Emblazoned across the uniform tops worn by the Las Virgenes American Legion baseball team are the words “Vision and Pride,” noteworthy aspirations for a team that has been in existence for all of three weeks.
The uniform tops, plain by most standards, would be considered practice jerseys by most teams. The team’s coach, Fred Pudrith, admits he doesn’t know much about the team, its players or its slogan. By trade, Pudrith is an assistant baseball coach at Valley College.
“I guess a couple of the fathers of the kids thought of that,” said Pudrith as he traced his hand across the slogan on his jersey. “They’re trying to sell the kids on it, trying to get them to believe it.”
Wednesday night, whoever coined the phrase looked like a prophet as Las Virgenes defeated Woodland Hills West, 5-4, in a seven-inning District 20 game at Calabasas High.
When Pudrith uses the term “kids,” he means it. Las Virgenes (3-2) defeated the defending World Series champion with a pair of pitchers who did not play at the varsity level in high school this season.
Left-hander Dusty Wood (1-0) pitched the first four innings, allowed three runs on three hits, and had nothing more than survival in mind. Wood recently completed his junior varsity season at Taft and admitted that ignorance may have been bliss.
“My goal was to hold them under five runs,” Wood said. “I didn’t know any of their guys, other than what guys on my team told me.”
Wood was relieved in the fifth by Harold Turk, a senior at Calabasas who did not play baseball this season. Turk was acutely aware of West’s reputation, because he attended Hale Junior High with several of the West players.
“This was the first time I played against them my whole life,” said Turk, a bespectacled right-hander. “Going in, I was dreading it. I basically played just to contain them.”
Containment is a sound way to fight a fire, and Turk was playing the role of fireman. When he entered the game in the fifth, Las Virgenes led, 5-3, and Turk promptly surrendered a run to cut the lead to one.
In the seventh, Paul Geller singled with one out, bringing up Del Marine, the 1989 American Legion national Player of the Year. On deck was Jason Cohen, who had driven in eight runs in his first two Legion games and had slammed a 380-foot sacrifice fly to center off Turk in the fifth to bring West (1-1) to within a run.
Marine drilled a sinking liner into right field, but Tom Hoke--who had moved from left field to right in the seventh--dived to his left and pulled off a do-or-die catch. Hoke jumped to his feet and doubled up Geller, who like everyone else figured Marine’s shot was a hit all the way.
West took a 2-0 lead off Wood in the first and it appeared that the rout was on, but Las Virgenes scored an unearned run off right-hander Cory Bromberg (0-1) in the second. West moved ahead, 3-1, on Chris Castillo’s sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Las Virgenes, however, batted around and chased Bromberg in the bottom of the fourth en route to four runs.
Keith Slettedahl singled to lead off the inning and was balked to second. Hoke, bunting for a hit, sent a dribbler to Bromberg, who bobbled the ball for an error. Danny Rosenbloom sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Brett Resnick (three runs batted in) followed with a two-run single.
Right-hander Sean Boldt relieved Bromberg and gave up back-to-back hits. Geordie Wimmer singled to the hole at short to drive in a run and Sam Voita doubled in another with a blast to right to give Las Virgenes a 5-3 lead.
“When we got ahead, I just kept telling the kids to keep going,” Pudrith said. “I told them to keep believing in themselves.”