With Jenkins Pitching In, Taft Wins


If there was one thing Taft High baseball Coach Rich McKeon figured could count on, it was that pitching would keep the Toreadors competitive.

Taft returned its top starters, Dusty Cook and Justin Collins. If they somehow failed, McKeon had in reserve Rusty Jenkins, a senior left-hander who pitched for the junior varsity last season.

But Cook has struggled in his first two starts and Collins has yet to recover from a shoulder injury, forcing McKeon to turn to Jenkins.


On Thursday, two days after Taft lost an eight-inning heartbreaker to Granada Hills, Jenkins allowed only three hits and faced two batters over the minimum as the Toreadors defeated the Highlanders in a rematch, 5-0, in a Northwest Valley Conference game.

“I got pumped up once we got some runs on the board,” Jenkins said. “But really, from the start, everything felt good and I was throwing well.”

The Toreadors (2-3, 1-1) have had trouble scoring, but erupted for four runs in the second inning, chasing John Bolyard (1-2).

With runners on second and third and one out, Taft sophomore Matt Aaronson hit a ground ball to shortstop Jerrod Penwarden.

Penwarden threw out Aaronson as a run scored but first baseman Tom O’Brien tried to nail Collins, the runner on second, as he rounded third. The throw skipped past third baseman Rene Castillo, allowing Collins to score for a 2-0 lead.

After a walk and a single, Greg Venger hit a drive to right-center field for a triple, driving in two more runs.


“I was just lucky to get up and under it,” Venger said. “It was important for us to get ahead early and get our confidence up.”

Relaxed with the four-run lead, Jenkins (2-0) allowed Granada Hills (4-2, 1-1) two hits over the final five innings. The Toreadors helped Jenkins with three double plays, not allowing a runner past first base. Jenkins struck out two and walked two.

“This was a better game for him than his first win,” McKeon said. “It really shows something that he was able to shut a good team like Granada Hills down.”

Granada Hills second baseman Sean Lavery had the hardest-hit ball against Jenkins, but his deep fly ball to center field leading off the fifth inning was caught by Ryan Long a few feet short of the fence.

Taft added a run in the sixth inning when Long singled down the right-field line, scoring Venger from second base.

Sophomore Jessie Carranza allowed three hits and one run in four innings of relief for Granada Hills, ranked second in The Times’ area poll.