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Hart Finally Gets It All Together

Prep baseball: Shields homers for his first hit of season in 6-3 victory over Burroughs, helping team clinch Foothill title.

May 13, 2000|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEWHALL — It took 26 baseball games and more than two months, but Coach Jim Ozella of Hart High was finally able to start the lineup he always envisioned on Friday.

And what a lineup it is.

With a healthy Jamie Shields hitting and pitching, with soon-to-be league MVP Bill Susdorf doing everything but chalk the field, Hart won its 11th Foothill League championship in 13 years by defeating Burroughs, 6-3, at Hart.

Shields hit a three-run home run--his first hit of the season--and allowed four hits in 6 1/3 innings. Susdorf hit a two-run home run and increased his school-record save total to 10.

"It's been a challenge getting everybody back on the field," said Ozella, the first-year coach who started the season without the injured Shields and Matt Friedrichsen, who combined to hit 22 home runs and drive in 88 runs when Hart won the Division II title in 1999.

But Hart (21-5, 13-2 in league play) somehow kept winning while waiting for its big bats to return.

"It's kind of amazing without that lineup we only lost five games," Susdorf said. "That's far less than I expected."

If anyone deserves credit for Hart's success, it's Susdorf, a junior right fielder with a 4.0 grade-point average. He spends so much time practicing his hitting that neighbors need earplugs to block out the constant ping emanating from his backyard batting cage.

"He's been the guy who's carried us," Ozella said. "You talk about a competitor. After he hit his home run, he slapped my hand and almost took it off, he was so excited. I'm telling you, we're going to ride him the rest of the way."

Susdorf leads Hart with a .480 batting average and 31 runs batted in. He came on in the seventh and retired the only two batters he faced. In 23 1/3 innings, he has allowed one run and is three saves away from tying the state record of 13.

Burroughs (15-11, 11-4) trailed, 3-2, in the fifth inning. Hart had two runners aboard when Spencer Steward was brought in from center field to pitch. Up came Shields, who only started taking batting practice this week after recovering from a strained muscle in his back. He hit a fastball on top of the roof of a portable classroom beyond right field.

"That was my first hit all season and it was pretty awesome," Shields said. "I'm excited I'm back. I'm enjoying every minute of this."

Give Burroughs credit for pressuring Hart until the final out. Coach Jose Valle thought his young team was a year away from winning a league title, but with senior Steward getting 42 hits this season, Burroughs came close.

"Next year, they're going to be real good," Susdorf said of Burroughs. "They've got a bunch of competitors."

Both teams hope for success in the playoffs. With Shields growing stronger each day, Ozella likes his team's chances.

"Last year he carried this team on his back," he said. "Maybe we'll get him on a rebuilt back."

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