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SO. SECTION DIV. II: PLAYOFF PREDATOR HART'S FICK PUTS POSTSEASON PREY AWAY HART 5, RIGHETTI 0.

Byline: J.J. Bowman Special to the Daily News

Hart High coach Jim Ozella jokingly referred to Tyler Fick as a vulture because the pitcher won the Warrior's first three playoff games as a reliever.

Ozella will have to find a new comparison after the tall left-hander shut down visiting Righetti of Santa Maria in a two-hitter. The Warriors (18-11-1) won 5-0 to advance to the Southern Section Div. II semifinals. Fick earned his fourth win in four playoff games.

``He was bringing it today,'' Ozella said. ``His fastball was outstanding. He threw the breaking ball enough for strikes (and) he threw changes to keep them off balance.''

Fick gave up an infield single to the first batter of the game but did not give up another hit until two outs in the sixth inning. He also had nine strikeouts, walked three and hit a batter.

``I was getting the fastball in on guys,'' he said. ``(And) the curve was 12-to-6 every time.''

Fick (9-2) had some trouble in the sixth. Righetti's Jimmy Dodos led off with a line drive that looked like a home run that would have tied the game 1-1. Right fielder Steve Sanchez sprinted to the wall, however, and robbed Dods with a leaping catch.

``I knew I was coming close to the fence, so I just jumped,'' he said. ``I came back and I saw the ball in the glove and I was just excited.''

The next batter also made solid contact, but left fielder Cole Valancius made a running catch. Josh Thomas followed with a double to left field for Righetti's second and final hit. He was stranded on second after Blaine Wilson popped out.

``I was letting them hit their pitches instead of mine,'' Fick said of his brief trouble in the sixth. ``And I wasn't keeping the ball down.''

Most of the game was a pitchers' duel between Fick and Ben Grover (4-2), who allowed one run on four hits through the first five innings. The only run came on Ryan Gagnon's infield single that bounced high off the plate and allowed Steve Susdorf to score.

``He kept us off-balance - jammed us when he had to jam us,'' Ozella said of Grover.

The Warriors finally broke the game open when they batted around in the sixth. Susdorf led off with a single and scored on a two-out double by Nate Maddox. Gagnon then reached on an error. Grover left the game after walking the next two batters.

Sanchez greeted reliever David Lohman by drilled a first-pitch fastball for a single that scored Gagnon and gave Hart a 4-0 lead.

Sanchez understood the importance of padding the score for Fick.

``The more runs the less pressure on Fick's shoulders,'' he said.

Fick closed the game in style with a high fastball to strike out Chris Mathews swinging.

Hart is the only team left from the Foothill League. Higher seeds Saugus and Valencia lost in the second round Tuesday. The Warriors won their wild-card game by coming from behind for a 10-inning win against Palmdale. They also beat Murrieta Valley and Canyon of Anaheim - another come-from-behind win - to reach the quarterfinals.

Fick's performance made a comeback unnecessary against Righetti.

``Today he really stepped it up,'' Ozella said. ``(He showed) how good he could be.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Nate Maddox (9) celebrates as he approaches Tyler Fick, who pitched a two-hitter to lift Hart to a 5-0 win over Righetti of Santa Maria in the Southern Section Div. II quarterfinals.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 29, 2004
Words:590
Previous Article:SOUTHERN SECTION ROUNDUP: L.A. BAPTIST POWERFUL IN QUARTERFINALS.
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