Gary Anglin was so excited that Ventura College had finally won a Western State Conference baseball title that he was perfectly willing to share it with College of the Canyons.
Ventura clinched its first WSC title in 15 years last week and set a single-season record for wins with a 28-9 overall record. Ventura and Canyons are co-champions in the WSC after both teams finished with 16-4 conference records.
Winning the title also marked a turning point for Ventura, which traditionally took a back seat to rival Oxnard College. The Condors won four WSC titles under Jerry White--who retired after the end of last season--while Anglin had to wait until his 12th year as Pirate coach to win a conference title.
"From my standpoint, I have no problem sharing the title with Canyons," Anglin said. "It was just nice to finally get over the hump of finishing second and win this thing. Every year, it was second, second, second. It's great to finally get over that hump."
Canyons clinched a share of its ninth consecutive title with a 15-13 victory over Pierce on Monday. Despite the tie for the title, Ventura is seeded first in the WSC's Shaughnessy playoffs, which began Tuesday, because it defeated the Cougars twice this season.
As the top-seeded team, Ventura received a bye into the tournament championship game Saturday. The Pirates will play host to the winner of today's game between Moorpark and Valley on Saturday to determine the conference's top representative to the state playoffs that begin May 11.
Ventura, which missed an at-large berth to the state playoffs last season, has a lock on a trip this season because the top two teams from the WSC tournament are guaranteed berths.
Advancing to the state playoffs will be a new experience for an Anglin team. The Pirates have not been to the state playoffs since 1974 and they were not expected to make it this season, either.
Ventura started the season with just two returning starters--outfielders Brent Cookson and Chris Ames. Whenever Anglin discussed his team's prospects with anybody, all he ever heard was, "Wait until next year."
Anglin did not want to wait.
What Ventura lacked in experience, it made up in pitching depth. The Pirates had four pitchers who were drafted by the pros out of high school but opted to postpone the bush leagues to pitch for Ventura.
Left-handers Derron Spiller and Dean McMillin and right-handers Shane Espitia and Mike Teron were the crux of the Pirate pitching staff and the main reason Ventura won the WSC title.
"Our pitching made the difference this year because we are not as strong a hitting team as we have been in the past," Anglin said.
Other WSC coaches such as Ron Stillwell of Moorpark and George Peraza of Oxnard share Anglin's opinion.
"Pitching was definitely the key for them," Stillwell said. "I thought they had the best staff and Canyons had the best lineup coming into the season. Good pitching will usually win out and it did this year."
Teron, a freshman out of Santa Clara High, said there were no weak spots on the Ventura staff.
"Everybody said that we were too young and that we were not going to be that good, but I knew we would be good," Teron said. "Everybody on our staff was good and we were always ready to back each other up."
Teron (2-2) contributed with his bat when he was not on the mound. Anglin usually included Teron, who hit .319 in conference, in the lineup as the designated-hitter or left fielder.
McMillin led the Pirate staff with a 10-4 record and a 3.64 earned-run average. Rich Mendez, a freshman left-hander from Santa Clara, also made a strong impression on Anglin and bolstered the Pirate staff. Mendez had a 5-1 record and a 1.65 ERA.
Ventura led the WSC in team pitching with an ERA of 2.79.
The Pirates were not slouches with their bats, either. David Eggert, an outfielder from Ventura High, was third in the WSC with a .463 batting average and led the conference with 26 runs batted in.
Anglin's team finished strong to ensure the title.
The Pirates won nine of their last 10 games before clinching the title with an 8-2 win over Pierce on Saturday.
"Out of this whole season, we only played three bad games," Anglin said.
One of those bad games came in a 5-2 loss to Oxnard last week that snapped a seven-game win streak. Ventura rebounded to win its final two games and clinch the title.
"The only thing for us to do now it to make all of the advantages work for us," Anglin said.
Anglin would like to face Moorpark, which lost twice to Ventura during the season, in the tournament championship game. The Raiders upset Canyons, 9-4, on Loyd Wood's grand slam in the ninth inning Tuesday to advance to the second round of the Shaughnessy playoffs.
For Coach Ron Stillwell, whose resignation becomes official at the end of the season, the win could not have come at a more opportune time.
Moorpark took advantage of home runs by Kris Kaelin, Steve Sisco and Wood and rallied for five runs in the ninth for the victory. Even if Valley defeats Moorpark today, the Raiders have a good chance of earning an at-large berth to the state playoffs.
In the other playoff opener, Valley defeated Oxnard, 13-5, to eliminate the Condors, who compiled a 17-5 record under Peraza in his first season as coach.
No matter which team advances to the tournament championship, Ventura will be rested and waiting. Anglin expects his pitching staff will make the difference for Ventura on Saturday--as it has throughout this season.
Anglin said: "We probably have the strongest pitching staff in the state. This is certainly the best staff I have ever had at Ventura."