Bennett Gets Swing Down and Cuts Up Thousand Oaks : High school baseball: He hits two homers, including shot in seventh that gives Newbury Park a 6-5 victory.


Newbury Park High baseball Coach Gary Fabricius wanted his catcher, Jeff Bennett, to swing the bat and take level cuts.

Earlier in the season, Fabricius watched Bennett take too many fat pitches, and watched him take too many uppercut, slow-pitch softball swings when he did get the bat off his shoulder.

Bennett seems to have gotten the message. He hit two first-pitch home runs Wednesday, the second breaking a seventh-inning tie and giving Newbury Park a 6-5 Marmonte League victory over Thousand Oaks.

"Hopefully we can use today as a clinic," Fabricius said. "We told him if you just hit line drives, the power will take care of itself."

As for being aggressive at the plate, Bennett credited watching Atlanta Braves' rookie Ryan Klesko on television.

"(Klesko) doesn't get cheated," said Bennett, who has signed to play at The Master's College. "I was listening to the announcers talk about that, so now I've tried to be more aggressive, too."

Bennett hit the first pitch relief pitcher Jay Wolfe (1-2) threw in the seventh inning over the center-field fence. As soon as he hit the ball, his teammates poured out of the dugout to greet him at home plate.

"When he hits them, you know they are gone," said Keith Smith, who started on the mound for Newbury Park but did not get a decision.

The Panthers (12-4, 5-0 in league play), who are in first place in the Marmonte League, one-half game ahead of Simi Valley, needed Bennett's second home run because they had just blown a lead.

Newbury Park took a 5-1 lead when consecutive hits by Smith, Shawn Adams and Rich Adams drove in four runs in the top of the fifth, but Thousand Oaks (9-6, 2-3) came back. The Lancers scored a run in the bottom of the fifth when Greg Manara circled the bases on a triple and an error.

They started the sixth with a run on three consecutive singles, chasing Smith from the mound in favor of Ray Clinton with the deficit reduced to 5-3. Quincy Samora scored on a wild pitch and Tim Baron squeezed home the tying run.

Clinton retired Jason Earles on a fly out, sending the game into the seventh tied, and setting up Bennett's heroics.

After Bennett, who was three for three with a walk, gave Newbury Park a 6-5 lead, the Panthers loaded the bases with one out. Thousand Oaks third baseman Greg Aguilar came in to pitch and induced Michael Amundson to hit into a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play.

Clinton (7-2) struck out Matt Elam and Brandon Highland to start the bottom of the seventh. After a walk to Aguilar, Clinton got Samora to pop up, ending the game.

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