LOMPOC — Pitcher Cody Cipriano recorded the last out of Thousand Oaks' 11-7 victory over Woodland Hills in a first-round Little League sectional game Saturday and slapped hands with his smiling teammates.
Then the teams lined up for postgame congratulations and Cipriano slapped hands with his other teammates.
They weren't smiling.
Cipriano, a 12-year-old right-hander who allowed only one run in 4 1/3 innings of relief, lives in Agoura Hills, about equal distance from Woodland Hills and Thousand Oaks, the Little Leagues closest to his home.
He played for Woodland Hills three years ago, and even after switching to Thousand Oaks has remained teammates with several Woodland Hills players on the Valley Vipers club team coached by his father.
"It meant something extra," Cipriano said. "I know all those guys. We won an AAU national championship when we were 10."
Now the quest is for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., and no teams are hungrier than Thousand Oaks and Woodland Hills.
Thousand Oaks won the 13-year-old World Series in 1994 and the 15-year-old national championship last season, but watched its District 13 counterpart Moorpark make it to Williamsport last season.
Woodland Hills came agonizingly close to defeating eventual national champion Northridge in 1994 and believes it is fielding its best team ever.
However, two of its best players--Junior Garcia and Garrett Feig--were declared ineligible Friday after documents supplied by Encino Little League officials revealed neither player lives within the Woodland Hills boundaries.
An appeal to Williamsport by Woodland Hills administrators is pending.
Garcia and Feig, wearing street clothes and Woodland Hills jackets on a cold, damp morning, alternated horsing around and staring sullenly at the action on the field.
"I think I'm going to get to play," Garcia said. "I'm still hoping."
Cipriano's eligibility was a hot topic among Woodland Hills fans.
"It's not that we hope they go through everything we've gone through, but this isn't fair at all," said Mando Contreras, father of Woodland Hills shortstop Mando Jr.
Woodland Hills board members and coaches, however, said that they will not challenge Cipriano's eligibility.
"It's not going to happen," said Mike Dow, a longtime board member. "We need to do this on the field."
Any protest would be on shaky ground because both leagues claim Agoura Hills as within their boundaries.
Woodland Hills President Geri Szabo said the league has always recruited players to the Ventura County line, passing out registration fliers to schools throughout Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.
Thousand Oaks, which has two players who live in Agoura Hills and five who live in Westlake Village on its 14-player roster, believes its boundaries extend to Chesbro Road in Agoura Hills, a point halfway between Thousand Oaks and Woodland Hills.
Most players living in Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and Calabasas play in established PONY Baseball programs in those cities. A few, however, choose to play Little League.
"Two years ago when I became president, I wanted to make things crystal clear," Thousand Oaks President Tim Heyne said. "In terms of raw mileage I went to Chesbro Road, established that as our boundary and sent it to Little League for approval."
Carl Magee, Western Regional director, acknowledged the overlap and said that he has directed district administrators to sort it out after the season.
Meanwhile, he said, it is highly unlikely that a player living in the disputed area would be declared ineligible.
Cipriano replaced Jake Brin with two out in the bottom of the second inning with Woodland Hills holding a 6-4 lead.
Thousand Oaks scored three in the fourth and four in the fifth, with Jon Contos getting the key hits, a three-run home run and an RBI double.
Woodland Hills (5-1) will face Lompoc today at 3 p.m. in the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Thousand Oaks will play the winner of today's game between Santa Paula and Hanford on Monday at 5 p.m.
* INELIGIBILITY FALLOUT
The details surrounding Woodland Hills' two ineligible players. B1