Third baseman Terry Hill hung his head after misplaying a ground ball in Wednesday’s Marmonte League game at Simi Valley High, but fortunately for Hill and his Pioneer teammates, Westlake pitcher Mike Eby hung a curveball an inning later.
Hill’s head snapped to attention just before he snapped Eby’s pitch over the left-center-field fence for the game-winning hit in Simi Valley’s 3-2 victory over the Warriors. Hill’s second home run of the season came in the sixth inning, broke a 2-2 tie and also made the senior right-hander the winning pitcher. Hill worked 1 1/3 innings in relief of starter Rich Langford but needed help from Mike Jenkins who retired the final two batters for his first save.
The victory was the ninth in a row for Simi Valley (13-1, 2-0 in league play) but it was more difficult than the team expected: Westlake (5-7, 0-2) brought a losing record into the game.
After three scoreless innings, Simi Valley took a 2-0 lead on Jeff Sommer’s third home run, a 375-foot line drive over the right-field fence that scored Kenny Hood.
A victory seemed assured with Langford working on a no-hitter through four innings. He took a string of 20 2/3 scoreless innings to the mound in the fifth, but his bid for a third consecutive shutout ended when Westlake’s Chuck Foster celeberated his 18th birthday with his his third home run of the season.
J. R. Johnson singled and moved to third one out later on Matt McHendry’s fly-ball double to right. After Tim Falsken struck out looking, Sean Howard topped a slow roller to third that Hill booted for an error and a 2-2 tie.
“I thought I was going to make the play but I was looking at the runner instead of the ball,” said Hill, who sports a bruise near his left eye, courtesy of a ground ball to the face during practice Tuesday. “I felt pretty bad for Rich and thought to myself that I’d get a hit for him when I went to the plate.”
Hill’s homer raised his average to a team-high .500 (21 for 42). He also is 2-0 as a pitcher, leads the team with three saves and has yet to allow an earned run in 11 2/3 innings.
“We just want our starters to get to the sixth inning and then we can put Terry in there,” Simi Valley Coach Mike Scyphers said.
Westlake may have run itself out of the game, thereby wasting a strong outing by Eby (3-3), a junior left-hander who allowed seven hits and struck out two with no walks in six innings.
Derek Tamburro misread a sign and was caught between first and second to short circuit a rally in the sixth, but the costliest baserunning mistake came in the fourth when Mike Lieberthal was caught trying to steal home with two out and Foster at the plate. Foster homered to lead off the fifth.