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Royal Double Play in 7th Takes Out Simi Valley, 5-4 : Prep baseball: Highlanders defeat cross-town rival Pioneers for only fourth time in 26 meetings since 1979.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With 251 victories in less than 13 seasons as coach at Simi Valley High, Mike Scyphers seldom second-guesses his decisions on a baseball diamond.

But Scyphers was left doubting himself when the Pioneers, who normally force the issue on offense, settled for a more passive strategy Friday at Royal in a 5-4 loss to the Highlanders that trimmed Simi Valley’s Marmonte League lead to a half-game over Thousand Oaks.

Scyphers shunned an opportunity to use a sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning when the Pioneers (17-4, 8-2 in league play), trailing by a run, had runners at first and second base with none out.

A successful sacrifice would have taken the Pioneers out of a force play and put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but Scyphers let sophomore Kevin Nykoluk swing away. Nykoluk flied out to right and cleanup hitter Tyler Nelson followed by grounding into a game-ending double play.

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“There probably are some people out there second-guessing me right now, including me,” Scyphers said. “That (decision) really wasn’t our style of play.”

Royal (14-4, 5-4) carried a 5-3 lead into the seventh, and the Pioneers started the inning with consecutive singles by Ryan Briggs and Mike Cardenas (two for three). Scyphers allowed Brian Vasey, who stepped to the plate with two doubles and a team-leading .485 batting average, to swing away and Vasey rapped a single that closed the gap to 5-4.

But as successful as that decision was, the next failed.

The double play made a winner of Jason Ignacio (7-0), who went the distance, and gave Royal only its fourth win in 26 meetings with Simi Valley since Scyphers became the Pioneers’ coach in 1979.

“They just outplayed us,” Scyphers said.

After Simi Valley took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Royal came back with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Vasey, the Pioneer starter, walked three in the inning and Dave Landaker and Shane Slayton each singled.

Both teams added a run in the second and Royal extended its lead to 5-3 in the fifth on doubles by Landaker and Richard Naranjo and an RBI single by Steve Talafuse.

Vasey (7-1), who entered the game with an 0.98 earned-run average, allowed seven hits in suffering his first loss.

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