At the start of the baseball season in March, Covina High Coach Dave Barret had reason to look ahead to June 4.
For one thing, it was the date of the CIF Southern Section 4-A Division baseball championship game at Anaheim Stadium--an event that Barret was pointing toward for his team.
Perhaps more important to Barret's wife, Pam, was the fact that it was their 10th wedding anniversary.
With that in mind, Barret had been kidding his wife all season that she had better plan to spend their anniversary at the stadium.
The Colts gave Barret an anniversary gift that he said he will never forget when the Colts defeated South Hills, 8-1, for the championship last week.
"It's the best present the kids could have given me," Barret said. "Just to get here was something, but winning makes it extra special."
What made the moment even more special was that they defeated South Hills, their cross-town and Valle Vista League rival.
The Colts finished second to South Hills and split in two games with the Huskies in league play, losing 6-2 and winning 6-3, and Barret was well aware of their lineup that featured seven players batting .328 or higher.
"I wasn't taking anything for granted," Barret said. "South Hills is a great team. Hey, they scored 30 runs in one game, so we knew what they could do."
But Barret said Covina's pitching and defense made the difference in the rubber match. Senior Paul Branconier tossed a three-hitter and the Colts did not commit an error.
"He wanted it badly," Barret said of Branconier. "He was concentrating on this all week. He's just a very focused kid."
Maybe that's why Branconier didn't display the nerves of somebody who was pitching in Anaheim Stadium for the first time. Not that Branconier wasn't concerned.
"I don't know if it was nerves," Branconier said. "It was more anxiousness. I just couldn't wait to pitch there."
Fortunately for Branconier, who finished the season with an 11-2 record, his teammates made it easier for him by scoring all the runs in the first three innings.
"My team got a couple of runs for me early and I settled down," he said. "After that I was more relaxed and just kept going and going. I have to credit the defense. If it wasn't for our defense we wouldn't be where we are."
Branconier could also thank third baseman Ron Lashly, a .352 hitter who led the way with two hits, three runs batted in and three stolen bases.
"I was pretty pumped up," Lashly said. "These guys had me psyched up and I'm not usually that way, but today was different."
Added Barret: "He's (Lashly) been doing it all year. You take a look at the kid's size--he's 5-7 and 135 pounds soaking wet--and you wonder where it comes from. But this is nothing new."
Covina finished with a 25-5 record and won its first title in Barret's five years as coach. It was the school's third title in the last 10 years but first since 1981.
The Colts were not one of the favorites entering postseason play. Covina was unseeded but received strong pitching, led by Branconier and Pete DeSimoni. The Colts did not allow more than three runs in any of five playoff games.
Lashly said the biggest hurdle was a 6-1 victory in the semifinals over Redondo and ace pitcher Scott Davison, who entered the game with an 18-0 record.
"We heard stories that Redondo was so good and we had some butterflies, but when we played them we were ready," Lashly said. "We were just taking it one game at a time. We won our first game against Hemet (5-2), then beat Rio Mesa (3-2) and Fullerton (4-3), and we knew if we beat Redondo we were going all the way.
"When we rocked that guy (Davison) with six runs we knew we had things going our way."
Branconier said it was the prospect of facing South Hills again that made the title game even more exciting.
"We were hoping they would win so we could come to Anaheim and play them," he said. "We didn't want anyone to play them but us."
Lashly said he was a little more concerned about playing the Huskies again.
"At first we had our doubts about playing them," he said. "But we knew that if we lost we would get ragged on the rest of the year. We didn't want that to happen. Now we can do the ragging."
In its brief five-year history before this season, the Diamond Bar High baseball program had established a winning tradition that few schools could match.
Under Coach Denis Paul, the Brahmas had won three straight league titles--including in 1985 when they won the CIF 2-A championship--and finished second the other two seasons.
So it probably will not go down as the surprise of the year that Diamond Bar won its first CIF 5-A championship with a 3-2 victory over Esperanza of Anaheim last week at Anaheim.
Paul was not certain about his team's chances a few months ago--especially since he lost three returning starters before the season.
All-Sierra League infielder Corey Kapano transferred to Azusa High during football season. The other two players, all-league outfielder Brian Hendrick and catcher Tony Skrah, simply decided not to play.