Hart High’s Eric Spindt is accustomed to pressure.
He thrives on it as the starting point guard for the Indians’ basketball team. Saugus learned firsthand Tuesday afternoon that the same applies to baseball.
Spindt, a junior left-handed reliever, struck out both batters he faced with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to earn his first save and secure Hart’s 7-5 Foothill League victory over the Centurions in Newhall.
“Yeah, I’m used to that stuff,” Spindt said. “You have to block out everything . . . don’t get distracted.
“I just wait for my spot and do my job.”
Spindt caught Dennis Gill, who bats left-handed, and Bobby Cowan, who bats right, looking at off-speed pitches to end the game, giving Hart an early edge in the anticipated battle with Saugus for the league title.
Hart, ranked fifth in The Times’ area poll, improved to 8-1, 2-0 in league play. Saugus (7-3) was playing its first league game.
The Centurions scored twice in the seventh off sophomore Luis Sanchez, who relieved starter Gary Stephenson (3-1) in the fifth inning. Sanchez retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.
However, he opened the seventh by walking Danny Broyles and Scott Himes. After forcing Kevin Brown to pop up to first baseman Arron Dean, Sanchez allowed a single by Danny Cato to load the bases. Sanchez walked Brandon Hernandez to force in one run and Jeff Brown singled home another.
In four previous appearances, all in relief, Spindt compiled a 2-0 record with 11 strikeouts and a 2.10 earned-run average in 10 innings. Hart Coach Bud Murray knew he had the right guy for the job.
“Eric Spindt has a lot of mental toughness,” Murray said. “He is going to be a success no matter what he does.”
For a while it looked as though Spindt would not be needed. The Indians scored four runs in the first inning to lead, 4-1.
“We can’t play at all in the first inning,” Saugus Coach Doug Worley said. “We’re not playing tough in the beginning of games. We’ve got to start thinking and getting tough.”
Hart leadoff hitter Alan Ray sparked the inning by hitting his first home run of the season, a 335-foot blast down the left-field line off Cowan (1-2). Ray went three for four, scoring twice and stealing two bases.
Cowan, one of the top pitchers in the area, struggled the entire game, allowing seven earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
“It just didn’t feel right today,” Cowan said. “I was getting the ball up. It just wasn’t working.”
Hart had another scoring threat in the third, loading the bases with none out, but the Indians came away empty.
“We had them on the ropes and we let them get away,” Murray said. “We had a couple of kids have bad at-bats, but they’ll get better.”