The battle for Marmonte League supremacy is a far cry from reaching its conclusion, but the first shot was fired Friday at Westlake High.
And Westlake, which found no good way to duck, went down in a heap.
Simi Valley, the favorite to win the league as the Pioneers have four times in the 1980s, defeated the Warriors, 3-2, in eight innings in the league opener for both teams.
Once again for the Pioneers it was pitching ace-slugger Scott Sharts who shouldered much of the load. The senior right-hander pitched a complete game, giving up five hits and striking out 10. Then, faced with the prospect of his first loss of the season, he cracked a two-run home run in the top of the seventh to tie the score.
Sharts, facing Westlake ace John Chiaramonte, walked in his three previous at-bats--once intentionally--but in the seventh found a pitch worth hitting.
Sharts drove the pitch, which was low and outside, over the left-center-field fence 342 feet away.
"It was a good pitch," said Sharts, whose home run was his sixth of the season and 23rd of his career, two short of the Southern Section record. "I was just waiting for him to make that one pitch, that one mistake."
Darren Aurand, who one out earlier was hit by an 0-2 curveball, scored ahead of Sharts. In the eighth, Simi Valley's Jeff Sommer worked a full-count walk to lead off the inning, then was sacrificed to second. Andy Hodgins, batting in the ninth position, bounced a single to right field to score Mike Jenkins, who was running for Sommer.
Sharts turned away the Warriors in the bottom of the eighth to improve his record to 3-0 and Simi Valley's to 6-2. Westlake is 3-3.
"When you have an All-American on your team, you expect your All-American to do extraordinary things," Simi Valley Coach Mike Scyphers said of Sharts. "Today, he really proved he's one of the top 10 players in the nation."
Sharts said he just wanted to prove he was the better of two fine right-handed pitchers.
Chiaramonte (2-1) had 10 strikeouts and gave up 4 hits and 7 walks in 8 innings.
"I went in thinking, 'Hey, this is going to be my game, I'm going to show I can compete with Chiaramonte,' " Sharts said. "I look for the showdown like we had today."
The Warriors appeared to be getting the better of Simi Valley when they scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Steve Susko's squeeze bunt scored Craig Cooper from third in the fourth. With two outs in the fifth, designated-hitter Chuck Foster hit a solo homer, his first, to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead that lasted into the seventh.
In seven of the eight innings, Chiaramonte allowed the leadoff batter to reach first, but twice Warrior errors were responsible.
"Everything was fine except Chiaramonte made some mistakes," Westlake Coach Dennis Judd said. "It seemed every inning he'd put the first runner on. He's got to have more concentration with that first batter."
It did not hurt the Warriors until the seventh, when Sharts' rifled his telling shot.