Britten Pond carries a big stick. Not as big as in previous seasons, but still the biggest in the Marmonte League.
On the Simi Valley High baseball team, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, Pond is the best of the free-swinging, fence-busting bunch. On Wednesday, Pond was two for three in an 11-4 win over Agoura to raise his batting average to .565.
Pond, a senior second baseman who bats third in the lineup, also set a school record with his 46th hit of the season, breaking the mark of 45 set by Shaun Murphy in 1985.
Last week against Thousand Oaks, Pond belted his 13th double, breaking the school record of 12 shared by Brian Vasey (1991) and Steve Bernstein (1991).
Pond's power totals? Three home runs and 40 runs batted in, six shy of Murphy's single-season record set in 1985.
For a player who stands 5-feet-7 and weighs 155 pounds, Pond packs a punch.
And a lighter equipment bag.
This season, Pond packed away his 33-inch, 30-ounce aluminum bat, and reached for a similar model an ounce lighter.
"I've swung a heavier bat for the past four years," Pond said. "This year, I decided to move down. Just because I liked the style of bat."
Last season, Pond batted .365 with eight doubles, five home runs and 26 RBIs. As this season's numbers indicate, the higher average is the big difference. Pond has hit safely in every game except two. The Pioneers (21-2) lost both games in which Pond was hitless.
"I've changed my thinking when I'm at bat," Pond said. "Last year, I thought I was more of a power hitter than I really am. I'm not really big enough to be a power hitter. Now I'm going for the hits and using all the field."
Junior right-hander Keith Smith is expected to start today for visiting Newbury Park (10-1), which will challenge Simi Valley (11-0) for a share of first place. Smith (6-2), who is three victories shy of the school record for wins in a season, has emerged as the Panthers' ace in his first season as a varsity pitcher.
Last fall, Smith passed for 3,318 yards and 30 touchdowns to lead Newbury Park to the league championship. Smith played second base last season on the baseball team.
Senior right-hander Trevor Leppard (6-1), who has signed to attend the University of San Diego, is expected to start for Simi Valley. . . .
The Southern Section records of three former area baseball standouts--including Scott Sharts of Simi Valley--fell last week, thanks to the exploits of Daryl Ward of Riverside Bethel Christian.
Ward, the Small Schools Division player of the year in 1992, broke three section records in a 30-20 bombing of Apple Valley Christian last week.
Ward, a senior who hit a three-run homer and a grand slam in the slugfest, ran his career totals to 34 homers, 156 RBIs and 146 runs scored.
The previous records and their former holders: 32 homers (Sharts, 1986-88), 153 RBIs (Jakob Jensen of Highland Hall, 1988-91) and 142 runs (Torey Lovullo of Montclair Prep, 1980-83).
Royal tied its own Southern Section record of 37 consecutive victories with its victory over Newbury Park on Tuesday. The Highlanders (15-0, 13-0 in league play) can break the record today at Simi Valley.
Royal also has won 53 consecutive league matches, another Southern Section record. The Highlanders have not lost a league match in the nearly five seasons of the team's existence.
Few celebrations follow Nordhoff baseball games--or baseball seasons .
And with good reason.
The Rangers have yet to win a Frontier League game under third-year Coach Steve Blundell. Blundell is 0-33 in league play, 0-9 this season.
"Obviously, it's been frustrating," Blundell said. "It's been really hard. This doesn't mean a whole lot of marbles to me, but it upsets me to see how difficult it is on the kids."
Futile as it is, Nordhoff's recent league mark is not the worst in state history.
Pius X owns that distinction. The Warriors lost 88 consecutive league games from 1983-88. Fresno Edison lost 67 straight from 1984-89.
Blundell has not fared much better outside league play. His teams were 0-12 and 1-12 in his first two seasons. The Rangers are a surprising 3-1 in nonleague games this season.
Overall, Nordhoff was 0-22 in 1991, 1-22 last season and is currently 3-10.
Nordhoff was 7-14, 2-8 in league play in 1990, the season before Blundell took over. All told, the Rangers are 11-68 during four seasons, a .139 winning percentage.
Just call them The Ojai Bad News Bears .
"Some of the parents make it difficult. They think that with a losing program everyone should get the same playing time," Blundell said. "They don't understand what we're trying to build. They don't understand that we still have to have good fundamental players out there no matter what."
Blundell finally sees progress.
"We're only losing two kids this season and we've got some good players on the (junior varsity)," he said. "We've also got some good kids coming up the ranks in the youth leagues. We should be a lot more competitive next year."
The league was fit to be tied last week.
Matter of fact, it was. Almost from top to bottom.
Moorpark defeated Santa Clara, and Calabasas defeated Santa Paula last Tuesday to forge a four-way tie for the top spot in league play at 5-3.
It was the first time league coaches could remember four teams tied for first so late in a season.
"It really is incredible," Moorpark Coach Dave Rhoades said. "That's not something you expect. It's really something."
Said Calabasas co-Coach Rick Nathanson: "It's exciting to have something like that happen. It shows how close everyone is in talent. It makes things interesting."
Entering today's games, Moorpark and Santa Paula are tied for first at 6-3. Calabasas is 5-3 and Santa Clara 5-4.
* Who's hot: Moorpark's Richard Hernandez went four for four with two triples and a home run in the Musketeers' 12-5 nonleague win over Carpinteria on Tuesday. The senior infielder-pitcher is batting .362 and is 4-2 with a 1.33 earned-run average. . . .
Calabasas junior right-hander Josh Morton leads the league in innings pitched (43 1/3), strikeouts (58) and ERA (0.65). He is tied for the league lead in wins at five (5-3) with Brian Garrettson (5-1) of Moorpark.
* Who's not: The Rangers' offense. Nordhoff is the lone league team with no players having reached double figures in runs scored or RBIs.
Softball no-hitters. Some would say they are a dime a dozen. After all, UCLA's Lisa Fernandez, the Southern Section leader, pitched 37 no-hitters in her four years at St. Joseph High in Lakewood.
But the no-hitter thrown last week against Santa Clara by Moorpark's Mindy Penrod, Christina Fernandez and Cara Shea made school history. It was the school's first combined no-hitter in softball.
However, it did not provoke much fanfare from its participants. Coach Larry McDermott had to incite some celebration from the three.
"When the game was over, we just called the three of them together and told them that they had just done something that no others had done in school history. They just looked at each other. They had no idea (it was a no-hitter)," McDermott said.
And the extent of the celebration? "They said, 'Great' and they gave high-fives to each other and that was it."
Notre Dame left-hander Chris Garza said he is available out of the bullpen this week. Garza, the Knights' No. 1 starter, has not pitched since April 7 because of soreness in his shoulder.
Garza said he is concentrating on preparing for the playoffs, and he hopes to start sometime before then. . . .
Crespi's Keith Evans has nine hits in his past 12 at-bats. . . . Casey Snow had two triples in the Celts' 16-3 victory over Harvard-Westlake on Saturday. . . .
Alemany's Chris Tashima was six for seven with two home runs last week, and he has nine hits, including four home runs, in 12 at-bats in the past four games.
"I just feel real good at the plate,." he said.
Also a relief pitcher, Tashima must not have felt so good on the mound last week. He gave up six runs in two-thirds of an inning. . . .
Harvard-Westlake's Kevin O'Malley returned as a pinch-hitter Monday against Crossroads. O'Malley, the son of Dodger owner Peter O'Malley, missed five games because he was spiked in the heel April 13, opening a gash that required 20 stitches. . . .
Bruises are a family affair at Chaminade. In 1992, leadoff batter Justin Giovannettone was hit a team-high 13 times by pitches. His brother, Jason, a freshman who is batting leadoff this season, has been hit a team-high nine times.
At 5-8, 170 pounds, Ron Botley of Poly may be better proportioned for football than volleyball, and indeed, the senior rushed for more than 1,800 yards and scored 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
But Botley has proved equally adept on the volleyball court. He was an All-City Section 3-A Division selection last season--only his second year playing volleyball--and led the Parrots to the City semifinals.
"He's got just a pure vertical leap," said Coach John Ford, who measured it at 37 1/2 inches.
Staff writers Steve Elling, Jeff Fletcher, Vince Kowalick, Paige A. Leech and Jason H. Reid contributed to this notebook.