Two hours after Coach Doug MacKenzie ended his 37-year wait for his first City Section baseball title, the 61-year-old coach was waiting again.
MacKenzie and the rest of the Canoga Park High team parked themselves outside Dodger Stadium long after the last out was recorded in their 5-4 victory over Poly on June 4. Because of a mix-up with the bus driver, the Hunters searched for a ride home. It wasn't until nearly midnight when the bus returned to Chavez Ravine that the happy but tired celebrants headed back to Canoga Park.
"It took me 37 years to get here and it looks like it might take 37 years to get home," MacKenzie said afterward.
As in most seasons, the off-the-field events during the recently completed spring high school sports season matched their on-the-field counterparts. Along with the championships and school records came the controversies and oddities that enrich any season. The following is a sport-by-sport look at the season's highlights and memorable moments.
Controversy hit the Taft baseball team before the first pitch of the season. Matt Gilmore and Mike Shwartzer, disenchanted with Coach Art Martinez who faced a team mutiny the year before, won a lengthy fight with the school district bureaucracy and extricated themselves from the program.
The players procured a transfer to Reseda, making the Regents a favorite to win the West Valley League title. Reseda struggled all year and missed the playoffs, and Taft won just one game and did not rehire Martinez. Gilmore batted .385 and signed a professional contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Shwartzer, a junior, batted just .125.
Olonzo Woodfin, a junior left-hander at Sylmar, forged a spectacular start and ended the season as The Times Valley Pitcher of the Year. On March 14 he won his third straight game and had 41 strikeouts and a 0.39 earned-run average through his first 17 innings. Ten days later he pitched his first no-hitter, beating North Hollywood, 5-2.
In the City Section 4-A playoffs, Woodfin made a mockery of the conventional wisdom that called for a two-pitcher rotation. On May 29, one day after pitching a two-hitter and striking out 11 in a win over Carson, he shut out San Fernando on four hits, 6-0. Four days later, he lost to Canoga Park, 5-1. He finished the season 11-3 with a 1.19 ERA.
Canoga Park pitcher Mike Kerber, who defeated Woodfin in the playoffs, didn't win his first game until April 23 when he defeated El Camino Real with a three-hitter, 4-1. A 2 1/2-monthlong bout with tendinitis in his right elbow kept him from the mound. The victory served as a bad omen for the rest of the City Section. Kerber, The Times Valley Player of the Year, finished the season with a 7-0 record and is 12-0 in his high school career.
Shawn Bowen, a junior right-hander at Chatsworth, defeated El Camino Real, 8-2, on April 7 to move Chatsworth into first place in the West Valley League. The Chancellors greeted the win with mixed feelings; hours before the game Bowen learned he was failing geometry and was academically ineligible for the rest of the season. Chatsworth still managed to reach the semifinal round of the playoffs where junior pitchers dominated.
The semifinals featured the following pitching matchups: Canoga Park's Kerber vs. Sylmar's Woodfin; Poly's Greg Nealon vs. Chatsworth's Pierre Amadao. All four were juniors. The City final at Dodger Stadium two days later featured two more juniors: Canoga Park's Adam Schulhofer vs. Poly's Nick Lymberopoulos. In Canoga Park's 5-4 victory, Mike Roberts earned the save. He was a junior, too.
At times, pitching was a lost art in the Mid-Valley League. In a May 5 game that typified the season, Birmingham moved into first place by beating Kennedy, 20-14. During that week, Kennedy, a team that advanced to the playoffs, allowed 36 runs in two games.
Still, Birmingham had its moment in the pitching spotlight. Dan Meehan, a senior transfer from Wilmington, Del. pitched a no-hitter in his first varsity start April 2, beating Kennedy, 3-0. It was the first Birmingham no-hitter in 20 years. Despite that effort, Meehan spent the rest of the season in the bullpen.
Highland Hall pitcher Aaron Rudelson celebrated his 17th birthday with a no-hitter against Grace Community on May 1. Highland Hall set numerous school records by season's end, including most victories (14) and most stolen bases (168). But life in the Southern Section Small Schools Small Division was not without its odd moments. Highland Hall's 10-6 win over South Bay Lutheran was shortened after 3 1/2 innings so the Waves could leave in time to beat the freeway traffic back to Inglewood.
In perhaps the oddest game of the season, Oak Park lost to Carpinteria in a May 8 Tri-Valley League game despite scoring more runs. In a 1-1 tie in the sixth, Gary Silverman hit a two-out, bases-loaded single that scored two runs for a 3-1 Oak Park lead. When Scott Ziegler tried to score from first, he collided with the catcher and was ejected from the game.
Because Oak Park had no remaining players, the umpires forfeited the game to Carpinteria.
Providence's Jeff Cirillo played a weird numbers game on May 15. He drove in one run in an 8-2 victory over Brentwood but actually lost ground in the race for the Southern Section record for runs batted in. Cirillo moved to 54, two shy of the record set by Chris Donnels of South Torrance in 1984. But Redondo's Scott Davison, who had tied the record at 56 earlier in the week, knocked in two runs to break the record. Cirillo finished the season with 56, Davison had 58.
The season ended prematurely for outfielder Tony Sirkin, who was transferred from Calabasas to Agoura on March 24 for his role in a brawl at a school dance 10 days earlier. A battle erupted between school officials and students who chartered buses where alcohol was confiscated afterward.
Sirkin and pitcher Pat Fairly were among 42 students who were suspended from school. The suspension ended Sirkin's high school career but Fairly was reinstated to the team and completed the season.
May 8 was no banner day for Canyon, which lost, 9-1, to Saugus in a game that clinched the Golden League title. Before leaving the Canyon field, Saugus players placed a banner in the Canyon dugout that implied Canyon Coach Wally Hammond has no respect for Saugus. A week later Hammond announced his resignation after eight years and insisted it had nothing to do with the banner incident.
The season's primary story was the enduring saga of Beth Silverman, a junior pitcher on the El Camino Real softball team. She angered her teammates after a win over Newbury Park on March 11. The El Camino Real players claimed she cursed second baseman Stacy Trapp during the game and demanded her ouster from the team despite her 35-0 lifetime record.
Coach Neils Ludlow suspended her from the team and then dismissed her two weeks later. Soon thereafter Silverman's younger sister, Cari, also left the team.
In the City 4-A final, Sylmar stunned El Camino Real, ending the Conquistadores' winning streak at 73 with a 13-4 victory. El Camino Real had won four straight City titles. Jodi Iwafuchi, who had replaced the Silverman sisters as El Camino Real's pitcher and posted a 14-1 record, announced after the game that she doesn't want to pitch next season. Ludlow said the door is open for Beth Silverman if she wants to return.
Burbank's Debby Day was the Southern Section's top pitcher and was perfect for one week in March. On March 25, she pitched her second straight perfect game, beating Calabasas, 2-0. A week earlier she was perfect in a 5-0 win over Chaminade.
Thousand Oaks was the Cinderella team of the season, advancing to the Southern Section 4-A final before losing to Cypress, 5-0. Thousand Oaks became the first Marmonte team to reach a championship game.
Quincy Watts dominated track for the second year in a row, leading Taft to its second straight City title on May 30. He won the 100- and 200-meter sprints and anchored the 400 and 1,600 relay teams to victories. The only thing preventing Watts' 10.17 time in the 100 from being the seventh fastest among high school sprinters was that it was wind-aided. His 20.69 in the 200 was a personal best and the fastest in the nation at the time.
At the June 6 state championships in Sacramento, Royal's Dave Bultman and Watts won two events each to lead their teams to a third-place tie. Bultman won the discus (193-6) and shotput (62-0), and Watts' double came in the 100 (10.49) and 200 (20.99).
The Mid-Valley League finals on May 7 featured a one-day jewelry controversy. Kennedy's Sheri Lawson, who placed first in the 3,200-meter run, and Birmingham's Sabino Miranda, who was third in the 3,200, were disqualified from the championships for wearing jewelry.
Ironically, Lawson had won the 1,600 earlier in the meet but nobody noticed the ring she was wearing. A day later, both runners were reinstated and ran in the City Section quarterfinals.