If Rich Herrera was ever in charge of a bed and breakfast inn, he'd get plenty of return business, mainly because he knows how to return a good turn.
Herrera's Camarillo team opens play today in the Cherry Creek Classic in Denver, an event that features 16 teams from all over the United States. And Camarillo, which will hold its own tournament over the July 4th weekend, has invited Cherry Springs back to California.
Last year, in the team's first appearance in the Denver tournament, Camarillo lost its opener but swept the next four games to take the consolation title.
Herrera, whose team is off to a 9-0 start in District 16 play, hopes for many happy returns. When Camarillo came down from the mountain in '87, the team's performance followed suit. Camarillo finished second in District 16 last year after leaving for Colorado in first place.
"Last year, we went out there and were scoring, scoring, and everything was great," the coach said. "Then when we got back we were tight, tight, and it went loss, loss.
"It was like we got back, and it all went downhill."
This time, how rocky things are in the Rockies may depend on the Camarillo pitching staff.
Entering play this week, the Camarillo staff has piled up some solid, yet hardly staggering numbers. Left-handers Darren Spiller (3-0, 2.06 earned-run average) and Charlie Constintine (1.00, 3 saves) and right-handers Steve Biggs (3-0, 3.75), Matt Tackett (1-0, 1.91) and Von Wechsberg (1-0, 2.80) will all see action in the tournament. Utility infielder Chris Sorich and outfielder John Swanson also have been working out on the mound.
Camarillo has outscored opponents, 106-45, (an average of 11.8 to 5) and the team has scored 10 or more runs in its past five games. Yet, the sky-high team will face its toughest competition of the year in the rarefied air of Colorado.
"This should give a pretty good indication of how good we really are," Herrera said.
Camarillo opens against Farmington, N.M., today and plays a doubleheader against Aurora, Colo., and Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday.
Camarillo will play host to its own tournament July 1-4. In addition to Cherry Creek, the eight-team tournament features Royal, Westlake, Ventura and Camarillo as well as two teams from Scottsdale, Ariz., and one from Calgary, Canada.
How the West was won: Woodland Hills (West) has moved into a first-place tie with Chatsworth (10-2) in the Western Division on the strength of an offense that scores runs with some names that are recognizable to area high school baseball fans: Mike Kerber, Bryce Welch, Ryan McGuire and Carl McFadden.
While Steve Smith's name sounds fairly generic, his bat has spoken as loudly as those of his well-known teammates.
Smith was 4 for 5 in Tuesday's 10-2 win over Reseda and broke an 8-8 tie in the seventh with a two-run double. He also had a triple and finished with five runs batted in.
"I don't know if he's ready for the Hall of Fame yet or not," Coach Gary Gibson quipped, "but he's made the most of his chances."
Smith is 9 for 17 with 10 RBIs.
Big-bang theory: When they look at their own scoreboard, West pitchers usually see a lot of runs.
Gibson said he knew that the team would not be scratching for runs and that all along it was capable of scoring in a flash.
"The big inning is something I knew we'd have," Gibson said. "Sometimes I look at our lineup and know we're going to explode."
In addition to Smith, six others have 10 or more RBIs. Welch leads the team with 19, followed by Dan McAdoo (14), McGuire (13), Del Marine (13), Gene Demyon (13) and Kerber (10).
Make do: McAdoo, all 5 feet, 6 inches of him, has proven that a yardstick does not mean much if you can hit the ball out of the yard.
McAdoo, a 1987 graduate of Faith Baptist, played shortstop last year at University of San Diego. He is 19 for 46 with 4 doubles and 2 home runs for West.
Rags to riches: American Legion uniforms are usually so-so at best, but Mission Hills (Alemany) may be looking for sympathy donations from fans.
Mission Hills players wear T-shirts bearing the words "Alemany Baseball" and the school insignia. Numbers are scrawled on their sleeves in crayon.
Glendale may have the nicest jerseys. The uniforms have the St. Louis Cardinals logo on the front and the Glendale players' names stitched on the back.
Add uniformity: Glendale first baseman Joe Cupo, an Alemany graduate, was wearing a jersey that read "Martinez" on the back. His former Alemany teammates ragged him for that most of the afternoon.
"He's had good luck with the 'Martinez,' " said his father, Joe Sr. "I think we should change his name."
No walk on the wild side: Sun Valley right-hander Nick Lymberopoulos compiled a 6-2 record with a 3.61 ERA for Poly last season, striking out 66 while walking only 27. His better than 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was among the Valley City Section leaders.