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Hart baseball beats Moorpark to send head coach Jim Ozella into retirement as a champion

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LAKE ELSINORE — Hart baseball’s CIF Southern Section title was a year in the making — but also 25 years in the making.

Hart beat Moorpark 7-6 on Friday night for the CIF-SS Division 2 crown after a year’s worth of work to send head coach Jim Ozella into retirement as a champion after 25 years.

Final: Hart 7, Moorpark 6

Jim Ozella gets his CIF title after 25 years. pic.twitter.com/aKiC13fi4p

— Haley Sawyer (@haleymsawyer) May 18, 2024

“Excited, relieved, I don’t know,” Hart shortstop Brayden Jeffris said, tears still wet on his face. “It’s just — you can’t describe it. All the hours you put into this, this is why you do it.”

The game nearly went in Moorpark’s favor in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Musketeers (20-10-1) were trailing 7-6 when Taylor Busch hit a long fly ball down the third base line that was ruled a ground-rule double after originally being called a home run.

The stadium lights were flashing after the hit as if the Musketeers had won and the grounds crew had made its way onto the field.

Moorpark declined all interviews after the game concluded.

Taylor Busch (@Taylor_Busch16) crushes this one to left field that was initially a walk off home run but overturned into a ground rule double in the 7th. @MHSBaseballA41 (CA) 2025 #uncommitted

Profile: https://t.co/2VVQqADSvv pic.twitter.com/BHjZ5hU7qo

— Five Tool California (@FiveToolCA) May 18, 2024

Hart’s defense and submarine pitcher Ian Edwards forced two ground outs and a fly out to hold off Moorpark for the win.

Hart (26-5) jumped on the scoreboard in the first inning when Brayden Jeffris crossed home plate on Ryan De La Maza’s sacrifice fly.

  • Hart’s head coach James Ozella asks the official if he...

    Hart’s head coach James Ozella asks the official if he can speak with his pitcher during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s players cheer on their team from the bench during...

    Hart’s players cheer on their team from the bench during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s Brayden Jefferis #2 connects with the ball during the...

    Hart’s Brayden Jefferis #2 connects with the ball during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’sBrayden Jefferis #2 and Jaiden Chathle #18 collide with Moorpark’s...

    Hart’sBrayden Jefferis #2 and Jaiden Chathle #18 collide with Moorpark’s Taylor Busch #7 at 2nd during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s Tanner Stotts #11 checks Moorpark’s Mason Cummings #20 at...

    Hart’s Tanner Stotts #11 checks Moorpark’s Mason Cummings #20 at 1st during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s Troy Cooper #21 during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals...

    Hart’s Troy Cooper #21 during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • A Hart baseball fan holds up a sign in support...

    A Hart baseball fan holds up a sign in support of his team during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s Troy Cooper #21 fumbles with the ball as he...

    Hart’s Troy Cooper #21 fumbles with the ball as he tries to throw to 1st for an out during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Hart’s Ryder Frithsmith #7 celebrates making it to 3rd during...

    Hart’s Ryder Frithsmith #7 celebrates making it to 3rd during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Moorpark Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Moorpark’s Carson Cerny #5 pitches during the CIF-SS Division 2...

    Moorpark’s Carson Cerny #5 pitches during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Hart Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Moorpark’s Cameron Johnson takes off his batting helmet and reacts...

    Moorpark’s Cameron Johnson takes off his batting helmet and reacts to being struck out during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Hart Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Moorpark players line up for the National Anthem before the...

    Moorpark players line up for the National Anthem before the start of the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Hart Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

  • Moorpark head coach Aaron Garcia walks to the dugout during...

    Moorpark head coach Aaron Garcia walks to the dugout during the CIF-SS Division 2 finals game at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore against Hart Friday, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Andrew Foulk Contributing Photographer)

Brady Werther hit a leadoff single in the third inning to reach first, then stole second. Ryan De La Masa was walked to put two men on base. Michael Hogen came up with an RBI single to score Werther, then Hayden Rhodes’ sacrifice fly scored De La Masa to give Hart a 3-0 advantage.

Eight different players recorded a hit for Hart. Pitcher Troy Cooper earned the win and allowed two hits and four runs while striking out three hitters in 5 2/3 innings.

“We picked everyone up and everyone one through nine contributed,” said Jeffris, who was 2 for 4 with an RBI. “Nobody wanted to be done. This was the end goal for everyone and we wanted it not just for ourselves but for each other.”

Moorpark didn’t record a base hit until the fourth inning. AJ Mai (1 for 3, two RBIs) got the Musketeers some momentum when he hit a two-run single to bring in Jacob Shannon-Wilkerson and Busch.

It appeared as though Hart broke open the game with four runs in the sixth inning. No. 9 hitter Ryder Firthsmith tripled, Jeffris doubled, Taj Brar hit a sacrifice fly and Hart added an unearned run when Brady Werther touched home plate after multiple errors for a 7-2 lead.

The advantage was cut to just one run in when Moorpark scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Mai and Carson Cerny hit back-to-back RBI singles off of Edwards to start off the scoring run.

“We let things get away from us a couple of times tonight,” Ozella said. “Give (Moorpark) credit. They’re very competitive. And they’ve shown in the playoffs they’re difficult to beat.”

Although another pitcher had begun to warm up, Ozella stuck with Edwards to close out the game.

“All year he’s come into bad situations and gotten us out of it,” Ozella said. “He competed and that’s what we ask. It would’ve been challenging for me to take him out of the game.”

Ozella spoke with an even keel after the championship game as if it were any other regular game. He said the trophy is going in the school’s trophy case and he’s celebrating by spending time with his family.

“It was exciting, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We had to make it interesting, didn’t we?”

It’s unknown if Hart will continue its postseason and participate in the CIF SoCal Regional playoffs. The Ozella era is ending, and the elusive CIF-SS title that’s finally been captured by the coach and his team represents what was, is and always will be.

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