By John FitzRandolph
No one in the wind-chilled stands at Coast Union realistically expected the Broncos to match up ideally against St. Joseph High School last Thursday, March 6. The Knights, after all, play in the Pac 7 (Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, et al.), but early games like this one, an 8-0 loss, give head coach Brian Machado a chance to get his players limbered up and ready for the Coast Valley League, which begins March 25 against Maricopa.
Coast managed just two base runners — Lane Sutherland and Grant Magnuson collected singles — but purist baseball fans in the frosty stands were treated to some stellar defense by the Knights’ infielders. One dazzling play after another certainly demonstrated to those in attendance how this game should be played.
The Broncos also played solid defense , committing just one error and chasing down towering fly balls that were challenging to catch due to the high winds roaring in from center field.
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Meantime, the brightest moment for Coast Union was the pitching performance of junior Jake McAvoy, who turned in two scoreless innings — on his 17th birthday. With his parents rooting him on from the top row of the bleachers, McAvoy gave up a walk and no hits to close out the game.
Junior Gehrig Kniffen went four innings, gave up eight hits and six runs; senior Quinten Raethke got in one inning of work and gave up two runs on two hits.
Asked for his comments on the game, Machado said, “What I didn’t like was the first inning,” when the St. Joseph pitcher threw just four pitches to get three outs. “That’s one pitch over the limit of a perfect inning. For me, that sets the tone for the pitcher on the other side.”
Coaches always want hitters to see as many pitches as possible, and not make a habit of swinging at the first offering. Machado compared that very brief Bronco first inning with the first inning at Mission Prep the week before.
“We got down to the sixth or seventh hitter at Mission. I like that. That’s good. Our leadoff hitter down there worked six or seven pitches — and that’s perfect.
“It’s all psychological stuff. But I’ve been telling my leadoff hitter, ‘If you swing at the first pitch and make an out, we haven’t seen anything yet.’ We need to slow down the game in that first inning.”
Machado did complement his defense, which committed just one error, and he had positive words for McAvoy. “He was around the plate and he got several pop-ups. I tell the pitchers, don’t be afraid to throw strikes, they’re not going to hit it out of the park with that wind coming in.”
Today, March 13, the Broncos entertain Nipomo High School, “the last big school we face,” Machado said. The game is at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on KTEA-FM (103.5) and streams on www.ktea-fm.com.
Saturday, March 15, the Broncos host Kings Christian in a noon game, which will also be broadcast on KTEA-FM.