For the coach who seems to have it all, and for a team that has come close but never won it all, the Southern Section 5-A Division playoffs beckon.
And, for the fourth time in a row and sixth time this decade, Simi Valley High will enter the playoffs as the Marmonte League champion. Still, the 1980s have left Simi Valley Coach Mike Scyphers wanting--a banner, a ring, a Southern Section championship.
After his Pioneers thrashed Thousand Oaks, 14-6, Wednesday at Simi Valley, Scyphers spoke of the league titles, the playoff berths (nine) and national and statewide recognition.
"Still," he said, "something's missing--a CIF championship."
And what of this team, a group that forged a 21-3 record, including 10-2 in league play, despite modest expectations?
"I don't think we have the league MVP," Scyphers said, "but one thing about this team, they play as a team with solid defense and good pitching."
In other words, don't count them out.
In their regular-season finale, the Pioneers roughed up four Thousand Oaks pitchers for 14 hits--11 in the fifth and sixth innings when they scored 11 times to bury the third-place Lancers. Thousand Oaks cooperated by committing seven errors--three during the 11-run outburst.
"The mistakes were devastating," Thousand Oaks Coach Jim Hansen said. "They're a good ballclub. You make too many mistakes and they'll just gang up on you."
Kenny Hood led the group effort with three hits and two runs batted in; Mike Jenkins had two hits, including a two-run home run in the sixth inning; and Jeff Sommer, Brandon Banaga and Chadd Johnson each added two hits.
Hood was involved in a fifth-inning shoving match with Thousand Oaks third baseman Brian Higgins that was quickly broken up, but not before both benches had cleared. Hood and Higgins became entangled after Hood had stolen third base and attempted to score when the throw bounced down the left-field line.
"I didn't really want to fight," Hood said. "It was just emotions. We both apologized."
At the time, with one run home in the inning for Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks trailed, 4-2, courtesy of solo home runs by Chris Grodell in the first and fourth innings. Simi Valley, however, scored four more times in the fifth--all unearned--and six times in a seven-hit sixth inning.
Jenkins (7-0) pitched the first 5 2/3 innings for the win, leaving when Scott Barkman's three-run home run made the score, 8-5. Thousand Oaks starter John Bushart (6-3) took the loss.
And Simi Valley, which only three games ago was in danger of letting the balance of power slip away after losing to Newbury Park, laid claim to the game, league title and decade. Game, set, match.
"I thought it was lost," Jenkins said of the league championship. "Newbury Park, they're a strong team. It really kind of surprises me. We're here, and we're Marmonte League champions again."