To the delight of Jerry White and to the anguish of Gary Anglin, the Western State Conference reverted to form on the final day of play Saturday.
Oxnard College, coached by White, swept Santa Monica and finished 16-8 in conference play. Ventura, coached by Anglin, was swept by Bakersfield and finished 15-9. So Oxnard captured the Northern Division title--again--and Ventura took a back seat--again.
Oxnard has won four WSC titles under White, and the division title was its second in a row. Ventura was looking for its first title since Anglin became coach 11 years ago. Oxnard meets Canyons, the Southern Division champion, in a best-of-three series beginning today at Oxnard for the WSC title.
"It's our time and I think we'll make a good showing," said White, whose team fell to Canyons last season in a best-of-three series for the conference title.
Canyons and Oxnard both have qualified for the state playoffs. The WSC champion has a bye until a three-day tournament beginning May 20; the runner-up must win games May 12 and May 14 to advance to the three-day tournament.
Ventura has a chance at an at-large playoff berth. A third WSC team will advance, but the Pirates would have to be selected over Bakersfield, which already spoiled Ventura's championship hopes. At-large teams will be selected Monday.
"We're hoping for the best but can't get too excited," Anglin said. "We won't have any all-out practices this week, just some batting."
Limbo is a strange place for a team that set a single-season school record for wins with a 24-12 overall mark. Ventura batted .316, another school record.
But the fact was the Pirates couldn't stand the weather. Rainouts forced most WSC teams to play their last seven games in less than a week. Ventura dropped five of seven in six days while Oxnard won five of seven in five days.
The weakness that Ventura had overcome all season--lack of pitching depth--finally took its toll. Meanwhile, Oxnard had plenty of fresh arms.
Case in point: Ralph Tangonan, a sophomore from Hueneme High who had been primarily a long reliever, pitched a four-hit complete-game victory Friday over Glendale. Ventura had no such ace in the hole.
"We had nothing left for Bakersfield," Anglin said. Ventura gamely stayed in the race by splitting two with Canyons a day before traveling to Bakersfield and losing, 8-4 and 11-4.
History was against the Pirates as well. "We've never won a game at Bakersfield," Anglin said, "although I didn't tell the team that before we went up there."
History, on the other hand, reveals that finishing on top is routine for White. Even apparent misfortune has a way of helping the Condors. Infielder Mike Runge was forced to move to left field after suffering an eye injury in practice three weeks ago. "That sort of forced a domino effect of moves that gave us a spark," White said.
Left fielder Brian McGahan moved to third base, Donovan Wallace established himself as the second baseman and infielder Aaron Marcarelli became full-time designated hitter.
Against hard-hitting Canyons, however, Condor catcher Tim Laker and first baseman Sean Luft need to provide a lift. Both hit with excellent power. "Our team is as physical as they are," White said.
While the Condors try to pin down the WSC title, however, the Pirates must sit at home.
"We had our opportunity, but we don't consider ourselves as gagging or choking or anything," Anglin said. "Our sophomores won 45 games in two years, more than any group I've coached."