Hart High junior right-hander Luis Sanchez had not pitched in two weeks because of a bad back. So, you wonder, how did he kill his time?
"I've been working on my hitting a lot," Sanchez said.
Result: Sanchez hit a grand slam in the first inning Friday against Saugus, providing all the runs he would need on the mound in the Indians' 10-3 Foothill League victory.
But Sanchez's hitting was secondary. While improving his record to 4-1 this season and 17-2 in his three varsity seasons at Hart, Sanchez struck out 10 Saugus hitters, mostly with a nasty, late-breaking curve ball.
"That had some bite, didn't it?" Hart Coach Bud Murray said, showing the broad smile of a coach whose team took a key step on the road toward a Foothill League championship.
Hart (14-4, 6-0 in league play) is two games ahead of Saugus (12-5-1, 4-2). Although each team has six league games remaining, Hart has won its first two meetings with the Centurions. They will meet for the final time at Hart next Thursday.
"I don't think we've won the league already, but this has really made us confident," Sanchez said.
Hart confidently ripped Brandon Hernandez (2-3) of Saugus, starting the game with consecutive singles by Jeremy Seipel and Brian Baron. After a walk to Aaron Dean, Sanchez did what a good cleanup hitter does--he cleaned the bases with his second home run.
"The ball was up today," Hernandez said. "It just didn't come down a couple times. I hung a curve (to Sanchez). That was my mistake."
Hart put the game away with Saugus' help in the third. Two Centurion errors and five hits resulted in five more runs and a 9-0 lead.
Sanchez finished the game with three hits, including a double. Mike Espy, Mike Adachi and Seipel each added two hits for the Indians.
Most of Saugus' offense was provided by catcher Jeff Brown, who had three hits, including a solo home run in the seventh inning.
Hernandez, who had a double, said he thought Saugus was intimidated by Hart.
"I just think we need to change our mentality when we play Hart," Hernandez said. "It seems like year after year they're always beating us."