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Thousand Oaks Caps Comeback Season

June 08, 2003|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

Chad Lundahl taped the piece of paper to the inside of his locker, going against the conventional wisdom of 41 years of history and, more recently, a 10-14 record last season.

Turns out he knew what he was doing.

Lundahl, a senior shortstop for Thousand Oaks High, wrote a note to himself on the first day of school, predicting the Lancers would win the Southern Section Division II baseball championship.

Nine months later, the Lancers complied, defeating Anaheim Canyon, 7-3, Saturday at Edison Field to earn the school's first baseball title.

Lundahl was a big part of it, stroking a two-run double in the decisive six-run fourth inning and proving his prognostication.

"I wish I could predict other stuff like that," Lundahl said. "I knew before the first day of practice we were going to be here. I had that much faith in our pitching staff and our players and our chemistry."

That belief might have wavered at points during the season. The Lancers started Marmonte League play with a 1-2 record, but there was no arguing Thousand Oaks' success after Saturday.

The Lancers (25-6) didn't take the easy way to the title, defeating four consecutive league champions -- Temecula Valley, Arroyo Grande, Valencia and Canyon -- among their five playoff victories.

Along the way, Thousand Oaks beat back a ho-hum past that had never included an appearance in the championship game, much less the semifinals, until this season.

The Lancers were helped by Canyon's uncharacteristically poor defensive play -- four errors in the game, three in the decisive fourth inning.

"Coming into the game, we had 37 errors in 30 games. To make three in one inning is disheartening," Canyon Coach Joe Hoggatt said. "We had a three-run lead and our ace on the hill. I thought we were in control."

Canyon (25-6) scored in the third inning on Justin McClure's two-run double and took a 3-0 lead in the fourth when Matt Morris scored on Ryan Thompson's squeeze bunt.

Then came the bottom of the fourth. Vinnie Pestano (10-3) committed two errors and first baseman Matt Morris also had an error in the inning. All told, Thousand Oaks scored six runs in the inning -- five unearned -- with four hits, including Lundahl's two-run double that gave the Lancers a 5-3 lead.

"All year, we were down by two, down by three," said Rod Stillwell, in his second season as the Lancers' coach. "But it was never over for us until the last out."

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