If Ventura College falters in the Southern California regional of the state junior college baseball tournament, the Pirates cannot use fatigue as an excuse.
The Pirates, seeded third, received a bye to the third round of the playoffs. Ventura earned its extended vacation by defeating Valley College, 5-1, in the championship game of the Western State Conference playoffs Saturday.
Ventura (29-9), and the tournament's other five conference champions, receive byes into the double-elimination finals that will be held May 19-21 at Rancho Santiago and Cerritos colleges.
Coach Gary Anglin said the Pirates' jump into the third round takes pressure off his team.
"I look at it this way--nobody expected us to be here," Anglin said. "We don't want to go out and embarrass ourselves or our conference, but it's all gravy for us at this point. We're just having fun now."
The Pirates enjoyed themselves last weekend against Valley. Sophomore right-hander Shane Espitia (8-2) threw a complete-game five-hitter and Brent Cookson, who set five school records this season, contributed a bases-loaded triple.
"I'm really looking forward to going to state," Cookson said. "I think the layoff will help, mainly because it will give our pitchers a little time to rest up."
Cookson set career records for runs batted in (94); games played (74); total bases (156); and times on bases (151), as well as a single-season record for RBIs (57).
The sophomore left fielder was not Ventura's only record-setter, however.
Darren Lloyd and Gabe Diaz each tied the single-season record for runs scored (43). Lloyd also set a single-season record for walks with 43.
Freshman left-hander Dean McMillin (10-4), the WSC Player of the Year, tied the school record for victories in a season. In addition, he was 8-2 in the WSC with 57 strikeouts, tops in the conference in both categories.
As a team, Ventura set a school record for victories, despite fielding a squad of 22 freshmen and only eight sophomores.
"Anytime you can fool the critics it's nice," Anglin said. "Won-loss-wise, this is the best team we've had, but offensively it's not the best.
"This is the best pitching Ventura has had and defensively it ranks right up there with the '83 team."
Ventura, which has won 11 of its last 12, is making its first trip to the state playoffs since 1972. Ventura was the co-champion in the WSC in 1974, but only one team advanced to state that season and Ventura was left behind.
Ventura and Valley are the only WSC teams represented among the playoff's 14 entries. Valley (29-11-1), seeded ninth, will play host to Orange Coast (30-10-1), seeded 13th, in today's playoff opener.
Other first-round games include: Grossmont at Cerritos; East Los Angeles at Rancho Santiago; and Citrus at San Diego Mesa.
Both Canyons--which tied Ventura to earn a share of its ninth consecutive WSC title--and Moorpark failed to earn at-large playoff berths.
Moorpark, which finished third in the WSC tournament, ousted Canyons from the first round of the conference tournament and lost to Valley in the second round.