The odds were stacked against the Coast Union softball team in the first round of the CIF playoffs Thursday, May 18. After winning the Coast Valley League (8-0), the Lady Broncos were entitled to a home playoff game at Scott Rock Park, and they got that game.
But in a scheduling quirk, that May 18 playoff was against a Los Padres League team – from a school with 1,000 students – the Santa Ynez Lady Pirates. And when all was said and done – for the game and the season – Coast was humbled, 13-0, in five innings.
In a phone interview, Coach Steve Kniffen said Santa Ynez was a “scrappy, well-coached team.” And the Lady Pirates’ pitcher, Amani Garcia, a freshman, while not “overpowering,” was “a good pitcher.” Garcia struck out eight with no walks in four innings.
Ani Corbet and Serena Valenzuela shared pitching duties for Coast Union, and while the Lady Pirates only scored one run in the first two innings, they tallied six in the third, four in the fourth, and two in the fifth, to beat Coast Union.
Kniffen said that looking at the big picture for the season, his team did as well as could be expected because he only had 10 players on the roster.
“The biggest accomplishment of the coaching staff was that we taught a group of 10 girls the work lesson. When you have a job you don’t necessarily get to work with your best friends, but you have to get along with people.
“I think we accomplished that with this team.” He also said he was pleased that several of his players who did not know the game well when they came out, now have a sense of how the game is supposed to be played.
Several of his players were not able to attend every practice because “over half of the team was raising animals in FFA, and that takes a lot of their time.”
The students are “pulled so many ways” with field trips and other activities at the end of the school year, “that really makes us suffer,” Kniffen explained. He added that those FFA and other activities don’t happen during football and basketball seasons, but when it comes to baseball and softball seasons, student athletes have numerous competing pursuits that coaches have to deal with.
That’s not an excuse he’s offering, it’s the reality that spring sports coaches have to deal with. The good news for Kniffen and his coaching staff is that there were no seniors on the team, so most if not all of the players will be eligible to return in 2018.
Meantime, looking back on the softball season, junior Ani Corbet led all players in 2017 with a .511 batting average. Ailyn Casas hit .462; Serena Valenzuela hit .431; Riley Volz had a .361 average and Zoe Markham finished with a .354 average for Coast.