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THE ‘80s A DECADE REVISITED :...

1981

Pitcher Jeff Wetherby shrugged off a slow start to help Kennedy High finish fast and grab the City baseball title.

Like a freight train, Jeff Wetherby’s season as a Kennedy High pitcher started slowly, gathered steam and finished so strongly that it was a shame it had to finally screech to a halt.

The left-hander opened the season with losses in his first three starts but did not lose again.

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Wetherby finished with seven consecutive victories, including three in the playoffs, to lead the Golden Cougars to the City Section baseball title, capped by a 4-2 victory over Banning.

Wetherby allowed only one hit in six innings and contributed an RBI double in the championship game. After allowing a base hit to Luis Hulzar in the second inning, Wetherby retired the next 12 batters, striking out five.

“After the first two innings, I got a lot of confidence from my coach and my teammates,” said Wetherby, who batted .429 during the playoffs and .536 for the season. “I started getting ahead of the hitters.”

Catcher Phil Lombardi was a defensive stalwart and strong hitter. And third baseman Vince Muccitelli had two hits in the final.

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Postscript: Wetherby and Lombardi were named the City Section co-Players of the Year. Lombardi has made the New York Mets’ 40-man roster.

Wetherby’s plans for a major league pitching career were shattered in the first game he pitched for Pepperdine in 1982. He tore ligaments in his left arm and doctors said he could not pitch again. But Wetherby adjusted his dream and has made the Atlanta Braves’ 40-man roster as an outfielder.

Jeff Thornton successfully defended his titles in the the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle events to lead the Cal State Northridge men’s swimming team to their fourth NCAA Division II title in five years, in Youngstown, Ohio.

Northridge went on to win the men’s NCAA swimming titles the next four years.

Notable: In its final football game as a member of the California Collegiate Athletic Assn., Cal State Northridge beat defending NCAA Division II champion Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 32-14, to finish as the conference champion. CSUN joined the Western Football Conference the following season. . . .

College of the Canyons won the state junior college baseball title under Coach Mike Gillespie, who later would succeed Rod Dedeaux at USC. Canyons also won state titles in 1983 and 1986. . . .

Glendale High won the Southern Section 2-A basketball title, defeating Foothill League rival Blair for the third time that season, 60-59, as Duane Bickett scored 23 points. . . .

Cleveland High walked away with a 43-35 victory over Chatsworth for the City Section 3-A championship in a slowdown game. Juniors Kevin Holmes and Keith Morrison led Cleveland with 14 and 11 points. . . .

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Simi Valley High center Cheri Graham scored 61 points to set a Southern Section single-game scoring record and help the Pioneers rout Hueneme, 100-25. Graham hit 30 of 37 shots from the field and one of two free throws. . . .

Kennedy High’s Stuart Gray averaged 31 points and 17 rebounds during an All-American season. The 7-foot Gray went on to play for UCLA and is now a reserve for the Charlotte Hornets. . . .

John Martens, a 6-7 center, and Rick Maloney, a 6-6 forward, led the Newbury Park High basketball team to 25 consecutive victories. The team advanced to the Southern Section 4-A semifinals. . . .

Rio Mesa High, led by Dan Penner and Rod Helland, won the Southern Section 1-A baseball title for the second year in a row. Rio Mesa posted 36 consecutive victories dating to 1980. . . .

Arnold Garcia of Channel Islands High set a single-season Southern Section record with 16 home runs. . . .

Montclair Prep won the Southern Section Small Schools baseball and basketball titles. Tom McKay had 57 hits for the baseball team to tie a Southern Section record. Toi Cook, who scored 10 runs in one game, later played a key role in Stanford’s drive to the 1987 NCAA baseball title. Cook currently plays defensive back for the New Orleans Saints. . . .

Quarterback Babe Laufenberg, who already had made stops at Stanford and Missouri, found a home at Pierce College. The former Crespi High star established himself as a major college player (he would go on to Indiana and play in the NFL) by throwing for 1,590 yards. . . .

All Van Nuys High needed was an 18-yard field goal with five seconds left to win the City 3-A football championship, but the kick was blocked and the Wolves settled for a 13-13 tie with Canoga Park and their second consecutive co-championship. . . .

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Antelope Valley High won the Northwestern Conference football championship, defeating Burroughs, 24-14. . . .


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