Coast Union High’s baseball squad had a team batting average that hovered around .300 this season.
But in a CIF-Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinal playoff game Friday, the Broncos encountered a pitcher who figured them out.
The Broncos (15-8) lost 3-1 at home to Nuview Bridge (23-2), only managing three hits off Knights sophomore hurler Michael Hornet.
Coast Union freshman catcher, Lane Sutherland, a .308 hitter, went 2 for 2 with a walk, including an RBI single in the second inning for his team’s only run.
The Broncos stayed in the game as junior ace Grant Magnuson settled down after a wild first couple of innings.
Magnuson, who entered with a 2.21 earned run average, walked three batters and hit two as Nuview Bridge scored all of its runs in the first two innings.
“My fastball was off,” Magnuson said. “So, I started throwing my breaking stuff and that worked better (in the later innings).”
The Broncos still escaped with minimal damage in the first inning. A double-play grounder with the bases loaded to second baseman Quinten Raethke kept the game scoreless at the time.
Raethke, the team’s leading hitter with a .429 average coming in, threw home for a force out, and Sutherland then doubled off the Knights’ batter at first.
Then, after a Knights’ run on a hit batsman with the bases loaded, Magnuson got out of another bases-loaded jam later in the inning on a groundout.
The Broncos, who were 10-0 in the Coast Valley League, have only one senior in right fielder Alex Bautista, and figure to come back stronger next season.
“We got to play two of our three playoff games at home this year, and we’re happy to make it to the third round,” Coast Union coach Brian Machado said. “Our junior class was with me as freshmen, and it’s a really good group along with the other kids coming up. We’re excited for next year.”
Machado said the Broncos play a style of baseball akin to the small-ball philosophy of bunting with runners on and stealing.
The Coast Union coach said he’s only seen a couple of home runs at the Broncos’ field.
With the wind blowing in, the Broncos tried to utilize their specialty Friday. But against a good catcher in Nuview Bridge’s Arturo Rojas, their game plan went array.
Sutherland was thrown out twice attempting to steal — once with two outs while on second base in the second and again after a leadoff walk in the fifth.
Hornet also picked off Coast Union left fielder Gehrig Kniffen in the first inning after he hit a sharp line-drive single up the middle for the Broncos’ only other hit of the game besides Sutherland’s two hits.
“We play a different style of baseball,” Machado said. “But unfortunately, they have one of the best catcher’s we’ve seen.”
Raethke also had a sharp grounder up the middle in the bottom of the fourth that would have scored Kniffen from third had he not been thrown out on the basepaths.
But Knights shortstop Steve Ojeda made a diving stop and threw out Raethke, who was playing through a leg injury, Machado said. Raethke limped off the field at the end of the game.
Magnuson settled down in the later innings and induced another double play on a chopper to shortstop Emmany Godinez in the sixth, who turned it unassisted.
Sutherland, the only batter to square up Hornets’ pitches, said that he felt like his team’s season was an overall success.
After sitting out his team’s first five games while overcoming mononucleosis before settling into his season, Sutherland said he felt like he was in the groove Friday against the team from the San Bernardino area.
“I was seeing the ball really well today,” Sutherland said. “I just try to spread it out over the field…I think next season will be a lotta fun.”