In front of a huge crowd — including a sizable contingent that drove five hours from Nuevo, Calif., to root for their Nuview Bridge Knights — Coast Union couldn’t come up with the key hits or the pivotal defensive plays and lost their quarterfinal CIF-Southern Section Division 7 playoff game Friday, May 24, on their home field, 3-1.
The visiting Knights picked up seven hits off Bronco hurler Grant Magnuson while the Broncos could only muster three hits, but it wasn’t just the hits that killed Coast’s chances. It was the seven walks Magnuson issued, the three batters that were hit by his pitches and an unfortunate error in the first inning.
In fairness to the Bronco pitcher, the strategy embraced by the Knights was to crowd the plate extremely close, and hope to get hit by a pitch. The tactic worked, notwithstanding the fact that the umpire more than once instructed a Nuview Bridge hitter to back off the plate.
Still, it was a game many — including head coach Brian Machado — felt could have gone Coast Union’s way. “We should have beat them,” Machado commented in a phone interview Monday, May 27. “We were off. We can’t walk that many and hit that many and make an error putting guys on base.
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“We didn’t really play that badly but we didn’t get timely hits,” he added. Asked how disappointed he was at the loss, Machado said he has had trouble “getting over this. There’s no excuse for us losing. Yes we were just off that day, but if the series was two out of three we’d probably come back and beat them.”
The lone Coast Union run came on an RBI base hit by freshman Lane Sutherland in the second inning. Sutherland, who had two of the three Bronco hits, was aggressive on the base paths but he was thrown out trying to steal second in the in the fifth inning and was caught stealing third base in the second inning — both times with two outs.
Credit has to be given to the Knights’ catcher, Arturo Rojas, whose strong, accurate throws cancelled potential Coast rallies that Sutherland was trying to create.
That said, Sutherland was an important component of the Coast Union season, providing exceptional leadership behind the plate, using his rifle arm to throw out runners attempting to steal, and hitting a solid .333 for the season 13 RBIs.
The first inning — in which the Knights scored just one run — could have been a huge disaster, but Magnuson got out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation cheaply enough. With the bases loaded, Magnuson enticed a ground ball to second baseman Quinten Raethke, who threw home for the force out and Sutherland fired a strike to Tommy Howard at first base for the double play.
With the bases loaded again on a walk, Magnuson hit a batter that was crowding the plate, forcing in the only run in that first inning, albeit the Knights picked up two in the second and the Broncos could not catch up.
“Overall, it was a very good season and next year we’ll have most of these kids as seniors. We want to go one more round in the playoffs. We’re excited for next year.”
Returning as seniors in 2014 will be Bronco starters Emmany Godinez (who hit .348), Raethke (who led the team with a .407 average), Magnuson (who hit .355), Howard (who also hit .355), and Tommy Moreno (who struggled a bit, hitting .235).
Coast Union can’t possibly improve on its 2013 Coast Valley League record (10-0) next year, but when it comes to the CIF playoffs, the Broncos have a couple corners to come around if they hope to go deeper into the Division 7 tournament.