NEW SIMI BASEBALL COACH WORKS ON BRINGING OWN STYLE TO TEAM.
When Tom D'Errico took over the Simi Valley High School baseball program in May, one of the first things he said was that he "was no Mike Scyphers," the man he was replacing.
Scyphers, of course, was a fixture at Simi Valley, having led the Pioneers to spectacular heights during his 17-year tenure.
D'Errico, the school's softball coach the past four years, was cognizant of the fact that nobody could just step in and replace such a figure.
So instead of trying to be like Mike, so to speak, D'Errico went about the business of being himself.
It's early yet, but the transition seems to be working. The Pioneers, despite their youth and inexperience, are off to a respectable 1-0-1 start, having tied Burroughs and defeated Mira Costa in the Westside Tournament. Along the way, D'Errico has won support from his players.
"It seems like a more laid-back atmosphere, which is nice," said senior pitcher Billy Castonguay, one of the few returning players. "It's a different type of coaching. We still work just as hard as we did under coach Scyphers, but we just go about it a little differently."
One of the changes D'Errico has made is allowing his players more responsibility in making calls on the field. He wants his catcher to make pitch selections, and he has given four speedsters on the team the green light to run the base paths as they see fit.
"It's a bright group of kids," D'Errico said. "I want to give them as much autonomy as possible."
D'Errico's biggest concern coming into the season was inexperience in the pitching ranks. Castonguay was the only starter back, and the rest of the staff was made up of newcomers.
Interestingly, that may turn out to be a strength. In two games, the Pioneers have gotten strong performances from their starting pitchers. Castonguay, the ace of the staff, has yet to take the mound while still getting in shape after playing soccer this year.
Against Burroughs, sophomore Scott Vermette was outstanding. Had it not been for one bad inning in which the Pioneers couldn't make the plays defensively while surrendering three runs, the talented 10th-grader probably would have gotten the win.
"We were sailing along until that one inning," D'Errico said. "But it was a comedy of errors at that point. We just threw the ball around. But that will happen to anybody. It's early. We'll get that worked out."
A day later, Simi Valley got a big lift from Al Broyles, who threw a four-hit shutout against Mira Costa.
"He pitched an excellent game," D'Errico said.
The two performances give D'Errico some hope that his pitching staff can become a force. Castonguay is expected to make his debut sometime in the next week. With his return, coupled with Broyles, Vermette and the return of Chris Barbattini (just cleared to throw after recovering from a stress fracture in his right elbow), it looks like the Pioneers' staff is shaping up.
"It looks like we'll have four real competitive guys," D'Errico said. "I don't know how overpowering they'll be. But they'll definitely keep us in games."
Offensively, the Pioneers have gotten a big boost from catcher Brett Scott, a junior who has showed some pop in his bat. In just two games, Scott has smashed three home runs.
According to D'Errico, Scott is known as an outstanding defensive catcher. The offensive output has been unexpected.
"It's been a pleasant surprise," D'Errico said. "Here he is up from the JV team, and he's already hit three home runs. He definitely has some sock."
Another junior opening some eyes is John Whipp, who is playing third base and playing it well, according to D'Errico. Whipp made a smashing debut on the varsity level by hitting a home run on the first pitch in his first at-bat.
D'Errico, who likes to be aggressive and put runners in motion to create scoring opportunities, has a quartet of fleet-footed athletes whom he expects to create havoc along the base paths. The four players - Robert Comeau, Robert Gonzalez, Broyles and Scott - will all have the green light when they reach base.
"I might put the brakes on them from time to time, but for the most part they'll be on their own," D'Errico said.
That speed also will be useful in the outfield, where Gonzalez is slated to play center field and Comeau right field.
The other outfielder is David Krewson.
"He's an excellent left fielder," D'Errico said.
Sophomore Brandon Voorhees is the first baseman, while John Henley and Danny Adair will be at shortstop and second base, respectively.
Henley and Adair are close friends, according to D'Errico.
"They're the same height, weight and shape," D'Errico said. "They're like Siamese twins. They go everywhere together."
Should the Pioneers' pitching stay consistent, D'Errico feels his club can contend for a playoff spot in the competitive Marmonte League.
"With our offense and defense, we should be in games," he said. "If our pitching holds up, we'll make some noise."
Castonguay, the ace of the staff, is ready to lead the way.
"There's a little pressure being the only guy back," he said. "But that just makes me want to work even harder."
He was impressed with the performances turned in by Broyles and Vermette.
"It definitely helps out, because I know all the pressure won't be on my shoulders. Those guys showed they can step up, and we'll need help from everybody this year."
Photo (1--ran in SIMI edition only) Billy Castonguay Like laid-back atmosphere (2--ran in SIMI edition only) Robert Comeau Has green light on bases
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 7, 1996|
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