2010-03-11 / Sports

Baseball: It’s the best

Commentary
By Stephen Dorman sdorman@theacorn.com

SWEET SPOT—Westlake  High  left-handed  slugger  Zach  Winters  connects  on  a  pitch  from Ventura’s Nick Torrez during the Easton Showdown tournament last weekend at WHS. On the following two pages, the Thousand Oaks Acorn previews the Marmonte League baseball season. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers SWEET SPOT—Westlake High left-handed slugger Zach Winters connects on a pitch from Ventura’s Nick Torrez during the Easton Showdown tournament last weekend at WHS. On the following two pages, the Thousand Oaks Acorn previews the Marmonte League baseball season. IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Nothing beats Marmonte League baseball.

In a league that produces tremendous student-athletes across a spacious spectrum of high school sports, baseball shines as the most competitive, well-balanced, talentladen activity of them all.

Without a doubt, there is something special about attending a huge Friday night football game in late fall or squeezing through a shoulder-to-shoulder basketball gymnasium during the dead of winter. And we can accurately predict that spring season swimming, lacrosse, tennis, volleyball, softball, golf, and track and field will produce a lifetime of memories.

But baseball here—it’s at a different level.

Local high school baseball season is a time for sunflower seeds, sandals and free entry into the ballpark. It’s a time when moms and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and first cousins can yell strange things like, “Can of corn!” or “That kid has a rifle!” and no one thinks twice about it.

Lucky for us fans, the past five seasons have been a golden age for Marmonte baseball.

Since 2005, four of eight Marmonte teams—Royal, Newbury Park, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley—have won league championships, with TOHS and Simi Valley each earning a pair of titles.

Every team in the league has made the playoffs at least once.

Two programs, Agoura in 2006 and Simi Valley in 2008, played for CIF-Southern Section Division I banners during that five-year span. (On a side note, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley won back-to-back Division II titles in 2003 and 2004).

The Chargers were heartbroken after losing a 1-0 lead against Lakewood in the bottom of the seventh inning at Angel Stadium, while the Pioneers captured their second section banner in school history during a nine-inning upset over Long Beach Wilson at Dodger Stadium.

Both championship games were instant classics and featured multiple players that would eventually be drafted into the major leagues.

On any given afternoon, fans may see a budding superstar at work on a Marmonte diamond.

Some of the most high-profile names to hone their skills in the league during the second half of the past decade were Andrew Lambo (Newbury Park), Robert Stock (Agoura), Jason Stoffel (Agoura), Bryan Berglund (Royal), Nick Barnese (Simi Valley), Cutter Dykstra (Westlake), Jonathan Meyer (Simi Valley) and Bryan Anderson (Simi Valley), all of whom were taken within the first four rounds of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Keith Law of ESPN Scouts Inc. ranks Lambo (Dodgers), Berglund (Marlins), Meyer (Astros), Stock (Cardinals) and Barnese (Rays) as top-10 prospects within their respective organizations.

College rosters are packed with recent Marmonte grads.

There are four ex-Marmonte ballplayers at Pepperdine, including star left-handed pitcher Matt Bywater (Thousand Oaks). Three play for USC, while powerhouses UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton each roster a former league member. The list goes on and on.

This year’s Marmonte crop is led by Westlake third baseman Christian Yelich, a preseason first-team All-America selection by Baseball America, and Royal pitcher Cody Buckel, rated as the 57th-best prospect in the country by MaxPreps.com and a member of the U-18 national team.

As league play begins next week, rest assured that several diamonds in the rough will begin to emerge and stake their claim as the Marmonte’s top new talent. Some may even be mentioned in our league preview on the following two pages—you never know.

We hope everyone enjoys the season, and may the most deserving team claim the pennant.

Stephen Dorman is the Acorn’s sports editor.

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