2005-04-21 / Sports

Around the horn

By Kyle Jorrey

SHARP GLOVES-(Clockwise from upper right) Royal second baseman Matt Zabel turns two for the red-hot Highlanders. Westlake's Dustin Moore prepares to fire the ball to his first baseman. Calabasas' Maxx Skore works on his bunting technique during practice. Agoura infielder Scott Scherr winds up for a quick toss at shortstop.SHARP GLOVES-(Clockwise from upper right) Royal second baseman Matt Zabel turns two for the red-hot Highlanders. Westlake's Dustin Moore prepares to fire the ball to his first baseman. Calabasas' Maxx Skore works on his bunting technique during practice. Agoura infielder Scott Scherr winds up for a quick toss at shortstop.

The T.O. Acorn’s midseason local

prep baseball report

By Kyle Jorrey

and Stephen Dorman

Newbury Park Panthers (8-10, 3-4), sixth in Marmonte

Longest win streak: three

Tournament action: 3-2 in El Segundo Tournament, March 5-12; 1-3 in San Louis Obispo Easter Tournament, March 29-31.

Nicest Surprise: Evan Condran, senior, 3B

Biggest win: 6-2 victory at Agoura, March 23.

In a nutshell: Inconsistent play has plagued the Panthers throughout much of the season.

After winning their first three pre-league games in the El Segundo Tournament, NPHS dropped three in a row. Newbury Park then won four of its next five games (including victories over Moorpark and Agoura) before losing six straight. It’s this type of roller coaster season that can drive a coach, pardon the pun, batty.

"Obviously, I’m not 100 percent happy with our record," head coach Scott Drootin said. "Here’s the truth: the kids have been working hard, I’m happy with their attitudes, they’re not giving up, and we’ve beaten some good teams. So we’re capable."

The return of senior shortstop/pitcher Travis Scott, out early in the season with a dislocated shoulder, has provided a big boost. Scott had three hits and five stolen bases in a 6-5 victory over Thousand Oaks on April 15. He now has nine steals in 10 attempts on the year.

Senior Josh Baker and junior Brett Fick lead the squad with a .333 batting average, while junior first baseman/pitcher Cody Fierro has posted an impressive .478 on-base percentage.

On the down side, the Panthers are only batting .242 as a collective unit and have shown very little pop with only five home runs in 18 games.

Up-and-comer Fierro has been the team’s workhorse on the mound, posting a 2.93 ERA in 31 innings of work en route to a 4-3 overall record. He also has a team-high 31 strikeouts.

Sophomore hurler Kyle Sommer has allowed just eight earned runs in 28.1 innings of work (1.97 ERA).

NPHS currently sits only one game out of the Marmonte’s third-place position, which would guarantee a playoff berth, but must leapfrog three schools to get there. They’ve shown the potential to beat good teams—now can they figure out a way to do it consistently?

Thousand Oaks Lancers (8-8, 2-5), fifth in Marmonte

Longest win streak: four (to open the season)

Tournament action: 4-0 in Daily News Tournament, March 4-12; 2-2 in San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament, March 29-31.

Nicest Surprise: Jett Bandy, freshman, 3B

Biggest win: 3-0 victory against Agoura, March 21.

In a nutshell: There’s certainly time for the Lancers to recover from a midseason slump, but things have got to get going quickly if T.O. wants a shot at earning one of three coveted playoff spots.

After putting on their best performances of the year in back-to-back wins over San Ramon, 10-2, and Servite (Anaheim), 9-1, in the opening rounds of the San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament, the Lancers have taken a nosedive, losing six out of seven games and dropping into the bottom half of the Marmonte standings.

"We went to bed that night and woke up a totally different team," head coach Rod Stillwell said. "I can’t really explain it."

Since the win over Servite, the Lancers have scored more than five runs in a game just once—putting up nine in a win over last-place Calabasas—and have dropped three consecutives games decided by one-run. They have only three home runs as a team.

Stillwell blames the Lancers recent misfortunes on the inability to match good pitching with good hitting. Seniors David Fonseca (.340, eight RBIs, six doubles) and Matt Lorenz (.463, seven RBIs), along with junior Ian Brown (.354, two HRs) have pulled their weight, but T.O. is getting very little out of the rest of its lineup.

"Some of the guys we expected to swing the bats well are struggling a bit," Stillwell said.

The Lancer pitching staff, which got off to an unexpectedly strong start, has been hindered by both injuries and lack of run support. Senior Zach Ginther (2-1, 0.85 ERA) has had to pick up the slack for junior pitcher Adrian Glenn, who was 2-1 with a sub-1.00 ERA before suffering a season-ending injury. Freshman Chad Smith has done well but is still learning the ropes.

The second half of the season could go either way for the Lancers—up or down—and Stillwell hopes it will be the former. The return of senior third baseman David Iden from injury should provide a much-needed boost.

The Lancers face Agoura, Simi Valley and Royal on the road in upcoming weeks. April 30 they will take on Granada Hills at USC’s Dedeaux Field to decide the champion of the rain-delayed Daily News Tournament.

Westlake Warriors (9-9, 4-3), third in Marmonte

Longest win streak: five

Tournament action: 3-1 in Easton Southern California Showdown, March 5-12; 2-2 in West Coast Classic, March 29-31; 0-2 at Chatsworth Invitational, April 9 and 16.

Nicest Surprise: Joe Raleigh, senior, P

Biggest win: 4-0 victory over Royal, March 21.

In a nutshell: After a blazing start that saw the Warriors win seven of their first 10 games, including their first four Marmonte League contests, Westlake dropped five consecutive games during a nine-day stretch from April 8-16. Could it be that the clock is nearing the witching hour for the league’s Cinderella story thus far? Perhaps. But with six games remaining (not including Wednesday’s matchup against Calabasas), Westlake is tied with Moorpark for the Marmonte’s precious third spot, which garners an automatic playoff bid.

"In the long run I like where we’re at," head coach Josh Eby said. "We’re one game out of first place and we control our own destiny. It’s a bit disappointing that we finished with three straight losses in the first half of league, but with the strength of our league, we know nothing is going to be easy."

The offensive catalyst is junior centerfielder Jeff Rapoport, who currently leads the team in batting average (.396), at-bats (48), hits (19), RBIs (19) and slugging percentage (.750). He also shares the team lead in runs (12), doubles (five) and home runs (four).

Senior Jordan Ott (.391 BA, four HRs, .509 OBP) and senior Andrew Doupe (.391 BA, 18 hits, five doubles) have provided the muscle in the middle of the Warrior lineup.

Raleigh has been simply unbelievable on the mound. His microscopic 0.45 ERA is tops in the league, and in 30.2 innings of work he’s allowed only two earned runs and 14 hits. Raleigh’s 42 strikeouts and four wins are a club high.

The schedule is brutal for Westlake down the stretch, with their final three games against Agoura, Simi Valley and Moorpark in early May.

Royal Highlanders (16-2, 5-2), tied for first in Marmonte

Longest win streak: seven

Tournament action: 5-0 in Southern California Invitational, March 4-12; 4-0 in San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament, March 29-31.

Nicest Surprise: Clayton Edwards, senior, P

Biggest win: 3-2 victory over Simi Valley, April 15

In a nutshell: Royal baseball is back. After missing the playoffs for three straight years, the Highlanders appear ready to return to the postseason and are in the midst of making their first run at a Marmonte League championship since 1999.

RHS, currently ranked 10th in the latest Los Angeles Times’ high school baseball poll, is a perfect 11-0 outside of the league and won the San Luis Obispo Easter Tournament during spring break.

Herein lies the problem for Royal: despite their great overall record, the Highlanders were only 5-2 in the Marmonte prior to Wednesday’s matchup against Newbury Park. While that mark currently puts them in a first-place tie with Agoura, it also means they’re only a single loss away from dropping into a three-way logjam in third place.

The Royal bats have been hot all season long. Senior first baseman D.J. Smith (.527 BA, 30 RBI, five HRs, 1.036 slugging percentage) leads the league in all four offensive categories. Senior shortstop/pitcher Phil Boscarino (.516 BA, 32 hits, four HR, .571 OBP) is second in the Marmonte in batting average and is tied for the league lead with nine stolen bases. He also has three saves on the year.

Perhaps the team’s biggest surprise has been the pitching performance of senior southpaw Edwards (6-0, .854 ERA, 46 strikeouts, one save, two complete games). Junior pitcher Grady Ihnat (2-1, 2.62 ERA, three walks allowed) is a crafty lefthander that has served admirably as the Highlanders’ No. 2 starter.

Moorpark Musketeers (11-7, 4-3), tied for second in Marmonte

Longest win streak: four

Tournament action: 3-2 in Easton Southern California Showdown, March 5-12; 3-1 in Phil Nevin National Classic, March 28-31.

Nicest Surprise: Brett Hunter, senior, P

Biggest win: 10-2 victory against then No. 1 Westlake, April 15.

In a nutshell: Just when it looked like the Musketeers might be fading in the Marmonte League race, they get right back in, breaking out of a two-game slump with a 10-2 win over Westlake. After lack of production at the plate had cost Moorpark in consecutive games against Royal and Agoura, the bats came alive against Warrior pitcher Travis Turek (2-4, 4.50 ERA), who’s starting to cool down after a hot start.

The second half of the season has potential for success if Moorpark can avenge a 2-1 loss to Newbury Park when the Panthers come to town April 22 and find a way to win on the road against Simi Valley. If they do, consecutive home dates against Royal (May 4) and Agoura (May 6) could be for a another league title.

Simi Valley Pioneers (13-5, 3-3), third in Marmonte

Longest win streak: nine

Tournament action: 3-2 in Daily News Tournament, March 4-12; 4-0 at St. Paul Easter Tournament, March 26-30, first place.

Nicest Surprise: Frankie Reed, freshman, P

Biggest win: 7-2 victory at Thousand Oaks, April 6.

In a nutshell: Last year’s CIF champions began cold but are beginning to get hot with the second half of the league season just getting started, and nobody is about to count Simi Valley out. The Pioneers have lost just one game in their past 11—a 3-2 nail biter to top-ranked Royal on April 15 that could have gone either way.

As expected, the Pioneers’ big two—catcher Bryan Anderson (.500, three HRs, 15 RBIs) and shortstop Ben Orloff (.441, 26 hits, 14 RBIs)—have delivered, with juniors Nick Giarraputo (16 RBIs, eight doubles) and Aaron Pelone (.339, 12 RBIs) adding additional power at the plate.

The real surprise this season has been the Pioneers’ unexpected success on the mound, primarily freshman Reed (4-0, 0.57 ERA) and sophomore Nick Barnese (4-2, 42 Ks, seven complete game), two young guns bursting with promise. Senior Nick Nyberg rounds out of the heart of an order that sports a team ERA of under 2.00.

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