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High School Year In Review : Spring : Baseball


Two hours after Coach Doug MacKenzie ended his 37-year wait for his first City Section baseball title, the 61-year-old coach was waiting again.

MacKenzie and the rest of the Canoga Park High team parked themselves outside Dodger Stadium long after the last out was recorded in their 5-4 victory over Poly on June 4. Because of a mix-up with the bus driver, the Hunters searched for a ride home. It wasn't until nearly midnight when the bus returned to Chavez Ravine that the happy but tired celebrants headed back to Canoga Park.

"It took me 37 years to get here and it looks like it might take 37 years to get home," MacKenzie said afterward.

As in most seasons, the off-the-field events during the recently completed spring high school sports season matched their on-the-field counterparts. Along with the championships and school records came the controversies and oddities that enrich any season. The following is a sport-by-sport look at the season's highlights and memorable moments.

Controversy hit the Taft baseball team before the first pitch of the season. Matt Gilmore and Mike Shwartzer, disenchanted with Coach Art Martinez who faced a team mutiny the year before, won a lengthy fight with the school district bureaucracy and extricated themselves from the program.

The players procured a transfer to Reseda, making the Regents a favorite to win the West Valley League title. Reseda struggled all year and missed the playoffs, and Taft won just one game and did not rehire Martinez. Gilmore batted .385 and signed a professional contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Shwartzer, a junior, batted just .125.

Olonzo Woodfin, a junior left-hander at Sylmar, forged a spectacular start and ended the season as The Times Valley Pitcher of the Year. On March 14 he won his third straight game and had 41 strikeouts and a 0.39 earned-run average through his first 17 innings. Ten days later he pitched his first no-hitter, beating North Hollywood, 5-2.

In the City Section 4-A playoffs, Woodfin made a mockery of the conventional wisdom that called for a two-pitcher rotation. On May 29, one day after pitching a two-hitter and striking out 11 in a win over Carson, he shut out San Fernando on four hits, 6-0. Four days later, he lost to Canoga Park, 5-1. He finished the season 11-3 with a 1.19 ERA.

Canoga Park pitcher Mike Kerber, who defeated Woodfin in the playoffs, didn't win his first game until April 23 when he defeated El Camino Real with a three-hitter, 4-1. A 2 1/2-monthlong bout with tendinitis in his right elbow kept him from the mound. The victory served as a bad omen for the rest of the City Section. Kerber, The Times Valley Player of the Year, finished the season with a 7-0 record and is 12-0 in his high school career.

Shawn Bowen, a junior right-hander at Chatsworth, defeated El Camino Real, 8-2, on April 7 to move Chatsworth into first place in the West Valley League. The Chancellors greeted the win with mixed feelings; hours before the game Bowen learned he was failing geometry and was academically ineligible for the rest of the season. Chatsworth still managed to reach the semifinal round of the playoffs where junior pitchers dominated.

The semifinals featured the following pitching matchups: Canoga Park's Kerber vs. Sylmar's Woodfin; Poly's Greg Nealon vs. Chatsworth's Pierre Amadao. All four were juniors. The City final at Dodger Stadium two days later featured two more juniors: Canoga Park's Adam Schulhofer vs. Poly's Nick Lymberopoulos. In Canoga Park's 5-4 victory, Mike Roberts earned the save. He was a junior, too.

At times, pitching was a lost art in the Mid-Valley League. In a May 5 game that typified the season, Birmingham moved into first place by beating Kennedy, 20-14. During that week, Kennedy, a team that advanced to the playoffs, allowed 36 runs in two games.

Still, Birmingham had its moment in the pitching spotlight. Dan Meehan, a senior transfer from Wilmington, Del. pitched a no-hitter in his first varsity start April 2, beating Kennedy, 3-0. It was the first Birmingham no-hitter in 20 years. Despite that effort, Meehan spent the rest of the season in the bullpen.

Highland Hall pitcher Aaron Rudelson celebrated his 17th birthday with a no-hitter against Grace Community on May 1. Highland Hall set numerous school records by season's end, including most victories (14) and most stolen bases (168). But life in the Southern Section Small Schools Small Division was not without its odd moments. Highland Hall's 10-6 win over South Bay Lutheran was shortened after 3 1/2 innings so the Waves could leave in time to beat the freeway traffic back to Inglewood.

In perhaps the oddest game of the season, Oak Park lost to Carpinteria in a May 8 Tri-Valley League game despite scoring more runs. In a 1-1 tie in the sixth, Gary Silverman hit a two-out, bases-loaded single that scored two runs for a 3-1 Oak Park lead. When Scott Ziegler tried to score from first, he collided with the catcher and was ejected from the game.

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