The meal was before them on Saturday, and the El Camino College Warriors were itching to feast on visiting Long Beach City College on their way to a South Coast Conference championship and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
They even threw ace Jeff Beck (11-3), who has been sharper this season than Fernando Valenzuela has been in more than a year with the Dodgers.
Beck, however, delivered what had to be his worst outing of 1988 as Long Beach carved up the 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-hander for 10 hits and nine runs in just 4 innings.
The irony of the 11-1 Long Beach massacre was that on a day when El Camino (15-6) figured to finish the regular season in a flash with its finest hurler, the Warriors backed into a co-championship with Cerritos, the first-round bye and an automatic berth in one of two Southern California regionals by virtue of Mt. San Antonio's 16-6 loss to Golden West.
Mt. Sac, which finished at 14-7 in conference play, and Cerritos (15-6) began the day one game behind El Camino.
Because Mt. Sac had beaten El Camino three times this season, an El Camino loss and Mt. Sac victory would have sent El Camino to next week's single-elimination quarterfinals instead of the May 24 regionals, even though both would have shared the SCC title.
But Mt. Sac fared as well as Pasadena, which lost a 13-2 season finale to visiting Cerritos. Cerritos' 0-3 mark against El Camino this season forces the Falcons into the quarterfinals, despite earning a share of the conference crown.
A win against Long Beach would have boosted the Warriors' confidence heading toward the postseason, but Viking bats quieted that possibility in the third inning after going down in order in the first two innings.
Singles from Jim Fifer and Dewey Kaeka started a fire for Long Beach in the third. A flustered Beck then walked Damion Easley after Rob Donlan had sacrificed Kaeka and Fifer to second and third.
Frank Bennett then singled home Fifer and a walk to Tony Tijerina scored Kaeka. Lash Bailey's single picked up Easley, and before it was over, 11 men and four runs had seen the plate.
The Vikings smacked another four hits off Beck in the fourth. El Camino Coach Tom Hicks, staring at 9-0 deficit, opted for middle-reliever David Seward.
"That was not a typical Jeff Beck effort," said Hicks. "He didn't have his usual control. But, how can you get down on him? If it wasn't for Jeff Beck, we wouldn't have won a championship."
Beck, who's been suffering lately from stiffness in his shoulder, wasn't as positive.
"It's hard to end a season like that after you've pitched so well," the sophomore said. "I feel like I've regressed to the initial part of the season. Now, I have to collect my thoughts."
The Warriors, seeded first in the South Coast Conference, will be one of eight teams to compete in one of two double-elimination regional tournaments at either Cerritos or Ventura College.
Winners advance to a double-elimination final round at UC Irvine against two teams from the North to determine the state champion.
Long Beach, meanwhile, goes home after a brilliant performance from winner Ron Veazy (6-2), a left-hander who no-hit the Warriors through 3 innings and went the distance, yielding just five hits, including an opposite-field solo home run from Colin Franker.