Mike Scyphers comes off to other coaches as brash, which is the attitude his team takes to the ballpark. He is coaching to win games, not friends.
Scyphers, who is 36 but could pass for 25, notched his 200th career victory last week in the second game of his 11th season at Simi Valley. The win, by a score of 8-7 over powerful Long Beach Millikan, came in classic Pioneer fashion.
Trailing, 7-3, in the seventh, Simi Valley parlayed a mix of hits, walks and errors to upset Millikan, which is ranked second in the 5-A Southern Section 5-A Division. That a comeback victory would mark a milestone for Scyphers is fitting--his teams seem to pull off two or three implausible victories every season.
Simi Valley has won three Marmonte League titles in a row and is 200-66 in Scyphers’ tenure. The Pioneers are ranked seventh in the 5-A and are once again favored to win the league.
A look at each Marmonte League team:
Simi Valley (23-6 overall, 10-2 in league play): Simi Valley’s home field has a short left-center field fence that the Pioneers normally take advantage of. Although Scott Sharts, the Southern Section career home run leader with 32, has graduated, Simi Valley should not lack for power.
Last season, right fielder Jeff Sommer hit seven home runs and batted .370 as a sophomore and third baseman Terry Hill hit five home runs as a junior. First baseman Kenny Hood, second baseman Jesse Anguiano and catcher Chadd Johnson also have power. Senior Andy Hodgins is the shortstop.
Rich Langford, a senior with two years of varsity experience, heads a pitching staff that Scyphers believes is as strong as Simi Valley has ever had. Hood, a 6-4 left-hander up from the junior varsity, and Mike Jenkins, a senior who was 4-0 last season, join Langford to give the Pioneers a strong rotation.
Camarillo (5-7, 12-14-1): Pitching is also a strength for Camarillo, which is expected to improve upon its fourth-place finish of a year ago. “We’re fortunate to have five guys coming back who can throw hard,” Coach Ken Wagner said.
Senior right-hander Steve Biggs, who was 7-4 with a 3.74 earned-run average last season, heads a staff that also includes left-hander Charlie Constantine and right-handers Matt Tackett, Eric Raba and Vaughn Wechsberg.
Helping the staff along will be an experienced catcher, Chris Johnson, who batted .365 last season.
There are question marks in the infield, although sophomore Mike Muncy has been impressive at shortstop.
Westlake (6-6, 15-11): Rich Herrera, the Warriors’ first-year coach, is accustomed to winning after assisting Jerry White at Oxnard College and coaching the Camarillo American Legion team. Whether he can extend the success to perennially underachieving Westlake as a walk-on coach remains to be seen. He starts with plenty of talent.
Left-hander Mike Eby, a junior who changes speeds effectively, was 6-3 with a 2.97 ERA last year. “He’s gonna be our guy,” Herrera said. Eby is joined on the staff by junior left-hander Scott Lerner and senior right-handers John Wandzilak and John Brookman.
The Warriors are strong up the middle. Senior Derek Tamburro, who batted .309 with 20 RBIs last season, is perhaps the top catcher in the county. Also returning are shortstop Mike Lieberthal, who batted .320 last year, and third baseman Chuck Foster, who hit .361.
Newbury Park (5-7, 13-13): The Panthers, who finished in a three-way tie for fourth last season, were hit hard by graduation. Half of last year’s lineup is playing at Moorpark College. But third-year Coach Gary Fabricious believes his team is coming around.
The pitching is suspect but the Panthers should score runs. Senior three-sport standout Wayne Cook, who batted .337 last season, is in center field and senior Geoff Black, a swift baserunner who batted .301 last season, is in right. Junior Brian Smith is in left.
Right-handed seniors Jeremy Dewey and Tim Beal are the starting pitchers, although Fabricious hopes that right-handed juniors Jason Kernan, Matt LaBelle and Andy Moffat come around.
Channel Islands (5-7, 10-14): Shortstop John Johnson apparently has power at the plate to match his explosiveness carrying the football. Johnson, who will attend Arizona on a football scholarship, hit a home run in the Raiders’ first game. “He can hit the ball out any time,” Coach Don Cardinal said.
Besides Johnson, center fielder Jacob Cruz is a first-flight athlete. Cruz, a sophomore center fielder, was second-team all-league as a freshman. First-baseman Richard Tetezano and third-baseman Patrick Avila--a four-year varsity player--can hit with authority.
Only left-hander David Lucio has varsity pitching experience, however. Juniors Manny Padilla, who will also play outfield, and George Alvarado must pitch well for the Raiders to make the playoffs. Sophomore John Bogges and freshman Angel Aragon also could contribute.
Thousand Oaks (9-3, 17-7): Left-handed pitcher John Bushart and first-baseman Scott Haffner are the lone returning starters for the Lancers.
Bushart, who has attracted the attention of scouts after posting a 6-2 record last year, will have to stabilize the pitching staff after injuries felled senior right-hander Jim Diehl and junior Scott Barkman. Diehl, who also played outfield, is apparently out for the season with torn ligaments in his left thumb. Barkman injured an ankle and should be back in less than a month.
Seniors David Kuenstle (second), Todd Lang (shortstop), Brian Higgins (third) and Judd Schlimgen (catcher) join Haffner in the infield. Juniors Brent Christenson, the most valuable player on the junior varsity last season, and Lance Martin start in the outfield.
Royal (2-10, 10-15): Coach Mike McCurdy will field a young team to try to climb out of the league cellar. Brothers James and Jason Jones are seniors and fine all-around players. James will pitch and play left field. Jason, who batted .404 with six home runs in league play last season, is the center fielder.