After sailing through the District 16 schedule without a loss, Westlake-Agoura is braced for a showdown with Woodland Hills West in the first round of the Area 6 American Legion double-elimination playoffs today at 4 p.m. at Birmingham High in Van Nuys.
Westlake (28-3-4, 16-0 in district play) split two inter-district regular-season meetings with Woodland Hills (19-3), winning, 9-4, three weeks ago and losing, 9-5, last week. Westlake Coach Chuck Thompson doesn't place much importance on those games, however.
"I think we're pretty evenly matched," he said. "But in our earlier games both coaches were experimenting. It was far from intense head-to-head competition."
Facing off today will be pitchers Bobby Grandpre of Westlake and Lance Gibson of Woodland Hills. Grandpre, who attends the University of San Diego, is 9-0 with 65 strikeouts in 82 innings. Gibson, who attends College of the Canyons, is 6-1 with 59 strikeouts in 50 innings.
Strong hitting is the trademark of both teams; each has 11 players batting over .300. Leading Westlake are shortstop Mike Suarez (.416), catcher Mike Lieberthal (.407), outfielder Zac Miller (.405) and third baseman Todd Preston (.400).
"I'd categorize this as probably the best hitting team I've ever had," said Thompson, who has coached the Westlake team since its inception five years ago. "We've really produced when we've had to produce. When you have that many hitters, it's really a luxury."
Westlake has also had the luxury of developing experience over a 35-game schedule. Most Legion teams have played 20-25 games.
"I definitely think playing so many games will pay off," Thompson said. "Kids this age want to play baseball and we've provided a program where they are able to stay under one roof and not have to look for other teams to play for."
A long schedule also provides an opportunity to develop pitchers. Westlake began the season with only one established pitcher--Grandpre--but several others have emerged. Right-hander Bob Kazmirski (5-0) has thrown 52 innings in 14 appearances and right-hander Jeff Ritter (4-0) has allowed only six earned runs in 34 innings.