What, them worry?
Sure, Chatsworth High baseball players know they have to face El Camino Real's Randy Wolf--who seems to inch closer to mythical prep status with every playoff game he pitches.
They are well aware that Wolf got the save for the Conquistadores in last year's 7-6 title-game victory against the Chancellors, and that he has allowed only two earned runs in 33 playoff innings the past two seasons.
But Chatsworth will show up Monday at Dodger Stadium for a rematch of last season's City Section 4-A championship game anyway--without blindfolds and cigarettes.
"He's a good pitcher, but we're not going to be afraid of him," Chatsworth shortstop Bryan LaCour said. "We'll be real confident up there. He's going to be tougher than other pitchers, but he's not going to scare us."
Said center fielder Ray Daryabigi: "We just think of him as the same pitcher we always face. Nothing different."
A necessary perspective on any opponent, but for Chatsworth, one that may not be mere bravado.
The Northwest Valley Conference champion Chancellors (28-4) have defeated El Camino Real (22-7) twice in three games, including a 4-3 victory May 10 in which Wolf pitched.
Chatsworth has a team batting average of .342 and has so many hard-hitting offensive standouts--like the Stanford-bound LaCour (.490, 41 RBIs, 17 stolen bases), Brandon Murphy (.365, 32 RBIs) and Tony Montiel (.337, 35 RBIs)--that you can't tell them apart without a program.
Literally, in one case.
To wit: Twins Ray and Rod Daryabigi have been identically excellent for Chatsworth this season, and could be the decisive factor in scoring runs against Wolf. In the May 10 victory over Wolf, each twin scored twice, accounting for all of the team's runs.
"I think getting them on base is the key to our offense," LaCour said. "When I get my RBIs, it's either Rod or Ray. If they get on, I get RBIs. If they don't get on, me, Murph and Montiel probably aren't going to get RBIs."
There are a lot of happy hitters in the middle of the Chatsworth lineup, thanks to the Daryabigis, who bat in the top spots of the order.
Rod, the leadoff batter, is hitting .429 and Ray is hitting .381. They routinely get on base--Rod has a .504 on-base percentage, Ray's is .478--and have combined to score 74 runs.
"They go unnoticed by a lot of people, but not by us," Coach Tom Meusborn said.
Which Daryabigi is which is a different story. "I kind of guess and hope I get it right," Meusborn joked. "I've got a 50-50 shot."
"You can tell," LaCour said as he sat next to the twins in the bleachers at the Chatsworth field Saturday. "They look alike in ways, but they wear their hats differently."
Rod pointed to his hat. "Mine's lower."
Ray countered: "Mine's higher."
A more telltale characteristic: "It helps when they put their gloves on," Meusborn said.
Ray is a left-hander; Rod is a right-hander. Ray, the center fielder, wears No. 24; Rod, the second baseman, wears No. 1.
Another difference: Ray excelled more quickly than his brother.
Last season, Ray played left field and batted .311. Rod hovered just above the .200 mark.
But last summer Rod adopted a new, more open stance and surprised even himself with his improved hitting. "I knew I'd come up a little this year, but not this much, doubling my numbers from last year," Rod said.
Ray also was a pleasant surprise--on the mound.
Last season's No. 2 starter, Harry Kenoi, has not pitched this year because of shoulder problems.
Ray picked up the slack. He has a record of 6-0 with a 2.17 earned-run average. Ray won't get the starting nod opposite Wolf, however. He will patrol the outfield and Jim DeBiase, Chatsworth's ace, will start the title game, which begins at 7:30 p.m.
DeBiase defeated Wolf in the May 10 meeting and has impressive credentials: a 10-1 record and a 2.27 ERA. Wolf's credentials, though, border on legendary.
The senior left-hander has a record of 11-3 and an ERA of 1.09 coming off a season in which he was selected City 4-A player of the year. He is on the short list for the same award this year.
In four playoff starts over the past two seasons, he has four complete-game victories--including a no-hitter, a one-hitter, a three-hitter and a five-hitter.
Wolf's latest feat: He entered Friday's semifinal against Kennedy with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth inning.
After surrendering a walk, he got a strikeout and a double play to end the inning. He went on to earn the save.
Said Kennedy catcher Kevin Serr: "When he's on the mound, the mood changes. I think people lose confidence in their heads."
Chatsworth players believe they are exceptions. "I think our team is up for the challenge against Wolf again," Ray Daryabigi said.
If Chatsworth is to prevent a repeat of last year and win its first City title since 1990, he needs to be right.