Charles Kenny was a stalwart at first base during Chatsworth High's City Championship run in the spring.
He assumed a new role this summer for the Valley Chatsworth American Legion team that has qualified for the state tournament.
Kenny has emerged as an effective starting pitcher, leading Valley Chatsworth with a 9-0 record and 1.98 earned-run average.
He scattered nine hits Sunday in a 7-3 victory over Camarillo that forced a second game for the Area 6 championship at Jackie Robinson Stadium in West Los Angeles.
Valley Chatsworth (32-4) won the second game, 11-3, and begins play in the state tournament against Danville at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Veteran's Home of California in Yountville.
This is the second time in three years Valley Chatsworth has reached the state tournament.
"He's been a real surprise," Coach Matt LaCour said of Kenny. "I knew he could pitch and throw strikes and do well, but the success he's had has been amazing.
"I have as much confidence in him right now as any of our pitchers, including [Scott] Sellz and [Mike] Kunes."
Kenny did not throw a pitch during the high school season because Chatsworth had plenty of depth, including UCLA-bound Kunes and Cal State Northridge-bound Sellz.
Once the Legion season started and the schedule expanded to five games a week, four fresh arms were needed. Because Kenny was 9-0 as a junior varsity pitcher two years ago, he became an ideal candidate to join the rotation.
"Charles had always been a pitcher at Chatsworth," LaCour said. "Obviously in the summer, we need as many arms as we can get. It wasn't a question of if he would pitch, but his success has made it that much easier."
Kenny, who will attend Valley College, has relied primarily on his fastball, mixing it with a curveball and changeup. He has won in every start, including five complete games. He earned the save in a 12-11 victory over Ojai-Santa Paula in an elimination game Saturday night.
He was back on the mound the next morning, starting against a Camarillo team that collected 15 hits in a 16-15, 10-inning victory over Valley Chatsworth on Saturday.
Kenny allowed two solo home runs and walked four, but avoided trouble with the help of a strong defense. Camarillo hit into 15 ground-ball outs and two double plays.
"I was nervous because Camarillo was hitting the ball really well," Kenny said. "I just wanted to throw strikes and keep the ball down. I was getting more confident as we scored runs and the game went on."
Kenny's clutch performance in a big game was nothing new. He drove in six runs, including the game-winning RBI with a three-run triple in the sixth inning, to lead Chatsworth over Poly, 17-7, in the City Championship game June 3 at Dodger Stadium.
Kenny and Valley Chatsworth took a trying path to the state tournament.
After winning two games, Valley Chatsworth lost to Camarillo in a gut-wrenching, extra-inning game Saturday. Valley Chatsworth had one hour of rest before playing Ojai-Santa Paula for the right to face Camarillo on Sunday.
"The toughest game, mentally, was the Saturday night game," LaCour said. "We had just played a tough game and lost. We kind of lagged through it, but luckily, scored enough runs to carry us."
Production was not a problem for Valley Chatsworth, which scored 55 runs in five games in the Area 6 playoffs.
Thousand Oaks opens the Southern California 17-and-under Area 6 tournament at 2 p.m. today against Ontario at La Palma Park in Anaheim.
Thousand Oaks (24-1) won the District 16 title Sunday with a 14-8 victory over Camarillo.
Shortstop Billy Lockin, who had three hits in the final, leads Thousand Oaks with a .594 batting average, followed by second baseman Adam Leavitt at .514.
"They're a big part of [our success]," Coach Joey Garcia said. "They hit 1-2 and get things going for us."
Garcia said right-hander Chris Cordeiro (2-0, 0.50 ERA) will start against Ontario.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
At Veteran's Home of California, Yountville (Double Elimination)
Chino (Area 5) vs. El Segundo (Area 4), 9:30 a.m.
Valley Chatsworth (Area 6) vs. Danville (Area 2), 12:30 p.m.
Fairfield (Area 1) vs. Stockton (Area 3), 3:30 p.m.
Tournament continues Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Winner and runner-up advance to regional playoffs at Las Vegas and Klamath Falls, Ore.