Whether Drew Sandler was on the mound or behind the plate Wednesday, the Simi Valley baseball team seemed to make all the right moves against Newbury Park.
As for Sandler's pickoff move, it might still need a little polishing.
Despite a pair of errant throws to first in the second inning that contributed to three Newbury Park runs, Sandler didn't have any trouble with his right arm pitching or catching, throwing 6-plus innings before moving behind the plate after being relieved by Jonathan Meyer in the seventh in the Pioneers' 5-3 Marmonte League victory.
"It helps going from catcher to pitcher because I'm supposed to calm the pitcher down. But I'm confident in (Chris Talley). He helps me out, too," Sandler said. "I gave my `B' (pickoff) move instead of my `A' move and I short-armed (the throws) a little and the ball got away. But we got the win and that's all that matters."
In one of the most competitive leagues in Southern California, Simi Valley (19-7, 10-2) once again managed to do the little things necessary to come out on top, extending its league winning streak to seven in a row and securing at least a share of a second straight championship.
After Sandler surrendered a leadoff double to Daniel Cohen in the seventh, Pioneers coach Matt La Belle wasted no time in replacing Sandler with Meyer, who started at shortstop. The switch resulted in Sandler moving behind the plate, Chris Talley from catcher to right field and Brandon Greiger taking over at shortstop.
Although La Belle chose to intentionally walk Newbury Park's career hit leader Jack Marder to bring the winning run to the plate in Nick Lovullo, Meyer induced a ground out to Greiger at shortstop for the final out.
"I could've looked pretty dumb making 40 changes like that, but the whole thing with us is `team.' They're willing to do what it takes and they do it well," La Belle said. "My coaches were yelling at me for putting Marder on base, but I was going to take my chances against anybody else but him. He's probably the best hitter in the state."
Sandler benefited from first-inning triples from Cole Acheronti and Meyer, along with a run-scoring groundout from Talley and an RBI single by Denny Vigo, which gave the Pioneers a 3-0 lead.
Taylor Zander's two-run single, followed by Sandler's errant pickoff throw helped Newbury Park (18-9, 6-6) rebound to tie the score 3-3 the next inning.
But an RBI single by Acheronti in the fifth and a run-scoring fielder's choice by Denny Vigo in the sixth against Newbury Park's Jordan Brower wound up being the difference for Simi Valley.
"We've had a lot of close games, but they know how to win and we're a young team and we didn't get it done," Panthers coach Chuck Barrington said. "Our pitchers have gone out there and done an excellent job, but if we don't catch the ball, it doesn't matter. You get to this part of the year, it's do or die and our inexperience is showing. We're like Jekyll and Hyde out there."