Camarillo High baseball Coach Ken Wagner did not want to use his best third baseman, Charlie Fiacco, as a starting pitcher this season.
Fiacco was 5-0 on the mound last year, but Wagner knew that Fiacco’s hitting was adversely affected when he had to spend part of his time pitching.
Besides, Wagner thought that the rotation of Joe Salomon, Mike Chase and Mitch Parrott could pull him through the season.
Midway through the season, however, Wagner saw signs that he would have to alter his plans. And they weren’t subtle ones.
After winning its first four games, Camarillo lost seven of its next 12, including two of three league games.
Within a nine-day stretch, the Scorpions lost to Simi Valley, 15-3, El Segundo, 10-1, and Royal, 8-1. The team wasn’t hitting, and it wasn’t playing good defense.
And to add to Camarillo’s pitching woes, Parrott developed tendinitis in his pitching arm and was lost for the year.
“It became obvious,” Wagner said, “that we did not have the luxury of not using Charlie.”
Fiacco, who had been used only as a reliever, entered the starting rotation. And coincidence or not, Camarillo has not lost since.
Entering tonight’s Southern Section 4-A championship game against Fountain Valley at Anaheim Stadium, the Scorpions (22-7) have won 13 straight games.
Fiacco will not start on the mound for the Scorpions, that assignment goes to Salomon. But depending on how his arm feels, Fiacco may pitch an inning or two after starting at third.
It has been Fiacco’s right arm that’s carried the Scorpions to the Marmonte League championship and to Anaheim. The 17-year-old senior has collected eight victories during Camarillo’s 13-game winning streak.
And Fiacco has won Camarillo’s last three playoff games, going the distance in two, and 6 innings in the other.
In the quarterfinals against Redondo Beach, he went in with one out in the first inning after Chase gave up five runs. Camarillo eventually won, 12-6.
Last Tuesday in the semifinals, Fiacco allowed just seven hits in defeating St. John Bosco, 7-2.
“He’s meant just about everything to us,” Wagner said.
Fiacco and shortstop Scott Cline are the only three-year starters on the team. They are, without question, the team leaders.
And if Cline (.506 batting average, 11 home runs, 30 runs batted in) is considered Camarillo’s No. 1 player, then Fiacco is No. 1A. No worse.
“They’ll be co-MVPs of the team,” Wagner said. “They are both the same. It would be unfair to either one of them to distinguish (a winner).”
“Scott and Charlie are the three-year stars of the team,” said right fielder Angel Barroso. “We have to give them respect.”
On the mound, Fiacco is 9-0 with an earned-run average of 1.79. He also has three saves. At the plate, he is batting .464 with three homers and 27 RBIs.
Cline and Fiacco bat third and fourth in the lineup, respectively, which has made it difficult for opponents to pitch around either.
“I’m more relaxed with Charlie hitting behind me,” Cline said. “It means it doesn’t always have to be me getting the (clutch) hits.”
Cline and Fiacco will have plenty of chances in the coming years to drive each other in. They both have signed to play at UCLA next season.
The two Scorpions signed with the Bruins on April 10. The Scorpions’ winning streak began April 10.
“There were maybe 10 scouts at every one of our games,” the 6-0, 185-pound Fiacco said. “I think Scott and I put more pressure on ourselves than we had to.
“We were trying to show off our arms and everything. As soon as I signed the letter of intent, a lot of pressure was off.”
Fiacco will play somewhere in the infield for the Bruins, most likely at third. His days as a pitcher will probably end tonight.
“In college they want guys who throw 90 m.p.h.,” said Fiacco, who has kept batters off balance by mixing up his pitches. “I can probably throw about 80.”
Wagner said that if Fiacco concentrated on pitching, “he could be a major college pitcher.”
“Right now, it’s unfair to him, going back and forth between positions,” the coach added.
Not that Fiacco has done too bad this year moving around. “I wasn’t used to hitting and pitching at the beginning,” Fiacco said. “But after three or four games, I was able to concentrate on both pretty well.”
Since finding a balance between batting and pitching, Fiacco has been on a tear at the plate. In his last 10 games, he is hitting over .600.
“He’s just a good, strong hitter,” Wagner said. “He has great power for his size. He has hit some really long home runs here.”
Fiacco had eight home runs last year when he batted .400. He earned All-Marmonte League and All-Ventura County honors. He was a part-time starter at third as a sophomore on the varsity team, batting .275 with two homers. Fiacco also went 3-1 as a pitcher that year.
He played for the Camarillo freshman team as a ninth grader, hitting homers in his first three games of the season. He didn’t hit another one the rest of the campaign, but still hit .300.
It was after his junior season with the Scorpions that Fiacco started drawing attention from the colleges.
He was playing for the Camarillo American Legion team over the summer when a scout from the St. Louis Cardinals organization saw him.
The scout asked him if he wanted to play for a St. Louis team made up of Class A, Double-A and high school players over the winter.
Fiacco played for the team several weekends between October and December. The squad played many college teams, including UCLA. And Fiacco impressed the Bruin scouts enough for the school to offer him a scholarship.
“Stanford was my first choice,” Fiacco said. “They offered me tuition and a job.”
But despite a 3.5 grade-point average, Fiacco was not accepted at the school. So instead, he’ll venture to Westwood.
“I never really thought about getting a scholarship until this year,” Fiacco said. “It all kind of happened this year.”
This year still isn’t over for the Scorpions. The school has a shot at winning its second Southern Section championship in the same school year: the football team won the Coastal Conference title at the Coliseum in December.
“It’s the goal of everybody playing high school baseball to get to the finals,” Fiacco said.
“All I wanted was to have a chance. Now that we’re there, I want to win.”
His chance comes tonight at 8.