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American Heritage Wins Thrilling, Tense Contest

Matt Ruiz’ National High School Invitational experience couldn’t have possibly gotten off to a better start. 

When the American Heritage outfielder flew into North Carolina from Plantation, Fla., earlier this week, his mother surprised him at the airport. She wasn’t expected to come. Days later, on Wednesday, she was holding up a home-made sign from the bleachers and screaming at the top of her lungs when Ruiz drilled a line-drive RBI single up the middle in the seventh inning. 

That swing was just enough to lead American Heritage to a 1-0 victory over Santiago (Corona, Calif.) in the tournament’s first day of action. 

"We had a runner on second, two outs, wind was blowing in, and we needed something hard. We couldn’t hit anything in the air,” Ruiz said. “So I just thought, ‘Let’s go up the middle.’ And that’s just what I did. 

“It’s exhilarating. The crowd, it hypes you up, it gets you excited. It’s moment like these that you remember for a long time.”

For a game that featured top position player prospects on both sides—shortstop Brice Turang for Santiago and Triston Casas and Cory Acton for American Heritage—it was pitching and defense that defined most of the contest. 

American Heritage lefthander Ryan Cabarcas and Santiago righthander Cruz Barrios traded zeroes for six innings before Ruiz finally struck in the seventh. Both pitchers danced into and out of trouble throughout the contest, making big pitches for strikeouts and inducing double plays when needed. Cabarcas, the winning pitcher, used a fastball and two variations of his slider—one harder and one bigger—to keep a potent lineup in check. 

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The result was a thrilling, tense afternoon of top-notch high school baseball. 

“This was a great high school baseball game from both sides,” American Heritage head coach Bruce Aven said. “We had a pitching duel. Defense played good on both teams, baserunning was good, and both teams executed on bunts. So this game came down to getting a hit at the right time. 

“I think at the end of the day, you tip your hat to both teams. This was outstanding. When you put together a tournament like this, this is what you want to see.”

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