The Buena High Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the Southern Section 4-A Division, and why shouldn't they be? Buena (17-2-2, 12-0-1 in league play) last lost 19 games ago and has clinched its first league title since 1981.
Left-hander Matt Anderson (7-1 with 82 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings) and right-hander Jason Isaacs (7-0, 1.07 ERA) give the Bulldogs the best pitching combination this side of Simi Valley.
No other Channel League team is ranked, and Ventura, Rio Mesa and Dos Pueblos are fighting for the final two playoff berths.
Rio Mesa is in the driver's seat for one spot as sure as sophomore Dmitri Young can drive a fastball. Young is batting .522, has scored 28 runs, hit nine doubles and six home runs, and has driven in 25 runs.
The Spartans also lead the county in stolen bases. Young has 17, Tom Deardorff has 16 and Carlos Cendejas has 14.
Marmonte League: Simi Valley and Newbury Park, ranked No. 4 and No. 6 in the 5-A, have been dominant most of the season and earned tickets to the playoffs long ago. But the emergence of Thousand Oaks as the third playoff entry is a surprise.
The Lancers lost eight starters to graduation and were supposed to be suspect defensively. A lineup of solid hitters and the overpowering pitching of left-hander John Bushart has overcome the inexperience--as well as overcoming Camarillo, Royal and Westlake.
The presence of Bushart, who leads the county in strikeouts, masks defensive deficiencies. The hitting of outfielders Chris Grodell (.429) and Lance Martin (.379) and first baseman Scott Barkman (.380) has helped overcome the loss of leading hitter Bill Hall to a season-ending injury. Shortstop Mike McNellis and center fielder Todd Lang have ably filled what could have been gaping defensive holes and senior right-hander Scott Haffner has provided effective relief pitching.
Frontier League: Agoura (17-7, 8-1) has clinched a share of the league title but is ranked only No. 14 in the 2-A, which doesn't bode well for the playoff chances of Frontier League teams. Santa Clara (12-7, 7-2) and Calabasas (10-8-1, 5-4) have secured the other postseason berths.
Agoura's strength has been its offense. The Chargers boast five .400 hitters--Brian Smith, Zac Miller, Mark Costes, Nelson Townes and David Aronowitz.
Santa Clara has persevered despite numerous problems, including players quitting, severe injuries and players joining the team late because of basketball. Behind Kwinn Knight, Kasha Clemons, Garth Teron and Augie Maciel, the Saints have consistently prevailed over teams they've needed to beat to get to the playoffs.
The pitching and clutch hitting of Dan Glassman has helped carry Calabasas. Glassman has appeared in 14 games as a pitcher, winning three and saving three, and leads the team with 18 RBIs.
Tri-Valley League: For the first time ever, a trio of Tri-Valley teams are ranked in the 1-A poll. St. Bonaventure (15-3, 11-2), which leads the league by two games, is ranked No. 2. Moorpark (13-5, 9-4), which has pulled out of a midseason tailspin to win three in a row, is ranked No. 6. Defending champion Fillmore (12-6, 9-5) dropped to third after being upset by Carpinteria on Friday but is still ranked No. 7.
St. Bonaventure's success can be attributed to the solid pitching tandem of Kevin Zoll and Chris Castro. Zoll, a right-handed curveball specialist, leads Ventura County with an 0.76 earned-run average and has a 7-1 record. Castro is also 7-1 and has a 1.91 ERA.
The Seraphs' leading hitter is Chris Borchard, who is batting .480.
Moorpark also has a strong pitching duo in Robert Hernandez and Keith Orford, who are responsible for all 18 decisions. Hernandez is 7-2 with 65 strikeouts in 61 innings and Orford is 6-3. Leadoff hitter Frank Fernandez, a junior shortstop, is the Musketeers' offensive catalyst. Fernandez is batting .479, leads the county with 24 stolen bases. Third baseman Tom Uphoff is batting .474.
After a rocky start, Fillmore has rebounded to make the playoffs. Brad Edmonds has been the ace, posting a 7-2 record and 1.00 ERA, but Bill Alonzo has been a surprise as a control specialist. Alonzo is 4-2 with a 1.92 ERA and has walked only nine in 43 2/3 innings.