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The Los Angeles Times 1997 ALL-VENTURA Baseball Team
| PITCHER OF THE YEAR

Rainer Reaping Royalties

June 18, 1997|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — Competitor that he is, Royal High's Matt Rainer dwells not on the success he experienced this baseball season but on its imperfections.

A senior right-hander and The Times' Ventura County pitcher of the year, Rainer was 8-3 with a 2.68 earned-run average and helped the Highlanders advance to the Southern Section Division I quarterfinals.

Rainer lost to only two teams, Crespi twice and cross-town rival Simi Valley. But those setbacks gnaw at him and will be motivation for an intense summer conditioning program in preparation for college ball.

"I'll remember that Simi Valley game the rest of my life," Rainer said of a blowout loss to the Pioneers that cost Royal the Marmonte League title on the last day of the regular season. "But our playoff run made a statement as to what kind of team we really were."

Royal Coach Dan Maye said Rainer, who batted .418, turns his attitude into an asset.

"His not being satisfied is an attribute," Maye said. "It shows he doesn't take the game lightly."

Opposing coaches were impressed with Rainer's intensity.

"When you look at Royal you see guys like Rainer . . . who have prepared mentally and physically to win," Thousand Oaks Coach Bill Sizemore said. "You can tell the guys that love to play the game and he's one of them."

Rainer, 6 feet 6 and 194 pounds, has the size to be an intimidator, but that's not his style.

"I don't really try to be intimidating, I just try to hit my spots and get groundballs and let the defense work," said Rainer, who induced more than 10 groundouts per start. "I see my job as keeping the team close and letting them win the game with the bats."

After helping Royal to a Southern Section soccer title, Rainer reported to baseball late and struggled early in the season. Lacking the velocity he'd shown as a junior, he was forced to rely on location and changing speeds.

"He really grew in the mental area of being a pitcher," Maye said. "He enticed hitters into thinking they could hit a pitch and then shut them down."

Rainer has no plans to tone down his inner drive.

"I don't think competition will ever end in my life," Rainer said. "It's all I know."

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