Once in awhile a struggling high school baseball team on a losing streak suddenly captures lightning in a bottle, communes with Nirvana, and turns the dark clouds of adversity into the glow of a magical, inspirational victory.
On Friday April 2, the last school day before spring break, Coast Union’s baseball team hosted Laton High School hoping to break the spell Laton’s hard-throwing pitcher had cast on them exactly one week earlier by striking out 16 Broncos.
Prior to the game, assistant coach Steve Kniffen shook his head and told a reporter that the game might get ugly given that two of Coast Union’s best players, Jake Machado and Jaime Torres were absent.
Moreover, Kniffen pointed out, that same flame-throwing pitcher would be on the mound for the visiting Mustangs, and the Broncos were sending Andy Gordon to the mound, a solidly built six-foot sophomore basketball star who had never pitched at the high school level before.
But there was nothing about Gordon’s performance that reflected inexperience. Quite the contrary –Gordon pitched like a seasoned senior, turning in a gutsy, complete-game performance that raised eyebrows and raised the Coast Union record to 3- 6. The right-hander struck out 6, walked 8 and gave up only 3 hits.
While Gordon fired fastballs, changed
speeds and most importantly threw strikes when he needed them the Bronco hitters took advantage of opportunities, manufactured key hits, played decent defense and showed some smart base running.
“That game was the essence of baseball,” Kniffen remarked. Head coach Brian Machado said Gordon’s performance was “all you can ask for. I told the team, if you can’t hit it, bunt it and force the defense to come up with plays,” which is what the Broncos did.
First baseman Alex Wolf, who recently received raves for his role as the lead in the Coast Union production of “Seussical the Musical,” hit a couple towering fly balls just foul down the right field line in his first at bats. But in the 6th inning Wolf got a hold of another one and this time smoked it deep into right center field to drive in a pivotal run.
The lanky junior was thrown out trying to turn his double into a triple, but the Bronco coaching staff didn’t blink an eye. “Alex knew he wasn’t going to make it but the love of the game spurred him on,” Kniffen remarked after the game. “I love it when players are ag-
gressive,” Kniffen added.
Other players who turned in key performances included Harper Resewehr (alert baserunning), Dylan Vialpando (clutch catches in right field), Matt Sanford (solid behind the plate), and Garrett Le Millere (smart outfield play).
“This team just needs more game experience in pressure situations,” Machado explained. “Andy got the ground balls and we caught the fly balls,” Machado went on. And if the pitchers can avoid walks and hit batsmen, “we feel we can compete and play good baseball –and that’s all you can ask of the team,” Machado concluded.
The next Bronco home game is Saturday, April 10. Coast Union entertains Washington Union in a doubleheader beginning at 11:00 a.m. The first game will be broadcast live on KTEAFM (103.5); it also streams on www.kteafm.com.