It was not a banner week for Ventura County junior college baseball teams.
College of the Canyons punched out Oxnard for the Western State Conference title, knocking the wind out of the Condors on their own gale-swept field, 2-0, before pummeling them, 17-4, in the calm but less-than-cozy confines at Canyons.
Ventura's slim thread of hope for an at-large berth in the state playoffs was severed Monday when the selection committee snubbed the WSC by taking second-place teams from four other conferences. Moorpark is also out of action, tending to wounds suffered during an injury-riddled season that produced a record of 11-23, 6-19 in WSC play. Coach Ron Stillwell is regrouping through recruiting and he has vowed to piece together an effective pitching staff by next season.
While Ventura and Moorpark have the entire off-season to mull their misfortune, Oxnard has an immediate opportunity to erase the memory of its recent setbacks. The Condors, by virtue of their title in the North Division of the WSC, have qualified for the state playoffs and play host to Orange Coast today at 2 p.m.
"Playing at our field should be worth a run for us," said Oxnard Coach Jerry White, who has led nine teams to the state playoffs.
Pitching for Oxnard (25-13) will be Vale Lopez, who had a 5-2-1 record and 2.16 earned-run average in WSC play. "Vale has been very consistent for us all year," White said.
White characterizes the Condor offense as "scrappy, not dominated by power," but catcher Tim Laker and first baseman Sean Luft can provide the long ball on occasion. Laker leads the team with a .386 batting average, 5 home runs and 34 runs batted in. Luft has only one home run but is batting .355 and has 21 RBIs.
Center fielder Phil White, the coach's son, is batting .369, has an on-base percentage of .538 and is 7 for 7 in stolen-base attempts. Heath De La Torre is batting .337 and has a team-leading 21 runs scored.
Other first-round games include Southwest at Cerritos, Golden West at Chaffey and Los Angeles Valley at San Diego Mesa. First-round winners play Saturday to qualify for the next playoff round May 20-22. Canyons, Rancho Santiago, Harbor, Palomar, El Camino and Cypress already have qualified for that round.
Ventura, which won a school-record 25 games this season, was not seriously considered for an at-large berth. White, the WSC representative on the selection committee, said that Bakersfield, the second-place team from the South Division, was the only WSC team considered.
"I'm not pleased we didn't get a team in," White said, "The selection criteria is nice and wordy but it ends up being a lot of opinion."
Judged by any criterion, Moorpark's season was dismal, and that's the opinion of Stillwell. The Raiders finished fifth in the South Division and first in players sidelined because of injuries.
"If anything could go wrong, it did, " he said. "I'm not going to look forward to another year like this one. I won't let it happen."
The entire starting rotation of Jon DeGennaro, Dave Raper and Todd Gerbovaz suffered season-ending injuries, as did designated hitter Eddie Hall.
About the only bright spots were center fielder Corey Aurand, who batted .372 with 7 home runs and 27 RBIs, and left fielder Kevin Medeiros, who batted .326.
Stillwell said he needs a staff of six reliable pitchers to contend next season. Rio Mesa High products Paul Perce, who emerged as Moorpark's most reliable pitcher this season, and Gerbovaz, who injured a knee early in the season, will be counted on.
Stillwell also is looking optimistically at a solid group of high school pitchers in the east part of the county. Westlake's John Chiaramonte already has committed to Moorpark, Stillwell said.