The Lady Broncos will launch their Coast Valley League softball season at home March 30 against Coastal Christian. But prior to the CVL play, Coast Union will play some very tough early games — against much bigger schools.
This is the pattern year after year: Coast is obliged to go up against teams that are stronger, simply because the Lady Broncos need to get game experience and there are only so many small schools to match up with Coast Union.
In fact, the only smaller schools in this region of California are in the CVL, and they, too, struggle in early season play against tougher teams from larger schools.
For example, in Coast’s game (March 2) against Nipomo High School — a school with more than 1,000 students and an athletic powerhouse in Los Padres League — Coast Union lost 31-2. The two runs were scored by junior Zoey Markham, who got one of the two hits for Coast (the other hit was by freshman Angelique Gutierrez).
On the road against the King City Mustangs (March 3), Coast was blown out in the first inning when the Mustangs tallied a dozen runs. The final score was 23-0, and Coast’s only hit came off the bat of sophomore Riley Volz.
New head coach Steve Kniffen is philosophical about the lopsided losses his players have struggled through. Fittingly, he noted that children of refugees trying to stay alive in Aleppo, Syria, would “have loved to have lost 25-0. Playing and losing is just a dream to them.” So his players need to have a perspective on how fortunate they are to be living and playing a game with no lethal airstrikes and bombs going off, here in Cambria.
As to skills the players need to work on, Kniffen said, “All of them,” and that means hitting the ball, bunting the ball, fielding grounders and fly balls, and understanding where to throw the ball after fielding it. Some of his players are pretty raw, but the coach said it is a positive thing that his team is largely “unaffected” by the severity of the losses.
Every day Kniffen teaches patience to his team, based in part on a quote from the musical group Blues Traveler: “The next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing.”
On Tuesday, March 7, the softball team traveled to Santa Maria to play the Saints, and again the Lady Broncos were tested by a more experienced team from a bigger school.
We are unaffected. We will show up Wednesday, put in the work, and let the chips fall where they may.
Steve Kniffen, Coast Union softball coach
Coast Union was shut out 19-0, as the team’s pitching, hitting, and defense are still works in progress. One hole that the Lady Broncos are finding difficult to fill is that one left when gifted pitcher Ellie Magnuson graduated (she is now at Oregon State University).
Magnuson was MVP of the Lady Broncos in 2016; she was also MVP of the Coast Valley League and was named to the All-SLO County first team.
After the loss at Santa Maria, Coach Kniffen said, “We are unaffected. We will show up Wednesday, put in the work, and let the chips fall where they may.”
The next home softball game is set for Thursday, March 9, against Morro Bay, at 3:30 p.m.
The Coast Union boys tennis squad traveled to Morro Bay on Thursday, March 2, and came up on the short end of a 13-5 score.
The Broncos were once again led by the doubles team of Paul Butterfield and Eric Hollingsead. Butterfield and Hollingsead — as they did against Santa Maria on Feb. 23 — played brilliantly in winning all three sets, 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.
“Paul and Eric are really playing well,” coach Tom Coxwell said. “Their court movement and anticipation of each other’s moves is outstanding.”
The doubles team of Trent Ferguson and Dillyn Barbosa lost all three of their sets, but the team of Jonah Tamoria and Axel Mendez (0-6, 6-0, 3-6) scratched out a win in one set out of three for Coast. Of the three singles players, Jesse Hauser and Gio Espinoza struggled, but David Nolan had a win in his three sets (3-6, 6-0, 0-6).
Coxwell said that Espinoza had never played tennis before this season, and “he is making amazing progress and handling the pressure of being the No. 2 singles player very well.”
On March 3 at Santa Maria, the Broncos fell 11-7, but again, Butterfield and Hollingsead did not lose a set (6-2, 6-0, 6-0). Doubles partners Ferguson and Barbosa won two of three sets (2-6, 6-2, 6-1), and the team of Tamoria and Tyler Seng carved out two wins (2-6, 6-4, 6-0).
The singles players were not as successful as the doubles teams at Santa Maria, and Coxwell said there is “a lot of work still to do, and these boys are not afraid of working hard. The outline for the next two weeks is to preserve our serves.”
The tennis team hosts Dunn School at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 21.