The mere score itself reverberated around the country, piquing curiosity.
Coast Union and Cuyama Valley high schools battled back and forth in a 95-run softball game Tuesday.
After about four hours spanning the regulation seven innings, Cuyama Valley rallied from a 47-35 deficit going into the bottom of the seventh, scoring 13 runs to edge the visiting Broncos for a Coast Valley League win, 48-47.
The combined run total, an oddity of historic proportions, is believed to have broken the previous, 28-year-old national high school record of 94. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the old mark was set in Massachusetts in 1983, when East Machias Washington Academy drubbed Lubec 88-6.
“We didn’t find out until the next morning. It was shocking to know that,” Coast Union sophomore third baseman Gabby Bucio said. “But it was pretty cool, little Cambria making a national record.”
The game was briefly mentioned in the closing moments of a late edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and several big-name newspapers, including USA Today, ran an Associated Press write-up about the game.
Players and families on both sides have been taken aback by the scope of attention the game received.
“We come from a school of 240-something students,” Coast Union sophomore shortstop Morgan May said, “and to be on national TV and radio and stuff, I look at it as a positive thing.”
In New Cuyama, the team is talking about commemorating the record with sweatshirts and a banner to be hung in the school’s gym. Cuyama Valley’s enrollment is 71.
“The girls have been just walking on clouds,” Bears coach Mary Jo Harrington said. “It’s pretty much the most exciting thing they’ve come across all season.”
A game unlike any other
Cuyama Valley’s scorebook sprawled over to a second page for each team.
“I jokingly said to my assistant coach, ‘This has got to be some kind of record,’ ” Harrington said.
When Coast Union came back from a 34-22 deficit to go up 36-34 in the fifth inning, it set in that the game was something out of the ordinary, Bucio said.
May’s batting line is as indicative of the zaniness of the game as anything else, as she hit for the cycle and finished with 14 RBI.
“It was so intense,” May said. “The game was so long that we almost felt like, ‘OK, well, we have nothing to lose, so let’s just keep playing and give it our hardest effort.’ ”
Inning by inning, as home plate umpire Mike Stadnick verified the score with each team’s bookkeeper, it didn’t occur to him that the contest was on a record-setting pace. But he did eventually realize it was unlike any other he’d called in his six years on the job.
“I’ve played a lot of softball and coached a lot, and that was an exciting game,” Coast Union coach Rocky Fordyce said.
The finish, which came on a walked-in run, was a heartbreaker for the winless Broncos, who had their first victory of the season within grasp after a two-hour drive from the Central Coast.
Control issues in the circle marked the game for both teams, as the runs came on a combined 31 hits.
Stadnick didn’t entertain the notion of temporarily expanding the strike zone to move the game along, he said, explaining that doing so would have been cheating the game.
In the widely publicized aftermath, there were some ignorant, knee-jerk online reactions that were harsh, Broncos players said.
“A lot of people are seeing it as a negative thing,” May said, “but most of those people don’t understand what the circumstances are.”
The combined enrollment of the two schools is nearly 315. Neither has the luxury of a preseason tryout setup found in bigger schools such as those in the nearby PAC 7 or Los Padres leagues, where specialized résumés with club experience can become a prerequisite to being a starting pitcher.
Before the season, Fordyce said, a talented incoming junior unexpectedly didn’t come out for the team, which sent the Broncos back to the drawing board.
At that time, Ruby Martinez — Tuesday’s starter — volunteered to step in with hardly any pitching experience.
May, who came on in relief Tuesday, has been competitively pitching for less than two weeks altogether.
Playing for fun
An overlooked aspect of the game, Harrington said, is that each team played well into the evening with extremely limited depth.
Cuyama Valley fields a complete roster of nine, while all 13 Coast Union players got into the game. Harrington remembered her starter’s final pitch count at 346.
“We had no substitutes,” she said. “I think that’s a pretty big feat.”
By all accounts, even as the game became tighter down the stretch, both teams continued to exhibit good sportsmanship.
“The way I look at the game is, the girls seemed to enjoy the game and the competition,” Stadnick said. “And that’s basically what it’s about — participating and having fun.
“That’s what I tell teams — have fun,” he added. “That’s the way I see the game. It’s an opportunity to have fun. In a way, don’t worry about the score.”
Coast Union played another game the very next day, losing 29-18 to Maricopa. All of the Broncos’ players then showed up to practice Thursday, Fordyce said.
“I just think that the main thing is, they have character,” Fordyce said. “A lot of teams would’ve folded.”
Explained May: “You don’t have to come from a huge school with a lot of talented athletes and CIF record-holding, championship-winning teams to really love the sport and to keep playing it.
“We just care about having fun.”
COAST UNION VS. CUYAMA VALLEY BY THE NUMBERS
0Substitutes for Cuyama Valley, which had only nine players play the entiregame, which lasted nearly 4 hours