Notwithstanding that in the first two games of the season — against big schools — the Lady Broncos softball team was shut out (3-0 by Templeton and 17-0 by Nipomo, including a 13-run third inning), assistant coach Toby Cinque sees a difference in the 2014 team.
“The team is listening to instruction and improving every day,” Cinque reported. “They seem to be playing with more heart than last year. We are going to see if we can mold that into a winning season.”
Sophomore Ellie Magnuson added, “We had more talent last year, but we have girls that are willing to learn, who are willing to be out there after school trying their best.”
Two starting varsity players from last year chose not to come out this year, but even though the team was humbled by Nipomo, Magnuson is philosophical. “Everyone has their bad days and this is just one day when we weren’t working together.
“You can’t get down and you can’t let your teammates get down and that’s what happened in Nipomo. We have learned from that game. One of my goals is not to expect anything. I know when it’s going to be a tough team. Whether it is Maricopa or a big school, we always need to go in thinking we’re going to play our best,” she emphasized.
Magnuson started pitching in the seventh grade, and at first she was a little shy about being out on the mound with everyone watching her. “I had a little glimmer of hope that I could keep doing it and over the years I’ve got what they call ‘quiet confidence.’ I have confidence in myself; I prove to myself I can do it.”
Her best pitch today is her curveball, but her fastball is also very effective (she struck out seven batters against Templeton). “It is very important to have a good change-up,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. But she and her pitching coach, Bill Hobbs, are working on using different speeds for change-ups.
“It’s pretty intense, but we are working on changing speeds in 5-mile-per-hour increments — always trying to keep the batter off-balance.”
How does Magnuson compare her skill on the mound this year compared with her freshman year? “There’s a big difference. I’ve become more mentally strong. I push myself more mentally. I’m thinking more all the time. Also, I have joined a new club team, the Salinas Storm.
“So my level of play is rising and my confidence is also rising. When your mental is stronger your play is stronger as well,” she added.
The level of commitment that her parents, Kate and Mike Magnuson, show to their daughter is very impressive, as her parents trade off taking Ellie up to Salinas (166 miles, a 3-hour drive) for her games, from the end of high school season through August.
“I am really lucky,” to have parents so willing to transport her, Ellie said. “They are always making sure it is what I want to do. And what I want to do is push myself every day.”
Magnuson’s role models are university softball pitching stars Jackie Traina (University of Alabama) and Keilain Ricketts (University of Oklahoma). No doubt, while watching those university players compete in the College World Series of Softball on ESPN, Magnuson learns from what she sees as she continues to dream of — and work toward — playing at that level one day.
But for now, she’s putting all of her intensity and skill into being part of a competitive Coast Union softball team. The next home game for Coast Union is at 3:30 p.m. March 27 vs. Valley Christian.
On Tuesday, March 11, Magunson pitched a two-hitter to beat visiting Mission Prep 13-0; Cristina Plasencia knocked in four runs and Patti Bucio drove in three for the 1-2 Lady Broncos.
Email John FitzRandolph at email@example.com.