Jeff Bennett and Joe Carter have something in common.
Bennett, Newbury Park High’s senior catcher, hit a one-out, two-run home run in the 10th inning Friday to give the Panthers a 9-7 Marmonte League victory over Simi Valley.
It did not win a championship, as the Toronto Blue Jay outfielder’s did in the World Series last fall, but it came close. The Panthers (16-5, 9-1 in league play) moved three games ahead of Channel Islands, Royal and Simi Valley with four to play.
“We’ve got it wrapped up now,” Newbury Park second baseman Shawn Adams said. “Nothing can stop us now.”
Coach Gary Fabricius isn’t breaking out the champagne for Newbury Park’s first Marmonte League baseball title since 1977 just yet.
“I’ll feel better when we’re up three with two to play,” Fabricius said.
Newbury Park’s second victory over defending league champion Simi Valley this season was a controversial one. Bennett’s home run came one pitch after he checked his swing on a ball out of the strike zone. Simi Valley Coach Mike Scyphers thought it should have been called strike three.
“It’s absolutely horrible how they can not call that guy out on strike three,” Scyphers said. “Everybody knows he struck out. The hitter knows he struck out, the first base coach knows he struck out, Coach Fabricius knows he struck out. Everybody knows he struck out except (base umpire) Barry Long.
“It’s absolutely horrendous that we can’t get quality umpiring in a high school game, where the kids are playing their guts out.”
The Pioneers played their second game without leading hitter and ace pitcher Bill Scheffels, who is indefinitely suspended from school, reportedly for his involvement in a bomb threat.
Scyphers could have used a clutch hitter as both teams wasted opportunities.
Simi Valley (14-6, 6-4) missed a chance in the ninth when Bryan Wall reached base on an error but was caught in a rundown after he wandered too far off first base. In the 10th, Simi Valley had Jeff Michael at third with one out, but Brian Kavanagh hit the ball straight to shortstop Ray Clinton, who was playing in, and Kary Kozlowski took a called third strike.
Newbury Park had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth, but Keith Smith hit into a double play.
The Panthers had runners at first and second with one out in the seventh, but Clay Bush and Smith took called third strikes. Newbury Park had runners at first and second with none out in the ninth, but Clinton and Bush struck out and Smith grounded into a force out. “In about the eighth inning, it looked like the game nobody wanted to win,” Fabricius said.
The defenses faltered early. Newbury Park’s infield made seven errors in the game--two by Smith in the first inning leading to five unearned runs.
The Pioneers built the lead to 7-3 in the fourth, but Simi Valley made two errors and center fielder David Krewson misplayed another ball, setting up Smith’s three-run homer that tied the score, 7-7.