Cambrian: Sports

Coast Union High softball wins 7th league title, but opts out of sectional playoffs

The Coast Union softball team won the Coast Valley League with a 7-0 record. 
The team, front row from left: Jamilex Rameriez, Angelique Gutierrez, Makayla Fordyce, Riley Volz, Julie Garcia, Arecely Milan, Lizette Mireles. Back row: Head coach Steve Kniffen, Phoebe Hauser, Brianne Ellis, Serina Valenzuela, Jasmin Pena, Iris Nunez, Ailyn Casas, Crystal Martinez, Melody Robertson and assistant coach Ed Ortiz.
The Coast Union softball team won the Coast Valley League with a 7-0 record. The team, front row from left: Jamilex Rameriez, Angelique Gutierrez, Makayla Fordyce, Riley Volz, Julie Garcia, Arecely Milan, Lizette Mireles. Back row: Head coach Steve Kniffen, Phoebe Hauser, Brianne Ellis, Serina Valenzuela, Jasmin Pena, Iris Nunez, Ailyn Casas, Crystal Martinez, Melody Robertson and assistant coach Ed Ortiz. Courtesy photo

Winning the Coast Valley League would normally mean an automatic berth to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and a first-round home game.

But that’s not the case this season — by choice of the team, which won its seventh straight championship.

The Broncos have opted out of participation in the postseason, which is scheduled to begin 16 days after Coast’s last game (played Tuesday, April 16, at Shandon).

“The girls are not entertained enough to want to practice for two weeks to get beat up by a team from Los Angeles in Division 6,” head coach Steve Kniffen said.

He refers to the mismatch that often plays out when Coast hosts the opening round and CIF sends a team from a far larger school with an advanced sports program.

Kniffen adds that by Coast turning down a playoff game — unprecedented in Coast Union’s recent softball history — “it might allow a competitive team that deserves a berth in the CIF to be admitted.”

Moreover, his players were “fine with the decision,” he said, and the school administration accepted the choice, as well.

“I was happier leaving the girls with a good experience (winning the CVL) rather than forcing two weeks of practice and a mauling on them,” he said.

Kniffen said his team (8-10 overall) made solid progress during the CVL schedule.

“Defensively, we just got better by playing games and experiencing situations where we could apply maximum effort,” he said, which occurred after losing their first eight games to non-league schools like Nipomo, Morro Bay, King City and Greenfield.

The team will have a “good core of returners” in 2020, he added, albeit he will miss senior Ailyn Casas, who hit at a .479 clip including a team-leading 30 RBI, five triples and five home runs. Other seniors soon to graduate include: Serena Valenzuela (.429, 13 RBI); Melody Robertson (.385, 13 RBI); and Crystal Martinez (.364, six RBI).

Kniffen hopes to see freshman Lizette Mireles return — she hit .433 on the season with 13 RBI — albeit she may opt to play club volleyball, the coach added. Overall, the coach said the season “was good,” and he expects to be back for his third year as head coach next season.

Baseball struggles to third-place finish

The Coast baseball team faced a new reality this season by failing to win the Coast Valley League for the first time in 11 years — finishing in third place.

“It was a tough season, for sure,” Coast Union head coach Brian Machado said.

The Broncos (3-10 overall, 2-4 in the CVL) were challenged not only by Dunn School (5- 0) and Valley Christian Academy (4-1) in the CVL, but also by Mother Nature, as rain and a soaked ball field scrubbed out seven games at home. Machado notes that the season started “three weeks earlier than usual, right in the middle of Cambria’s rainy season.”

Coast’s most recent CVL defeat (10-0) came at the hands of the Valley Christian Academy Lions on April 9. The Lions’ ace, Andrew Sparlin, struck out eight, allowed one walk and gave up just two hits — to Nate Markham and Cristian Castillo. On April 12, Coast was defeated by Greenfield, 7-2, the final game of the season.

Senior Magnus Marthaler pitched all seven innings in that non-league loss. Asked where the team needs to improve in 2020, Machado said: “We need our pitchers to pitch to contact and be around the strike zone,” and when ground balls result, “our infielders need to make the plays.”

That critique having been pointed out, Machado added, “The outfielders played well and did their job catching fly balls.”

“Everybody hits in batting practice,” the coach noted, “but it only counts in the game. Someone needs to step up in the clutch and make contact and make it happen.”

The bottom line for Machado is that too often that timely hit was not forthcoming from this year’s Bronco team, hence, the third-place finish and losing record.

Volleyball’s first season a learning experience

No one realistically expected the boy’s volleyball team — a brand new sport at Coast Union in 2019 — to excel against opponents that have years of high school volleyball experience. And indeed, with one more match to play — at Midland on Saturday, April 20 — the Broncos have a 1-15 record.

Although they came close to winning a few more games — even against bigger schools — their only highlight came by defeating Shandon, 3-2, on March 12. Head coach Pam Kenyon stressed patience throughout the season and explained that her team was committed to practicing hard, learning the skills required and jelling as a team.

Boy’s volleyball replaced boy’s tennis this spring, and notwithstanding the losing season, far more student athletes participated in volleyball than had ever come out for tennis.

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