Cambrian: Sports

Sophomores hold key for Coast Union baseball in 2018

Baseball coach Brian Machado keeps an eye on other Bronco baserunners from his third base position, while Auggie Johnson prepares to slide home.
Baseball coach Brian Machado keeps an eye on other Bronco baserunners from his third base position, while Auggie Johnson prepares to slide home.

Coast Union baseball coach Brian Machado, who also serves the community as U.S. postmaster for Cambria, has put his stamp on the program — in particular, the baseball facility — more than any other Coast sports program over the past nine years of his leadership.

In fairness, iconic Broncos coaches Pam Kenyon (volleyball) and Tim May (basketball) have provided flourishing leadership for their programs over many years, but their teams play in the gymnasium. Machado’s teams play on the baseball field, which was pretty Spartan when the coach took over in 2009.

Today, the ball field is immaculately tended – thanks to Machado’s personal efforts, which are consistently supported by the Coast Union grounds crew. Machado has made numerous improvements to the baseball facility. A few of Machado’s upgrades include:

▪  Installed windscreens around the outfield fence.

▪  Brought in tons of dirt to revitalize the infield; he rebuilt the pitcher’s mound and batter’s boxes.

▪  Removed the “Pepsi” logo from the scoreboard; the new scoreboard sign, “CU Home of the Broncos” is a banner created by Machado and wrapped around plywood.

▪  Designed the “CU” logo in 2010 and created the flag that flies below the U.S. flag in centerfield; used that “CU” logo on all Bronco uniforms and equipment.

▪  Supervised consistent watering program so the outfield grass grows thick and fielders have a better chance of making plays without wild ricochets.

▪  Purchased new batting cage nets with funds raised from his annual corn-on-the-cob sales at the big Fourth of July celebration in Cayucos and his sale of his home-grown personal-size pizzas at other Coast Union sporting events.

▪  Uses fundraising money to purchase bats, balls, and gloves for team use; and he designs new hats for team members annually.

2017 recap

In a sit-down interview Saturday, June 17, in a West Village emporium, Machado said he hopes through continuing development that the baseball program will become a “jewel of the campus,” along with varsity boys basketball and volleyball.

Next season, he will lose three seniors but he will have a crop of talented sophomores — Spencer Magnuson, Emany Plasencia, David Amodei and Nate Markham. He was asked to comment on the progress each of these four players made during their freshmen years.

“Spencer came in not knowing he would be catching, but we needed a catcher. He did a good job. He learned every day. Every game he would use what he learned in practice.” At the plate he improved and “hit some balls in the gap,” the coach said.

As for Plasencia, he played solid defense in the infield, and did well at the plate once Machado moved him down in the order.

“He’s a good number six hitter because he swings hard and makes contact,” Machado said. “Being a freshman playing against seniors” he had his challenges, but he showed grit and learned quickly.

“Emany’s the first freshman I’ve had (since Lane Sutherland) who could hit a ball in the gap almost to the outfield fence.” The coach also said Plasencia was the only freshman who knew how to slide correctly without any instruction.

David Amodei, who played right field, “exceeded all expectations. When there was a ball hit in his direction in the outfield, we knew it was going to be caught. He’s a natural out there. We’ll move him over to center field next year…” now that star center fielder Jack MacKinnon has graduated.

And Nate Markham, whom Machado called “a good kid and a good player who unfortunately didn’t get a lot of game experience,” has a “nice swing.” He is ticketed to play the outfield in 2018.

When it comes to correcting bad baseball habits, the coach said it’s easier to make adjustments on a player’s defense than correcting fundamentals at the plate. “My attitude is, you can have a funky swing and still hit it, and that’s the name of the game, right?”

An example of imperfect swings is Cameron Castle, a sophomore last season. “Cameron has a funky swing, but he hits the ball. He’s a work in progress. But I’d rather have a player with a bad swing who hits the crap out of the ball than a kid with a pretty swing who doesn’t hit the ball well,” Machado explained.

One of Machado’s goals for next season: not letting third strikes go by without swinging. His freshmen weren’t the only players caught looking at third strikes, and he wants all his players to protect the plate with two strikes.

Another specific goal is to improve base-running awareness. Too many times Broncos were caught off base or didn’t take the extra base when the opportunity presented itself.

“It’s an instinct thing,” the coach said. For example, a player hits a shot in the gap in left field, then rounds first base and stops. “They don’t think two bases — they only think one.”

Machado’s current goals include working on eliminating the gopher holes in the field; taking down the temporary banner and repainting the scoreboard; installing a flagpole for the CU flag; building a sliding gate down the left field line; and “cutting down on players striking out looking” instead of protecting the plate with two strikes.

CIF honors Coast trio

Three Bronco baseball players have been honored by the CIF Southern Section for their play during the 2017 season. Junior pitcher Chase Volz was named to the All-CIF Division 7 first team. Senior infielders Auggie Johnson and Thor Ronemus were named to the All-CIF Division 7 second team.

Volz was 5-2 on the mound with an impressive 1.78 ERA, and striking out 46 batters in 51 innings.

Johnson hit .359 in 17 games; Ronemus hit .356 and drove in 17 runs as the Broncos compiled a 12-8 record, won the Coast Valley League and advanced to the third round of the CIF playoffs.