It seemed such a simple task.
All Westlake High had to do to win its first Marmonte League baseball title was to beat Camarillo, the last-place team.
From another perspective, however, the task was troublesome.
Westlake had never beaten Camarillo--a string of 17 losses that included one earlier this year.
History prevailed as Camarillo scored two unearned runs in the sixth inning to defeat Westlake, 2-1, at Camarillo on Wednesday. Simi Valley, by virtue of a 10-2 win over Royal, backed into the league championship.
Westlake Coach Dennis Judd felt like a man who had squandered a sure fortune.
"I'm proud of us getting this far but there is no way saying 'Everything is all right' is going to ring true after a game like this," Judd said. "We didn't get the key hit and we made a couple stupid mistakes. I'm very disappointed."
Actually, Westlake (13-10-1, 8-3-1 in league) had one key hit. A line single to right by Greg Struhl with two out in the sixth scored Matt Franco with the Warriors' only run. The run batted in was Struhl's 26th on only his 20th hit.
And the way John Chiaramonte was pitching, it appeared Westlake wouldn't need any more. Through five innings, Chiaramonte, the winning pitcher in Westlake's past four games, allowed one baserunner to reach second.
The junior right-hander's throwing error with one out in the sixth, however, ignited Camarillo's game-winning rally. Jeremy Sumrow smacked a ground ball that Chiaramonte knocked down, but the pitcher's hurried throw to first skipped out of play.
"John made a heck of a try," Judd said. "It's a shame a play like that made a difference."
Sumrow advanced to third on Kevin Ochs' fly to center and scored on a single over third by Jim King to tie the score. King stole second when shortstop Mike Suarez dropped catcher Jim Henderson's perfect throw and scored the deciding run on a single to left by Randy Johnson.
Right-hander Mike Henry, who pitched a five-hit complete game for Camarillo, retired Westlake easily in the seventh. Henry sensed the Warriors were nervous about playing for the title and pitched accordingly.
"Usually Westlake is very vocal, ragging and climbing on the fence," Henry said. "Today they didn't say a lot. I changed speeds more than usual and it seemed to work."
While Westlake was wound up, Camarillo (6-18, 3-9 in league) was frolicking. There is nothing like playing the last game of a horrible season to eliminate pressure.
"Westlake had more at stake," Camarillo Coach Ken Wagner said. "It was a tough situation for them to be in. I think that if we came in playing for a championship, we would have been nervous."