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Moorpark Joins Title Chase With WSC Win at Canyons

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Coach Len Mohney has had time to think about it and he wants to reconsider his list of the top baseball teams in the Western State Conference.

Initially, Mohney expected Ventura and Valley colleges, plus his own College of the Canyons team, to contend for the WSC title. But after further review, Mohney would like to add Moorpark College to the list of contenders.

It is no coincidence that Mohney’s reassessment came just moments after Moorpark defeated Canyons, 11-10, in a WSC game at Canyons on Thursday.

“Moorpark is a better team than I thought,” Mohney said. “I know I made the comment that it was going to be Ventura, Valley and us this year, but maybe this is a beat-each-other-up kind of league.”

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The Raiders (13-5, 3-1 in conference play) pounded 15 hits off two Cougar pitchers to win their first game at Canyons in five years.

With Moorpark protecting a one-run lead in the ninth inning, Coach Ron Stillwell brought in freshman right-hander John Chiaramonte out of Westlake High. Stillwell made the right choice as Chiaramonte, who has struck out 25 and given up only nine hits in his last 31 innings, got the Cougars out in order to preserve the win.

“They slipped in their ace on us in the ninth and made it look awfully easy,” Mohney said.

Moorpark, which has scored 22 runs in its last two games, appeared headed for an easy win after taking an 11-3 lead in the fifth. But Canyons rallied for three runs in the fifth on back-to-back home runs by Chris Joy and Pete Washington.

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The Cougars (8-8, 2-2) added two runs in the seventh on Gary Morgan’s bases-loaded single and Randy Cooper’s run-scoring fly ball to center, then Joy and Washington hit back-to-back home runs again in the eighth as Canyons closed to within a run.

Joy, who leads Canyons with seven home runs, came up again in the ninth, but Chiaramonte got him to wrap up Moorpark’s third consecutive win.

“It was a tough test for a freshman to pitch in this park with the wind blowing out,” Stillwell said. “It was a nerve-wracking win, but an enjoyable one.”

For Mohney, it was another frustrating loss.

“I think we should have been in the game early, but we had our chances,” Mohney said.

Moorpark took a 3-0 lead in the first on Dan Smith’s leadoff home run and Craig Pearson’s two-run double. With the Raiders leading, 3-2, Kris Kaelin hit a three-run home run to center in the third.

Behind Pearson’s solo home run to left and Darren Romano’s two-run, bases-loaded single, Moorpark broke the game open with five runs in the fifth to go ahead, 11-3.

“We’re 3-1 now in conference and we’ve got to be considered right in the hunt,” Stillwell said. “The win will really help our pitchers’ confidence.”

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Sophomore Paul Perce (2-0), who went two innings after relieving starter Todd Gerbovaz in the fifth, picked up the win.


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