For once this spring the Coast Union High School baseball field was not blasted by brutally strong and frosty winds on Friday, May 23. However, some wind was momentarily taken out of the Broncos sails in the third inning of their CIF Division 7 opening round playoff game against New Roads High School Cougars.
With Bronco runners on first and second, a ground ball was hit to the Cougars’ third baseman, who tried — but missed — tagging Jake McAvoy as he dashed to third. As a result of the third baseman’s subsequent errant throw, two runs scored.
But wait! The Cougar head coach protested that McAvoy had run out of the base path while avoiding the tag, and after a lengthy conference between the three umpires, McAvoy was ruled out and two runs were taken off the scoreboard — and there went some wind from Coast’s sails.
However, in the next inning, Coast Union scored seven runs and, thanks to the quality pitching by senior starter Grant Magnuson and excellent relief by junior McAvoy, who came in from playing third base in the fifth to relieve Magnuson, the Broncos went on to slam the door on the Cougars, 14-0. That earned Coast Union a second-round home game at 3:15 p.m Tuesday, May 27, against St. Monica Academy.
Five of the 14 Bronco runs scored were delivered by junior Tommy Moreno, who belted two booming triples and a single and continued his excellent play in center field. The three hits by Moreno raised his batting average from .265 to .302, and going into Tuesday’s second round playoff, he has knocked in 14 runs and scored a dozen.
Right fielder Sergio Mendoza collected two hits (the Broncos amassed 13), scored two runs and knocked in a run. The senior raised his batting average from .282 to .302 and made important defensive plays as well.
Senior first baseman Tommy Howard had a pair of hits, scored two runs and drove in a run. Howard has only committed one error all season and is hitting .482. Sophomore catcher Lane Sutherland continued his sterling defensive play behind the plate and scored a pair of runs against the Cougars.
Junior left fielder Gehrig Kniffen, who continues to lead the team in batting average (.545), scored a run, drove in a run, and made some plays on defense against New Roads.
Second baseman Quinten Raethke ripped a triple and a single, drove in two and scored two in the win over the Cougars. Raethke, a senior, leads the team with 30 runs driven in and he is hitting .469 coming into this week. Senior shortstop Emmany Godinez collected a pair of hits and stole his 25th and 26th bases to lead the team; he is hitting a sizzling .519.
Senior hurler Grant Magnuson picked up the win (he is 7-2 coming into this week with a stingy 1.71 ERA). Magnuson struck out six, walked two, and used only 62 pitches (Head Coach Brian Machado took him out in the fifth because Magnuson was developing a blister on his pitching hand).
On Monday, May 26, Machado was asked if the team he coaches today is about where he figured it would be — in terms of production and proficiency — when the season started in February. “I think so,” he answered over the phone. “They are getting better every game.”
As to the mound work of Magnuson, Machado remembers that four years ago, “Grant came to me as a freshman and said he had a pretty good fastball and he wanted to pitch. So I said, ‘Hey, let’s try it, what the heck!’” And the try out for Magnuson has led to the development of a high-quality pitcher who throws hard and has a good slider and curve ball.
Machado also praised the work of McAvoy, who surprised the coach with his emergence as a dependable starting pitcher in the Coast Valley League. Last season McAvoy only pitched briefly (had no decisions) and ended up with a 6.46 ERA; this season, coming into this week, the junior is 7-1 with a fine ERA of 2.73.
“He throws off-speed stuff, he keeps it outside the zone, and he’s not throwing it down the pipe where he could get smashed. He gets a lot of fly balls,” Machado explained, and with the quality of outfielders the Broncos have (Kniffen, Moreno, and Mendoza, left to right), and their ability to track down long drives, McAvoy’s pitching fits right in.
Tuesday's playoff game can be heard live on KTEA-FM 103.5 FM and streaming at www.ktea-fm.com.