The biggest question at Ventura High? Whether the Cougars can beat the weather to the finish of a baseball game.
The Cougars have had two consecutive home games end prematurely because of the weather.
Last Friday, vice principal Helena Torres-Reaves halted a Channel League game against San Marcos because of a first-stage smog alert. It was the first time in six years that an alert of that magnitude had been declared in the area.
On Tuesday, the Cougars had a league game against Rio Mesa stopped with the score tied, 8-8, in the eighth inning because of darkness, despite objections from Ventura Coach Dan Smith and Rio Mesa Coach Rich Duran.
"Our last two games have been called because of dumb things," Smith said. "There was as much daylight as the inning before. Duran and myself wanted to continue. I think the umpire had an appointment."
Smith said he has never heard of game being stopped because of poor air quality and he has worked in smoggier places than Ventura.
"I used to coach in Riverside where the smog can really get bad, but I don't ever remember having a game stopped because of smog," Smith said. "I know San Marcos was upset and we were upset, too. We were playing one of the best games of the season and it's stopped because of smog. It's not like baseball is a continuously strenuous activity like football."
Smith said he was annoyed to find out that his game was the only one in Ventura County that was postponed. The game between Nordhoff and Righetti was interrupted for 45 minutes before it was completed.
"I know Buena played their game," Smith said. "I know a swimming meet at our school wasn't stopped because I could hear the starter's gun still going off."
The Cougars, who improved to 7-7 overall and 3-1 in league play, received credit for a 7-2 victory. San Marcos, however, has filed a protest with the Southern Section office, according to Smith.
Add Cougars: Ventura pitcher Gary Myers struck out the side on nine pitches in the first inning against San Marcos. He allowed only two unearned runs and had seven strikeouts to earn his second victory. Myers (2-4) entered the game with an earned-run average of more than 4.00.
"That was the best-pitched game of the season," Smith said. "I wished the game had lasted longer."
Streaking Spartan: When Angela Burnham of Rio Mesa High defeated Inger Miller of Pasadena Muir in the 200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational on Saturday night, it was Burnham's third consecutive Arcadia victory in the event.
Her time of 23.63 was a season best and the second-fastest high school time in the country this season, behind Miller's 23.62.
"I didn't expect to run this fast this early in the season," said Burnham, who lost to Miller, 11.59-11.64, in the 100 meters earlier in meet. "When I came off the turn, I just told myself to relax and go after her. I figured that if it was my time to beat her, I would. And if it wasn't, I wouldn't."
Burnham, the defending state champion in the 100 and 200, also lost to Miller in the 100 at the Alemany-Northridge Relays at Cal State Northridge on March 18.
"She's extremely strong right now," Burnham said of her rival. "I knew it wouldn't be easy to beat her this season."
Add Burnham: Though no official records are kept, Burnham's five career victories and three second-place finishes at Arcadia might be the best total ever.
As a freshman, Burnham placed second to Tami Stiles of Hawthorne in both the 100 (12.36) and 200 (24.61) in 1986.
As a sophomore, she won both races in 12.07 and 24.47, respectively, and as a junior, she lowered those marks to 11.65 and 23.94 to defend her titles.
Though her 100 win streak was snapped by Miller on Saturday, Burnham's times of 11.64 and 23.63 put her ahead of last year's pace, when she ran personal bests of 11.28 in the 100 and 23.45 in the 200.
Last add Burnham: The Rio Mesa senior said she has narrowed her college choices to USC, UCLA and Texas. Burnham originally considered five schools, but has dropped Tennessee and Nevada-Las Vegas from the running.
Familiar face: Larry Lawrence doesn't need an introduction when he takes over the Santa Clara football program for spring practice in May. Lawrence has been coaching many of the players for years.
Lawrence, the team's defensive coordinator last year, was selected Friday as the new head coach. He succeeds Steve Dann, who resigned in January to pursue business interests.
A 26-year veteran of the Oxnard Police Dept., Lawrence was Tim Gutierrez's first football coach when the all-state quarterback was a 9-year-old on the Oxnard Chiefs. He has coached youth football since 1970 and also has been an assistant at Rio Mesa.
Prior to joining the varsity staff at Santa Clara, Lawrence ran the school's junior varsity program for three seasons, winning two Frontier League championships.
"I always wanted to be a head coach at a varsity level," Lawrence said. "I didn't think I would get the opportunity because I don't have a college degree, but I probably have enough credits to get one."
In addition to Gutierrez, running back Kwinn Knight, tackle Leo Berry and linebackers Augie Maciel and Carlos Martinez will be top returning players. All-league center Ted Lawrence, the son of the new coach, will also return.
"I think we'll continue to throw as much as last season," Lawrence said. "We'll probably run more plays out of the shotgun because we'll have a younger offensive line."
Santa Clara had a 44-14 record in five years under Dann, including an 11-1 record last season.
Vacancy filled: Greg Ropes has been selected to replace Ken Barone as boys' basketball coach at Newbury Park, it was announced Monday.
Ropes, a teacher at Thousand Oaks High, coached Camarillo during the 1986-87 season, filling in for John Harbour, who took a year off. He guided the Scorpions to a 4-16 overall record and a mark 3-9 in the Marmonte League.
Ropes also has coached women's basketball at Cal Lutheran.
Barone resigned Feb. 22 after coaching two separate stints totaling 11 years. Newbury Park finished 13-12 last season, 4-8 in league play.
Looking for contenders: Ventura College is alone in first place atop the Western State Conference baseball standings going into the final three weeks of the season, but that doesn't mean that Coach Gary Anglin thinks the Pirates are the best team.
"I still think Valley is the best team in the conference because it has the most experienced pitching staff, the best hitters and is doing the little things to win," Anglin said.
Ventura (21-8, 9-3 in WSC play) has won six of its last seven games, but the Pirate hitters are struggling. The Pirates are fourth in the WSC with a team batting average of .297.
Staff writers Ralph Nichols and John Ortega contributed to this notebook.