Lakewood Beats Blue-Chip Stock to Win CIF Championship
Lakewood High School, my alma mater, beat Agoura in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division I championship, 2-1, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on a warm Saturday evening to capture its fifth CIF title since the school was founded in 1957. Agoura, the #1 ranked team in the country when the season began, featured Robert Stock, Baseball America's 2005 Youth Player of the Year.
Keith Chipman (13-1, 1.07) was the winning pitcher while Stock (5-3, 2.70) was saddled with the loss. The latter threw six scoreless innings and then gave up the decisive runs in the bottom of the seventh as David Ross laced a groundball double that skipped over first base to score the tying and winning runs. Stock (.456/.588/.756), a catcher by trade, led off for the Chargers and went 3-for-3 with three hard-hit singles and an intentional walk. He has a great stroke at the plate and a strong arm.
I sat behind the Chipman family by coincidence, just to the left of home plate and a few aisles over from Bret Saberhagen, the two-time Cy Young Award winner and currently the head coach at Calabasas High School (which plays in the Marmonte League with Agoura). A 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior, Chipman throws strikes and keeps hitters off balance with a good, looping curveball. Stock, on the other hand, has a fastball that has reportedly touched the mid-90s on the radar gun. He appeared to be throwing around 90-mph to the naked eye along with a curve and an outstanding changeup, especially for a kid who wasn't old enough to get a driver's license until last November.
A junior, Stock was also Baseball America's best 13-year-old in 2003, best 14-year-old in 2004, and last year's best 15-year-old. He follows Delmon Young, Nick Adenhart, and Cameron Maybin as BA's Youth Player of the Year and is the first underclassman to earn this honor. Two summers ago, Stock became the youngest player ever to make Team USA's national team. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Stock is a special talent who would be among the top draft choices on Tuesday if he was eligible.
Lakewood's victory may have been sealed earlier that evening when Damion Easley, the star of the 1987 LHS team that won the school's last CIF championship, hit three home runs for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I mean, that's gotta be The Omen when a former player by that first name goes yard three times and drives in a career-high seven runs on the very same day!
Speaking of old (so to speak) Lancers, my brother Tom was the winning pitcher in the very same game 36 years ago when Lakewood defeated Ventura High School at Anaheim Stadium. George Brett played shortstop and Scott McGregor was the starting pitcher for El Segundo High School in the preliminary game that night. Tom was first team All-CIF with a 10-0 record and an ERA of 1.53. For perspective, Fred Lynn (El Monte High School) was on the second team.
Tom picked off the tying run at second base in a timing play with his second baseman, Kim Hannaford, who went on to play at Stanford University. Four years earlier, Tom and Kim were two of the star players on the Lakewood Pony League All-Star team that went to the World Series in Ralston, Nebraska. Interestingly, this year's Lakewood team had only two seniors among its starters. The rest of the lineup was comprised of a junior class that won the Pony League World Series three years earlier and a sophomore who led off the last inning with a double down the left-field line.
Lakewood has produced over 50 professional baseball players and 12 major leaguers, including Larry Casian, Floyd Chiffer, Easley, Bruce Ellingsen, Mike Fitzgerald, John Flannery, Rod Gaspar, Chris Gomez, Craig Grebeck, Dave Marshall, Tony Muser, and Jim Strickland. The school has had only three baseball coaches--Artie Boyd, John Herbold, and Spud O'Neil--in the last 45 years. O'Neil has a career record of 569-205 and has won 14 Moore League titles and two CIF championships.
Mike Ruddell of the Class of 1969 sat one aisle over from my brother behind the Lakewood dugout on the third-base side. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 4th round (84th overall) of the 1969 amateur draft in June and pitched two no-hitters in the same minor-league season. Mike and Don Gullett were teammates on the Sioux Falls Packers in the Northern League (Single-A). His Dad was my Colt League All-Star coach in 1970.
Russ McQueen, who like Tom was Ruddell's teammate in 1969 and an All-CIF selection in 1970, won four College World Series titles as a pitcher for the USC Trojans from 1971-74. McQueen was the CWS MVP in 1972 and was selected on the All-Decade team for the 1970s. He was drafted by the California Angels in the 14th round in June 1974.
Clint Myers, who played third base on the 1970 Lakewood team, is the Head Softball Coach at Arizona State University. His Sun Devils were eliminated from the College World Series about an hour before the first pitch of the 2006 CIF game was thrown. Myers played his college ball at ASU and was a member of the CWS runner-up in 1972 and 1973 before being drafted in the third round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973.
Clint's oldest son, Casey, also played and starred for the Sun Devils, winning the Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year honors in 2000 and 2001. He played five years in the Oakland A's minor league system. Clint's youngest son, Corey (Desert Vista HS in Phoenix), was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 1999 amateur draft. He has played in the minors for eight seasons, including the Salt Lake Bees in 2006.
Lakewood High School has had a history of great baseball teams and players. This year's squad has just perpetuated that tradition and should be one of the favorites to win its sixth CIF championship next season when all but two starters return to defend their title.