Baseball has a way of evening itself out over the course of an entire season. After an absurdly difficult three-game stretch to begin the season against Helix, Eastlake, and Grossmont, all in the Top 10 as the season began, the Islander Baseball Team’s season turned around. As we’ll soon see in some detail, Coronado has defeated in order Otay Ranch 5-3; Steele Canyon 7-2; Steele Canyon again 4-1; and Bonita Vista 3-2.
“It’s a bad time to have the season postponed, but what can you do?” said Head Coach Morgan Cummins. “March 2, we played at Otay Ranch and we got our first win of the season. Nico Sanchez got his first varsity start, pitched well and kept us in the game. He pitched 3.2 innings, gave up one hit, two earned runs and struck out one. The one hit he gave up was a 3-2 fastball that challenged the batter and he hit it just over the fence. Dylan Noble came in and pitched 3.1 innings and gave up two hits for his first varsity win. It was nice to see him step up. We need somebody to finish games and he set the tone for us out of the bullpen. The defensive play of the game came when Otay Ranch had runners on first and second in the bottom of the sixth. Kanon Billings caught a line drive at second base and flipped the ball behind his back for a double play. We let them do that in practice on occasion and this time it came in handy. Catcher Brady Roulier got hurt on a foul tip and had to come out of the game. We moved Heath Miller from shortstop to catcher, Ryan Ward from third to short and Caden Sutherland to third. We had to shake it up on the fly. We hadn’t won a game to that point, so we took a risk, and everybody stepped up. Heath stepped in and did a great job behind the plate, with no practice this season at that position.”
On the offensive side, we scored five runs in the top of the fifth. Kyle Pin had an infield single, Raden Perry walked, Sutherland missed a bunt, but singled to center to score the first run. Evan Schnell sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Billings hit a hard grounder past their second baseman. That tied the game 3-3. Then Grant Gould reached on an error, and Miller hit a fly their right fielder lost in the sun. With the bases loaded, Ward hit a hard grounder to score a run. Then Tobey Brown earned a bases loaded walk to get the fifth run. After the first week, it seemed like we were never going to win, and this game showed we could do it. The first win of the season can be the hardest one to get.”
To complete the Aztec-Foothiller Tournament, Coronado hosted Steele Canyon and won their second game of the season. “We won 7-2 and we were in control early,” Cummins explained. “And we kept them down the rest of the game. We scored two in the bottom of the first when Miller walked, Ward singled, Brown hit a hard grounder that advanced the two runners; then they tried to back-pick our runner at second and Miller scored to make the score 1-1. Ward stole third on the next pitch. In the second inning we put up three runs that started with Roulier walking, Sutherland walked, Billings was hit by a pitch, and Schnell hit a double to score two runs. Then Miller had another good situational at-bat for a senior leader, with a sacrifice fly to score Billings.
“We scored on in the fifth when Ward singled, Phin walked, and Luke Meloche hit a double to score Ward. In the sixth, Schnell had a one-out single, and two batters later Ward doubled over the left fielder’s head. On the day Ward was 3-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Schnell was 2-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. Ward has been heating up and is hitting .350. On the defensive side, Perry pitched five innings, gave up four hits, two runs, no walks and six strikeouts. He has asserted himself as our ace and he shut them down the rest of the way. Miller came in and pitched two innings, with no runs, no walks and one strikeout. He pitched the last two innings throwing just 20 pitches and shut them down 1-2-3 in both innings.”
Next up was a new tournament, the Grossmont-Metro-City, with Coronado competing in the second level of the four-division event. There was however a similar opponent, Steele Canyon, with the game again played at Coronado. Cummins said, “It was definitely a different game and we saw their No. 1 pitcher. The story of the game was Dylan Noble on the mound in his first varsity start. He pitched the entire game, and gave up six hits, one earned run, no walks and he struck out seven. He pitched the entire game in 78 pitches and the final was 4-1. It was a great outing and he threw a ton of strikes. He put away guys on 0-2 and 1-2 counts. He attacked the strike zone and pitched with confidence. They scored first and we scored right back in the bottom of the third when Billings had a single; Schnell was hit by a pitch; Miller was hit by a pitch; Ward doubled to left scoring Billings and Schnell; Phin had a good situational at-bat with an infield grounder to drive in a run; and Perry had a good senior leadership at-bat with a single to right center to score a run. That was pretty much the game.”
The fourth game of the winning streak came against Bonita Vista, the team that knocked the Islanders out of the CIF Playoffs last year. “They moved up to Division I,” Cummins said of the Barons. “This game was the highlight of the season so far. We faced the same pitcher we faced twice last year, and he shut us down with a lot of curves on fastball counts. They went up 2-0 and until the bottom of the fifth, we didn’t do much. With two outs and nobody on, Phin was hit by a pitch. They tried to pick Kyle off first and they threw the ball down the right field line and he got to third. Then Brown, who had been struggling, had a 10-pitch at-bat and he hit one off the pitcher that bounced to the shortstop and scored Phin for our first run. Meloche was hit by a pitch, Roulier walked to load the bases, and Schnell singled to left to make the score 2-2. In the bottom of the sixth, Andrew Borgie pinch hit and was hit by a pitch. Miller laid down a perfect bunt and when the ball was thrown away, we had runners on second and third. Then Brown hit a sac fly to left to score a run and the final was 3-2. Schnell was 3-3 in the game with an RBI and Ward was 1-2 with two walks. Perry pitched six innings, gave up seven hits, two earned runs and had seven strikeouts. It was ace vs. ace and Raden really competed in this game. They aren’t the classiest team we play. Raden showed great composure in a big moment and ended up with the win. He’s not quite as sharp yet as he was his sophomore year (Perry missed his junior year with a major knee injury), but this is his third start in a year and he really impressed. Miller closed for us and he did a great job. He threw strikes and did a great job. Gould had a tough catch to win the game on a sinking, low line drive in right field to end the game. He made a great play.”
Cummins said of the season, “They aren’t allowed to have captain’s practices, but I can encourage them to keep throwing and hitting. But I can’t organize anything. I can’t put together a practice plan and technically they aren’t supposed to be asked to do anything. I don’t think they (the CIF) wants to cancel the whole season. I’m hopeful after a few weeks off, everything calms down and then we get back to normal. There is the potential to push the CIF Playoffs back. Everything is discussion-based at this point and nothing is engraved in stone. The Bonita Vista game was a big win for our team, and it showed mental toughness. It was nice to get some revenge for the Playoffs last year. The bigger the game, the better Perry pitches.”