SOUTHERN SECTION BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : 3 League Champions Top List of 8 County Entries

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Eight Ventura County baseball teams above the Small Schools level have qualified for the Southern Section playoffs, which begin Friday.

A look at each game follows:


St. Francis (12-7-1) at Simi Valley (21-3), Friday, 3 p.m.: St. Francis is in the playoffs for the first time since 1985 and had to win 10 of its last 13 games to make it.

For their efforts, the Golden Knights get Marmonte League champion Simi Valley.

“It’s a challenge,” said Tom Moran, St. Francis’ first-year coach. “If we’re going to re-establish this program, we have to be able to beat people who are highly rated. I’m sure it will be a big upset if we’re lucky enough to pull it off.”


Moran will start either Mitch Bowen (3-2) or Manny Fernandez (4-1) on the mound.

The Golden Knights are led by Gregg Zaun (.467, eight doubles, 19 runs batted in), who is considered one of the top catchers in Southern California. Zaun, a senior, has signed with Texas. Shortstop Mark Loretta (.420, 19 RBIs), who has signed with Northwestern, and center fielder Matt Jones (.367, 16 RBIs) are also solid.

Simi Valley won the league title for the fourth consecutive year and has been to the playoffs 10 times in the past 11 years.

Right-hander Mike Jenkins (8-0, 2.03 ERA) will pitch for Simi Valley, which has five starters batting better than .300. Andy Hodgins is batting .459 and Terry Hill is at .434 with a team-leading 28 RBIs. Jessie Anguiano leads the county with 33 runs scored.

Should Jenkins falter, Coach Mike Scyphers can turn to Rich Langford (6-1, 1.42) or Hill (6 saves, 1.26).

North Torrance (16-9-1) vs. Newbury Park (18-4-3), Friday, 3:15 p.m. at Moorpark College: Despite losing the Marmonte League title to Simi Valley, Newbury Park has had a tremendous season.

The Panthers boast a hard-hitting lineup led by outfielder Geoff Black (.435) and catcher Danny Madsen (.369). Shortstop Eric Greene (.345) is another excellent all-around player. Wayne Cook and Brad Cleveringa are both batting .299 for the Panthers.


Jeremy Dewey (7-2, 2.63), a senior right-hander, will start on the mound for Newbury Park, which lost ace Tim Beal three weeks ago when he was kicked off the team for violating the school’s athletic code.

North Torrance, the second-place team from the Ocean League, won 10 league games in a row and is 16-4 since beginning the season 0-5-1.

Scott Diekmann (6-4), a senior right-hander, will probably start on the mound.

Third baseman John Clem set a school record with 30 RBIs and is batting .380.

North Torrance is a fast, scrappy team that set a school record with 148 stolen bases.

Thousand Oaks (14-9) at Arcadia (21-5), today, 3 p.m.: Thousand Oaks finished third in the Marmonte League behind the pitching of senior left-hander John Bushart (6-3, 83 strikeouts in 72 innings) and solid hitting. Bushart will start against Arcadia, the Pacific League champion.

Outfielders Chris Grodell (.429) and Lance Martin (.379) are the leading Thousand Oaks hitters. Center fielder Todd Lang has 16 stolen bases and a county-high nine doubles.

Arcadia has depth, both in its pitching and lineup. Jon Graves (9-1) and Travis Rodgers (9-3) give the Apaches two reliable senior right-handers. Graves is a control specialist with good breaking pitches and Rodgers is more of a power pitcher.

Center fielder Bob Richter is the team’s power hitter, having hit seven home runs, including two over the school’s center-field fence, 410 feet from home plate.


Second baseman Bubba Woodall, who has made several outstanding defensive plays in clutch situations, is perhaps Arcadia’s unsung hero.

Catcher Ted Pilmer broke a finger on his throwing hand at midseason but never left the lineup despite wearing a finger cast.


Valencia (11-10) at Buena (18-2-2), Friday, 3 p.m.: Valencia might not put up much of a fight against the Bulldogs, who have not lost since the third game of the season.

Valencia, the third-place team from the Orange League, began the season 10-4 but dropped six of its last seven games after Coach Kevin McConnell kicked several seniors off the team.

“We weren’t getting anywhere with some of the seniors who had been on the football team,” McConnell said. “There wasn’t any effort so I got rid of them.”

Left to carry the load is senior right-hander Ken Lorge (5-6, 3.50), who has pitched 78 innings. Senior center fielder Rudy Lopez is batting .417 and shortstop Rick Gress is batting .356 and has made only two errors.


Buena, the Channel League champion, can pitch either senior left-hander Matt Anderson (6-1, 1.66) or junior right-hander Jason Isaacs (9-0, 0.80). Either way, expect strikeouts--Anderson has 74 in 46 1/3 innings and Isaacs has 68 in 52 2/3.

Although some of the Bulldogs’ batting averages have dropped in recent weeks, shortstop and three-year starter Tommy Lunsford has 31 RBIs, 27 runs scored, six home runs and a .429 average.

Anderson has 28 RBIs, seven doubles, six home runs and a .464 average. Center fielder Ty Hewitt has 17 stolen bases, 25 runs scored and is batting .382.

Rio Mesa (14-8-1) at Santa Maria (17-6), Friday, 3 p.m.: Right-hander Jessie Cardenas, a fastball pitcher with excellent control, will most likely start for Santa Maria, which tied for first with Lompoc in the Northern League.

First baseman Chuck Brown supplies power for the Saints and Cardenas is also a reliable hitter.

Rio Mesa, the second-place team in the Channel League, has gotten excellent pitching from Jon Rust (9-2, 2.51), a senior right-hander who will start.


But the Spartans’ real strength lies in a lineup anchored by sophomore third baseman Dmitri Young and junior second baseman David Frazier.

Young, who has a 10-game hitting streak, leads the county with a .500 batting average and has six home runs and 28 RBIs. Frazier, a left-handed batter, has had hits in all but three games and is hitting .457.

Catcher Steve Soliz bats behind Young, who has been walked intentionally 10 times, and has driven in 24 runs.

The Spartans have several base-stealing threats, led by Young (22 stolen bases), Tom Deardorff (18), Carlos Cendejas (16) and Frazier (15).


La Canada (12-8) at Santa Clara (13-7), Friday, 3 p.m.: Although Santa Clara Coach John Lorenzana says, “We’re just an average team,” the Saints have a knack for winning, having pulled out three league games in extra innings.

Santa Clara was second in the Frontier League and La Canada was third in the Rio Hondo League.


Junior shortstop Kwinn Knight, with an average of .340, is the only Saint batting better than .300. Junior catcher Augie Maciel is batting .288 with 16 RBIs and sophomore center fielder Garth Teron leads the team with 22 RBIs. Senior right-hander Rod Garza (5-1, 1.32 ERA) will probably start for Santa Clara.

La Canada will pitch left-hander Matt Whisenant (5-4, 3.01 ERA). Designated-hitter Bill Koury is batting .521 but is playing on an injured thigh.

Catcher Scott Giron leads the team with 20 RBIs and is batting .418. The Spartans have a team batting average of .315.


Bel Air Prep (9-11) at St. Bonaventure (17-3), Friday, 3 p.m.: Bel Air Prep finished third in the Delphic League after a slow start.

Two of the best players--pitcher Ronnie Jensen and catcher Jason Plazola--were members of the school’s basketball team that advanced to the state playoffs. Consequently, they missed the first month.

Jensen (2.44 ERA) and Todd Anteau (2.23) switch off at pitcher and third base. Anteau, who averages 1 1/2 strikeouts an inning, can be overpowering, but Jensen, who also leads the team with a batting average of .523, is a finesse pitcher.


Plazola is the team leader and also is hitting .471 with 24 RBIs. Anteau leads the team with four home runs and is batting .359.

St. Bonaventure right-hander Kevin Zoll (9-1, 1.04), a curveball specialist, has been nearly unhittable lately but is not the Seraphs’ only threat.

Chris Castro (8-1, 1.99) has been wild on occasion but has 47 strikeouts in 49 innings.

The Tri-Valley League champion Seraphs boast six players batting better than .300, led by Chris Borchard (.475) and Chris Gaston (.356). Castro leads the team with 24 RBIs.

Fillmore (13-6) at Templeton (14-6), Friday, 3 p.m.: Templeton, which won the Southern Section Small Schools Division championship in 1987, is the No. 1-seeded team from the Tri-County League after tying for first with Maricopa.

Sophomore right-hander Mark Adams, who has a live fastball, will likely start for Templeton. Second baseman Paul Kropp and third baseman Sean Arthur are the team’s top hitters.

Fillmore, the defending 1-A champion, has weathered a roller-coaster season and appears strong for the playoffs behind control specialists Brad Edmonds and Bill Alonzo.


Edmonds (8-2, 1.11) has walked only 16 in 63 innings and Alonzo (5-2, 1.97) has issued only nine passes in 42 2/3 innings.

The Flashes, who finished second in the Tri-Valley League, have seven batters hitting .300 or better, including Edmonds and Alonzo.

Rory Maus leads with team with 22 runs and Tony Cervantez has 24 hits and 20 runs. Chad Van Winkle is the RBI leader with 23.

Moorpark (15-6) at Tehachapi (16-7-1), Friday: Senior right-hander Keith Orford threw a two-hitter, struck out nine and added a two-run double to lead Moorpark to a 3-1 victory over L. A. Baptist in a wild-card game Tuesday that vaulted the Musketeers into the first round.

This is Moorpark’s first visit to the playoffs in 42 years in the Tri-Valley League

Moorpark still has junior ace Robert Hernandez (7-2, 65 strikeouts in 61 innings) fresh for Tehachapi, champion of the Desert-Inyo League.

Shortstop Frank Fernandez, a junior and three-year starter, leads off for Moorpark and is batting .481. Third baseman Tom Uphoff, also a junior, is batting .471.