singles in the third inning to Dayton Provost and Valaika, then Ralston singled in Hart’s first run of the game.

Orange Lutheran’s ace then struck out Cody Miller with two on.

He stranded a runner in scoring position four times in the game.

Richan found his groove after the first inning, but was knocked out of the game in the fifth after an RBI single by Hernandez.

Ralston came in to relieve and surrendered a single to Fulkerson, which Chad Haslock misplayed in right field and resulted in the Lancers’ seventh run.

The lead was too much for the Foothill League champions to overcome — especially against a team that came in on a seven-game winning streak and scored five runs in the first inning and pitched a perfect game in its wild-card win against Newport Harbor on Wednesday.

It was a tough matchup for the Indians as O-Lu (17-11), the Trinity League’s No. 3 team, came into the game ranked No. 36 in the state by Maxpreps.

“It was a tough draw and we knew it when we saw the pairing. But no team’s going to be easy,” Valaika said.

Valaika said he was proud that his team went out with a fight.

It had to be led by somebody in that fight.

It was fitting that it was a Valaika.


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