Pitching was the mainstay of the Ventura College baseball team this season.
Ventura pitchers compiled a 2.79 earned-run average to lead Western State Conference teams and won 29 games to post the best record in school history.
Yet not even the Pirates' strong arms--led by WSC Pitcher of the Year Dean McMillin--could stop Cerritos College. The Falcons collected 11 hits off six Ventura pitchers Saturday to defeat the Pirates, 13-0, and eliminate Ventura from the Southern California regional of the state junior college baseball tournament.
Cerritos came out of the loser's bracket to sweep two games from Long Beach on Sunday to advance to the state championships at Sacramento City College this weekend. Harbor also advanced after defeating Cypress, 2-1, in another regional final.
For Coach Gary Anglin, who used 11 pitchers in two games--both losses--the Pirates' early exit from the double-elimination tournament was a disappointing finish to an otherwise record-breaking season.
"I feel almost embarrassed of the way we performed down there," Anglin said. "Cerritos is a good team, well-disciplined and very well-coached. I think they have a really good chance of winning the state title."
Ventura dropped into the loser's bracket by losing to Mt. San Jacinto, 6-4, in its tournament opener.
Against the Eagles, Ventura rallied for three runs in the seventh inning to tie the score going into the ninth. Mt. San Jacinto scored the go-ahead run on David Eggert's balk with two out in the ninth, then added three more runs for insurance to seal the win.
Anglin, who used five pitchers against Mt. San Jacinto on Friday, said that he was trying not to overwork his staff in the opener.
"I didn't want to blow them out in the first game," Anglin said.
Cerritos chased starter Shane Espitia in the second inning of Saturday's game and held the Pirates to only two hits in the lopsided win.
"They took us out of the game right away and when we get down, we're just not that competitive," Anglin said.
Anglin said that the Pirate pitchers suffered from a two-week layoff coming into the regional finals.
Said Anglin: "Without making excuses, I can attribute part of our problems to the layoff. The layoff did not allow the pitchers to stay in the groove that they had been in all year. Our intensity level was not very good."
Espitia, the only sophomore on the staff, agreed.
"Nobody was really on," Espitia said. "It bothered me to have to come back the second day after pitching the first day."
Sophomore Brent Cookson, who hit .401 to lead Ventura, said that he was disappointed in the Pirates' performance last weekend.
"We just did not get the pitching or hitting that we have had all year," Cookson said. "It's too bad that our season ended that way because we played terrible."
Despite Ventura's early exit from the tournament, the Pirates had the best season in school history. Ventura tied College of the Canyons for its first WSC title in 15 years and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 1974 by winning the conference playoffs.
Anglin, who has been at Ventura for 12 years, was named WSC Coach of the Year for his efforts.
"We had the best talent in Ventura County and tied for the conference championship with Canyons," Anglin said. "We then go down to the Southern California finals and have a hard time competing. Part of that was because of our inexperience."
Fortunately for Anglin, who started the season with just two returning starters--Cookson and Chris Ames--Ventura will have most its team back next year.