Notebook / Sean Waters : Ventura Wiggles Out a Win After Smith Says a Mouthful

Ventura Coach Dan Smith likes to tell this story to his players about what separates winners from losers:

Two Eskimos were ice fishing, using the same rod, same size hooks, the same bait out of the same size hole. One Eskimo caught a fish every time his line hit the water, The other couldn't get a bite. When he asked his secret, the lucky 'Mo mumbles before spitting out a mouthful of worms.

"You've got to keep your bait warm," he explained.

Smith told his players this tale before Friday's game against Hueneme.

He wanted his players to understand that you sometimes must do something distasteful in order to win--like a power hitter bunting to advance a runner or taking a strike to facilitate a big inning in the late innings when his team is behind.

The next day, Smith huddled up his players to give them a pregame speech.

"You guys worked hard tin practice," he said. "You've primed and ready to go. Now take care of business. I'll keep the worms warm."

Ventura players watched in disbelief as Smith proceeded to take four earthworms and shove them in to his mouth.

"It was nasty, it made me sick," Ventura shortstop Harvey Jones said, "He put them in his mouth, took a couple of chews and spit a couple out.

"I went to the field and I couldn't believe he did it. I told my parents and my mom said she knew there was something wrong with that man."

Ventura won, 7-4.

"I'm going to bring him some fishing worms for Friday's game," Jones added. "He'll appreciate the variety."

Spitting out the truth: Smith admitted his worm-eating motivation method isn't original. In fact, he wasn't the first worm-eating coach in Ventura County.

Smith and Hueneme Coach Reg Welker said they learned the gimmick from Baylor football coach Grant Teaff while attending a coaching seminar in Anaheim about 15 years ago.

Welker said he had mixed results the two times he tried it.

"The first time I did it, the kids didn't react well," Welker said. "The kids didn't believe I put them in my mouth. I must have eaten them too fast. The next time I did it, I only ate one worm.

"The kids were so pumped up, they almost ran over me to get to the field."

Welker said he saw a worm dangling from Smith's mouth in the third inning.

"I would not keep them in my mouth the whole game," Welker said. "They've got a weird taste and you don't want to chew them up."

Hueneme players, however, don't have to worry about their coach eating worms this year.

"I'll do anything to win a game," said Welker, whose team is 5-7 and 1-2 in the Channel League. "But I would have to eat a lot of worms the way our season has been going."

Battling back: Robbie Ibarra of, Rillmore struggled to hit every pitch that crossed the plate and by mid-March, he had a .188 batting average.

"He was being overly aggressive and not waiting for his pitch," Coach Tom Ecklund said. "But he's starting to hit the ball better now."

During the last two weeks, Ibarra went four for eight, including a three-run home run, to raise his batting average to .292.

He had five runs batted in in victories over Faith Baptist and Carpinteria.

Running out of game programs: Buena Coach Stan Hedegard has taken advantage of his team's depth and has used a different lineup in each of the team's first 10 games.

Hedegard said he rotates three players at second base, two at first, two at catcher and five in the outfield.

Buena (7-2-1, 3-0) also has three starting pitchers that have earned run averages below 2.50.

It's been great for the reserves to get a chance to play, but difficult for spectators to keep track of the lineup.

"We're blessed," Hedegard said. "We have enough depth where anyone can step in and do a good job."

Kimball Richins, who made his first start Friday, had a two-run double for the game-winning hit in a 9-1 victory over Rio Mesa.

What comes after M?: Ventura Coach Dan Smith joked: "One of my pitchers is so dumb, he has trouble alphabetizing M& M's."

But at least the pitcher is smart enough not to eat worms.

Missed opportunity: Oxnard College missed a chance to tie Ventura atop the Western State Conference baseball standings after losing, 12-2, to the Pirates in the first WSC meeting between the two teams.

The Pirates collected 12 hits off four Condor pitchers and took advantage of three Oxnard errors and seven unearned runs in the first four innings.

However, Ventura's pitchers continued to struggle. The condors had 12 hits off five Pirate pitchers.

Ventura (19-7) was 7-2 in WSC play and tied for first with College of the Canyons entering this week. The Pirates will play host to Canyons on Saturday in what may be a showdown for first place.

"We like our chances, but we don't want to get overconfident or start looking ahead," Ventura Coach Gary Anglin said.

Repeat time?: De Dow, a sophomore right-hander for Moorpark College, is vying to repeat as WSC Pitcher of the Year.

Dow (15-6) has not allowed a run in for conference games and is 14-0 in WSC play over the last two years.

Moorpark has 21 consecutive WSC victories over the last three years and has won 37 in a row at home over the last five.

Hard worker: Junior right-hander Vale Lopez of Cal State Northridge, a former Hueneme High and Oxnard College pitcher, has six complete games in eight starts to lead the Matadors, who are 15-9-1.

Lopez has a record of 3-4 in 61 2/3 innings. he has 47 strikeouts, 17 walks and has alowed 58 hits. His earned-rub average of 5.11 is his most disappointing statistic, but the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., of which Northridge is a member, is a hitter's conference. The Matadors' team ERA is 4.20.

Staff write Ralph Nichols contributed to this notebook.

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