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

The Tribune (SLO) - - The Cambrian - DEB­BIE MARKHAM Cour­tesy photo BY JOHN FITZRANDOLPH Spe­cial to The Cam­brian

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 team­lead­ing 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.

DEB­BIE MARKHAM Cour­tesy photo

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.

Coast Union High School sopho­more Zack Stephenson han­dled the catch­ing chores this sea­son, and col­lected four hits (two dou­bles, two sin­gles) against Mari­copa on April 9.

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