Great Expectations : Chatsworth Won Its Fifth Straight League Title, Batted .385 as a Team and Set or Tied Most School Records. It’s No Wonder That Many are Expecting a City Championship.
“Where’s your next game?” a fan asked Chatsworth High baseball Coach Bob Lofrano Tuesday. “Dodger Stadium?”
“You see,” Lofrano said, turning to a reporter, “everybody expects us to be there.”
Little matter, the fan figured, that the Chancellors still have one more game to win to reach the City 4-A championship game June 13 at Dodger Stadium.
But that “one-more” game, against Kennedy today at 3 p.m. at Cal State Northridge, is a mere formality in the minds of some Chatsworth followers.
“When you’re in a position like we are,” Lofrano said, “you’re taken for granted when you win.
“People read the score in the paper and say, ‘Oh, they won, they were supposed to.’ ”
Expectations of nothing less than a City title have followed the Chancellors since the end of the 1984 season.
Four starters returned from last year’s team that won the West Valley League championship before being knocked off by Banning in the second round of the playoffs.
Those players were joined by members of last year’s junior varsity team, which won its league.
The Chancellors then went undefeated in winter ball. “This year is one of the first times that I’ve said to anybody who’s asked, ‘Yeah, we’ll be good.’ I had good players who had showed it during their junior years,” Lofrano said.
So the Chancellors came into the 1985 season ranked No. 1 in the City.
“The preseason hype is one thing,” Lofrano said, “but we’ve done it on the field.”
Chatsworth won its fifth straight league championship with a 14-1 record, the best league mark in school history.
The Chancellors, who entered the playoffs as the top-seeded team, are 19-2 overall. The 19 wins ties the school mark for wins in a season. The 1983 Chatsworth team, which won the City championship, was 19-4.
With a team batting average of .385, the Chancellors--ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports--have broken nearly every offensive school record.
“Statistically,” Lofrano said, “this is the best team I’ve ever had.”
The 35-year-old Lofrano, who is concluding his eighth season at Chatsworth, isn’t surprised with the team’s success. So far.
“My expectations, sure, they were high. They still are,” he said. “I’d be disappointed if we did not get to the final.”
The players are confident.
“We don’t have big heads, and we’re not really cocky,” said senior Bill Berry, the team’s No. 1 pitcher. “We just know we’re good. We know what’s going to happen if we play well.”
Berry was a member of the 1983 championship team, serving as a designated hitter.
“I was really excited just being in Dodger Stadium,” Berry said. “I can’t even describe it. I remember hearing my name over the loudspeaker: ‘Now batting for Chatsworth . . . Bill Berry.’ ”
Said senior shortstop Glenn Stevenson, who played the last three innings of the 1983 game at third: “You’re just in awe being in Dodger Stadium. You’re used to going down there and watching Steve Sax or (Steve) Garvey or the other big names. All of a sudden, you’re down on the field warming up.”
The playoff loss to Banning last year was doubly disappointing because of the team’s achievements in 1983. “It was tough because we had been to Dodger Stadium, and it’s a feeling that you want to go back,” said Stevenson, who sported a shirt that read, “Chatsworth, 1983 City Champions.”
The Chancellors, who have made it to the semifinals four of the last five years, nearly were derailed on their road to Chavez Ravine in the first round this season. Chatsworth trailed 16th-seeded Gardena, 3-2, with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
But after the No. 9 batter, Ted Weisfuss, walked, Stevenson hit a grounder that the second baseman misplayed. Marc Pfeiffer followed with a single off the fence to score twice and save Chatsworth from an early exit in the playoff derby.
“I was sitting there, and I thought the season was just about over,” Berry said. “I was preparing myself mentally for that. But I guess it’s not over until the final out.”
And what if that final out should come and Chatsworth is not celebrating? Will the season of such high expectations be considered a failure?
“All I’ve told the kids is to play a good game, and if we lose, how can I complain?” Lofrano asked.
“Any team that I’m on that’s 19-2, that’s fantastic,” said Pfeiffer, a senior and the starting center fielder. Pfeiffer said there’s no way anybody can look at the season as unsuccessful should the Chancellors not make it to the finals.
But if they do make it, what will that mean?
“Everything!” Pfeiffer said, his excitement obvious. “It’s what we’ve all been working for. I’ll be the first one out the (clubhouse) door.”
Said senior catcher Chae-Ho Chong: “I don’t think any team wants it as bad as we do.”
According to Lofrano, the enthusiasm of the team is apparent. “At the beginning of the year,” he said, “I nicknamed the team, ‘The Boys of Summer.’ They like to play baseball. They are baseball fanatics. If they could play a game every day, they would--and twice on Saturday.”
The season has been a most enjoyable one for Lofrano.
“It would be capped off by going to the finals,” he said. “There are four teams left and the two that don’t go on shouldn’t be ashamed. A lot of teams already have turned in their uniforms.”
Lofrano is hoping that when his players turn in their uniforms to him, he’ll be able to give them a championship trophy in return. Today’s City 4-A Semifinals
Banning vs. Granada Hills, at Loyola Marymount 3 p.m.
Granada Hills and Banning met in the semifinals last year, the Highlanders coming out on top, 4-3. Granada Hills then went on to defeat El Camino Real for the City championship. Banning’s Joe Pardo, an All-City performer last season, was stuck with the loss last year against Granada Hills. Pardo has another shot at the Highlanders because the Pilots, third-place finishers in the Marine League, have upset Cleveland and Grant. Pitcher Tony Beneduce, who has both playoff victories, will again start for Granada Hills, seeded second in the playoffs. Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh has decided to go with Beneduce (5-2) ahead of Leo Clouser (7-0).
Kennedy vs. Chatsworth, at Cal State Northridge 3 p.m.
Junior Eric Evans has been phenomenal recently for Kennedy. The Golden Cougars have won eight straight, Evans the winning pitcher in five. He finished the regular season 8-2 with an 0.97 earned run average. Kennedy Coach Dick Whitney is not sure whether Evans or left-hander Sandy Sreden will start. Top-ranked Chatsworth, which has won 13 straight, will start a rested Bill Berry (6-0), who hasn’t pitched since Thursday. The Chancellors (19-2) seek their second City championship in three seasons. Coach Bob Lofrano’s team is led by Marc Pfeiffer (.412 batting average), Chae-Ho Chong (.407), Glenn Stevenson (.396) and Mike Ernst (.385).