Pitcher of the Year

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joe Guntz, known for his disappearing card tricks, was a magician on the mound for Chatsworth High this season.

He changed speeds, threw from different angles and routinely picked off runners at first base.

He finished 14-0 with a 1.28 earned-run average and allowed one run in three City Section playoff games. He struck out Francisco Figueroa of Roosevelt on a 3-and-2 pitch to end the City Championship game and give Chatsworth a 2-1 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Because of his consistency and dominating pitching, Guntz has been selected The Times' Valley pitcher of the year.

In two varsity seasons, the junior left-hander is 25-0. But he was clearly a more accomplished pitcher this year.

"He's definitely gotten smarter," Coach Tom Meusborn said. "He used to try to throw balls by people. Now he's more focused on spots and getting the defense to make plays."

Last year, Guntz threw 120 to 130 pitches per game. This season, because of improved control, his pitch count dropped to between 85 and 90 per game. He made 13 starts and completed 12. He looked fresher and his arm was livelier.

His demeanor baffled onlookers.

When the pressure rose, no one could tell whether Guntz noticed.

In the City Championship game, when Roosevelt had the tying and winning runs on base in the seventh inning, Guntz calmly went about his job.

"I was more excited than nervous," Guntz said. "I was pumped up because the last hitter was talking trash to me. When they start to get fired up, that's when I get pumped."

Guntz's pickoff move also contributed to his success. He picked off 12 baserunners. He also relied on a defense that committed one error in four playoff games, with Guntz the culprit.

He struck out 80 in 87 1/3 innings, using a fastball clocked between 78 and 81 mph. Hitters were limited to a 232 batting average against him.

*

Jamie Mah: Sylmar, Jr., Infielder. Whether fielding, hitting or pitching, Mah found a way to excel. He batted .390 and was 6-3 with a 2.15 ERA.

Gregg Wallis: Chatsworth, Sr., Infielder. The UC Irvine-bound second baseman had 53 hits, the most by a Chatsworth player since 1994. He batted .449 and committed only four errors for the City champions.

Art Ortiz: Lancaster, Sr., Outfielder. Led the Eagles to their first Golden League title by setting school season records with a .518 batting average, 15 home runs, 46 RBIs and 22 walks.

Ryan Braun: Granada Hills, Jr., Designated hitter. Among the most feared hitters in the region, Braun batted .427 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBIs.

Adam Geary: Kennedy, Jr., Utility. He played third base and batted .465 with 10 doubles: On the mound, he was 4-2 with a 2.22 ERA.

Tom Meusborn: Chatsworth, Coach of the year. Meusborn guided Chatsworth to a school-record 31 victories and its fourth City title. The Chancellors had a 23-game winning streak and were ranked No. 3 in the nation by Baseball America.

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