ORO GRANDE —- Shortstop Emmany Godinez presented Coast Union High baseball coach Brian Machado with a bat signed by the entire team as the Broncos gathered in the dugout after their game.
It was a gesture that left Machado fighting back tears, but it wasn’t the prize the Broncos really wanted to be able to give their coach.
Coast Union had its sights set on playing for a CIFSouthern Section Division 7 title, and it appeared a realistic goal when the fourth-seeded Broncos held a two-run lead over unseeded Riverside Prep in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s semifinal. But Coast Union’s hopes were quickly dashed.
Riverside Prep scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on to defeat the visiting Broncos 11-10, ending the deepest postseason run of any current Coast Union player one step shy of Saturday’s final.
“It is a heartbreaker,” Godinez said. “To come within one run, we were so close. We came in knowing we could do it and to come that close hurts.”
Gerhig Kniffen, Lane Sutherland and Tommy Howard led Coast Union (19-5) with two hits each. Kniffen and Sutherland also contributed two RBI apiece. Godinez walked three times and scored a run.
Coast Union spent much of the nearly three-hour contest playing catch-up with the Silver Knights (22-4-1). The Broncos, who had twice tied it, erased an 8-5 deficit in the fifth inning and used a four-run rally to take their first lead since the first inning.
Three Riverside Prep errors aided the rally, but a two-run double by Sutherland provided the biggest blow. After Sutherland evened the at 8 with his drive to left, he came around to score the go-ahead run as part of a two-out double steal.
“We battled and didn’t give up,” Machado said. “Down (8-5) and we came back and take the lead. That’s something to be proud of.”
Sergio Mendoza extended Coast Union’s lead to 10-8 in the sixth inning. He opened the inning with a walk, stole second and eventually scored on the fourth wild pitch of the game by Riverside Prep pitchers.
“That shows we’re relentless,” Godinez said. “The entire team fights together. If someone’s struggling, other guys pick ’em up. That’s just how we are. We kept fighting and battled back.” But the Silver Knights had their own steady supply of comebacks and pulled out another in the bottom of the sixth.
Coast Union starter Quinten Raethke was chased with one out after issuing back-to-back walks. Nando Ruiz greeted reliever Grant Magnuson with a run-scoring double to right center.
Two batters later, Martin Valadez gave Riverside Prep the lead with a two-run triple to center. Howard gave Coast Union a flicker of hope in the seventh with a one-out single, but the game ended a batter later with a double play grounder that ignited tears among the Broncos.
“It’s a tough one,” Godinez said. “I had a heartbreaker in football season losing in the final. Getting this far and losing by one, it hurts just as much. Maybe more. It’ll take a couple days, maybe a few weeks for it to wear off.”
The Broncos were left wondering what could have been after stranding 12 runners on base and committing two errors — both of which led to runs.
“That didn’t help,” Machado said.
Coast Union also was not helped by playing on a smaller field than it is accustomed. EJ Hieber, who went 2 for 3 with three RBI for the Silver Knights, hit a fourth-inning, two-run homer to center that Machado said would have been an out at home.
“At our place, our center fielder would have had that,” Machado said. “There were a lot of things. . . .The ball just didn’t bounce our way today.”
Raethke, who contributed a single, a stolen base and two walks at the plate, finished with nine runs allowed on nine hits and six walks with six strikeouts.
Justin Teal earned the win with three innings of four-hit relief for Riverside Prep.