Hart coach Jim Ozella wins his first CIF title to cap his 25th and final season

Hart coach Jim Ozella won his first CIF title in his 25th and final season.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It took 25 years for Hart High baseball coach Jim Ozella to finally win a Southern Section championship and it didn’t come without a little bit of craziness.

Hart defeated Moorpark 7-6 on Friday night in the Division 2 championship game at Lake Elsinore’s Diamond Stadium, completing a remarkable playoff run for the Indians (26-5) that started with a 14-inning win over Simi Valley. Ozella is retiring after 25 seasons, and the ending won’t be forgotten.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, a leadoff single by Greg Lareva increased pressure on the Indians. Then Taylor Busch hit what looked to be a walk-off two-run home run down the left-field line. The game was delayed as umpires discussed whether it was a home run. Lights were flashing on and off at the stadium to signify a home run. But the umpires ruled it was a ground-rule double. Then Hart picked up three consecutive outs to escape with the victory. High school baseball has no instant replay to overturn an umpire’s call.

Ozella said afterward left fielder Brady Werther indicated the ball bounced on the warning track and went into the bullpen. On Saturday morning, Werther said, “I’ve seen three different videos, but I promise it bounced. I wouldn’t lie. I swear.”

Moorpark athletic director Rob Dearborn said school and district administrators plan to meet on Sunday to draft a formal appeal to the Southern Section office.


It was Ozella’s final high school game. Hart will not be participating in the Southern California regionals.

“It was an exciting ride,” he said. “It’s been a fun time at Hart having a lot of great kids. I was just coaching them up and let’s give them the experience of a lifetime. You do this as long as I’ve had with passion. Things happen. You make relationships. They put their heart into it. One of the greatest things about this whole deal is I’ve gotten text messages from hundreds of coaches. It’s overwhelming. It’s what the coaching fraternity is about.”

Troy Cooper started the game for Hart, retiring the first nine batters as Hart opened a 3-0 lead. But Moorpark closed to 3-2 with a two-run single from AJ Mai in the fourth.

Standout pitcher Troy Cooper of Hart.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Hart appeared to break open the game in the sixth. Ryan Frithsmith had an RBI triple, Brayden Jefferis had an RBI double and Mike Hogen added an RBI single for a 7-2 lead.

Cooper went 5 2/3 innings, giving up two hits while striking out three and walking two. Moorpark scored four runs in the sixth, two on bases-loaded hit batters by Ian Edwards, to close to 7-6. Moorpark had the potential tying run thrown out at the plate to end the inning with catcher Ryan De La Maza making the tag.

This season began for Hart in February when Hart grad and new Dodgers ace Tyler Glasnow visited and gave the team a pep talk. Cooper and Edwards were terrific on the mound and veteran players got the Indians through a one-week slump when they lost consecutive league games to Saugus.

Taj Brar finished with three hits for Hart. Jefferis and Hogen added two hits apiece.

Division 5

Chino Hills 4, Santa Monica 1: Brody Buoncristiani threw five scoreless innings, giving up two hits, and Andrew Baldomino had two hits and two RBIs to lead Chino Hills to its first baseball title. Theo Smith finished with two hits for Santa Monica.

Division 6

Colony 8, Village Christian 3: The Titans broke open a close game with four runs in the sixth inning to win their first title. Jacob Castro finished with three hits, Steven Gonzalez struck out 11 in a complete game and Connor Rangel had two hits and three RBIs. Johan Pelayo had a three-run double in the third inning to briefly tie the score for Village Christian.


Division 7

Oxford Academy 5, South El Monte 4: The Patriots scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the Division 7 title.
Josh Loya had a two-run single in the fifth inning. South El Monte rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh for a 4-2 lead. Ryan Leon finished three for three.