June 9, 2016
Friday afternoon on the campus of the University of San Diego, the Islander Baseball Team (29-6 for the season) captured the CIF Division III title. It marked the fourth time in 11 years the program has won a CIF title, with the first three coming under the direction of Head Coach Sam Ceci and the fourth under current Head Coach Morgan Cummins (CHS ’03), who played for Ceci at CHS, which is a nice bit of sports symmetry.
The No. 1 seeded Islanders went undefeated in the double elimination playoff format, defeating Brawley and San Diego in the first two rounds, Canyon Crest Academy in the Semi-Finals and Del Norte in the Finals. Although Coronado didn’t lose a game during their title run, the last two games were quite competitive.
A week ago Tuesday Canyon Crest came to Coronado and the Islanders battled their way to a 4-3 victory, aided in large part by the heroics of Jack Harris and Briley Knight. In the second inning, Harris hit a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead.
Cummins sent hurler Clark Fahrenthold to the mound and the senior right-hander battled for three innings, giving up two runs and four hits as the Ravens took a 2-1 lead in the third. Reliever Chris Cummins (Coach Cummins’ younger brother) gave up a run in the fourth inning to make the score 3-1. That is until Harris hit his second homer of the game, on the first pitch he saw to lead off the fourth. The score remained 3-2 in favor of Canyon Crest until the sixth inning.
Perhaps sensing that Harris was on his way to winning the equivalent of the Baseball Lottery, including making a nice leaping catch of a line drive in the fourth inning while playing third base, Coach Cummins sent the senior to take the mound as the Islanders third pitcher of the afternoon. Harris, a senior, would go on to pitch three innings of one-hit ball, to earn the win.
Things were looking pretty bleak for Coronado, with two outs in the sixth inning when sophomore catcher Briley Knight strolled to the plate. Knight lined a 1-0 pitch down the right field line for a homer to tie the game. No runs were scored by either side in the seventh and in the eighth Islander leadoff hitter Dominic Irigoyen earned a walk to start the game-winning rally. Fahrenthold, who had made a nice running catch in right field to retire the Raven’s lead-off hitter in the top half of the inning, singled. Zach Weller drew a walk to load the bases, setting up clean-up hitter Harris to be the hero for Coronado. Harris delivered the game-winning single that drove Irigoyen home and sent the Islanders to the Finals.
Having a more complicated route through the bottom portion of the Division III bracket was No. 7 seed Del Norte, who had to survive a two-game series with No. 2 seeded Escondido. The extra game last week caused the Nighthawks to use valuable pitching resources to advance, while Cummins had staff ace Josh Leaser available for the title game.
The Islanders struck first, scoring twice in the second. Harris led off the inning with a double, and Knight followed with a triple that went to the right centerfield wall and drove home Harris. Leaser helped his cause with a long sacrifice fly that drove Knight home.
Leaser kept the Nighthawks off the scoreboard through the fifth frame, with right fielder Brandon Depperschmidt making a nice running catch with two men on and two outs, to extinguish a rally. Then Del Norte produced four hits and two runs in the sixth to tie the game 2-2.
The character of Coronado showed in the bottom of the sixth as they answered with three runs of their own. With one out, Weller doubled; Harris singled Weller to third; and Knight singled Weller home for what proved to be the championship-winning run. The Islanders continued to add runs, with Travis Gilmore hitting a sharp single to drive in Harris from third. Chris Cummins executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Knight and suddenly the score was 5-2.
Weller, the senior starting shortstop, is also the Islander closer. He snuffed out the Nighthawk rally in the sixth, retiring two batters to end the inning. In the seventh, he coaxed a groundball to first baseman Gregg Gonzalez who made a nice unassisted play for the first out. Then Weller got a pop up to short and a swinging strikeout to end the game and capture the Division III title for Coronado.
In the two most important games of the season, Harris was 5-7 with four runs scored, three RBIs and 12 total bases. Knight kept Harris company going 3-6, with eight total bases, three RBIs and two runs scored.
“What a way to end the season,” said a still wound-up Coach Cummins Sunday night. “There was drama and we had to respond to adversity the way we did all season. This year we usually found a way to score multiple runs twice a game and with how good our pitching and defense was, it was good enough to win. Jack Harris was unbelievable during the whole playoffs. The stats don’t show how good a player he is. He really carried us. Briley Knight stepped up all season with the hits he had. He had five or six hits to win games for us. When we needed somebody to get it done, Briley did it. When he pulled that line drive down the line against Canyon Crest, that won the CIF for us more than any play this season. When the ball went over the fence, Canyon Crest knew they were going to lose. Leaser and Weller made a great pitching combination for us. They pitched every big game and they never faltered once, going 12-0. This team understood baseball and the beauty of a (winning) streak. It was special that they won every home game this year.”
The 2016 Islanders featured a squad with 11 seniors and they plus the rest of the team set several school records this season. The records included:
- The most wins in school history with 29.
- The fewest losses in school history with six.
- The best winning percentage in school history (.829)
- A perfect record of 15-0 at home.
- They tied Eastlake with the most wins in San Diego County this season, with one of the Islanders’ victories coming over the Titans. Eastlake went on to become the Open Division Runner-up this year.
- Coronado had winning streaks of six, seven and nine games this season and never lost two games in a row.
- The Islanders finished the season ranked No. 9 in the final Sportswriters and Sportscasters Poll in the San Diego Union-Tribune, compiled by John Maffei. Coronado defeated two teams ranked ahead of them, No. 2 Eastlake and No. 7 San Marcos.
Several Islanders won post-season recognition when the All-Central League Team was announced recently. Coronado, which won the league title, was represented on the All-Central League First Team by Weller, Knight and Leaser. Weller was the Central League Player of the Year and Leaser was the Pitcher of the Year. Second Team honors went to Harris, Fahrenthold, Cummins and Irigoyen.
The Islander Baseball program was successful at all levels this season. The Freshman Team under the direction of Head Coach Jeff Roe compiled a record of 13-6, while the JV squad led by Coach Brian Heintzleman was 14-9. Coach Cummins acknowledged the contributions of Bench Coach Ron Cunningham, Pitching Coach Chris Blanton, Coach Brooke Knight and Statistician Bill Seager.