Going Inside The Top-Ranked LCC baseball team

The La Costa Canyon High baseball team is earning respect slowly but surely around the state and even in its own backyard.

They've won 19 straight games, their combined team batting average for the season is a whopping .393 (.401 in league play) and their combined team ERA for the year is 2.18. They field the ball well enough to have made less errors than games played (23 in 25 games). Not only that, but this week will mark the fourth straight week they will be the No. 1 ranked high school baseball team in California.

Yet before last Saturday's doubleheader against Fallbrook, some of the self proclaimed prognosticators and assembled pundits were still arguing about whether the Avocado League title may still be up for grabs. Such is life in the tough high school baseball world of north San Diego County.

The La Costa Canyon Mavericks answered any doubters by sweeping the doubleheader...and then on Wednesday after falling behind 2-0 to Carlsbad in the swelter and fog at Carlsbad High...they came roaring back with the long ball to capture their fifth Avocado League title in the seven years the school has been in existence with a 5-2 victory over the Lancers.

Coach Justin Machado started it off when the school opened in 1996...and in his first head coaching job he has been extremely impressive in building a quality program.

"We take pride in our defense. Most days we spend over an hour on fundamentals and defense," says Machado, whom every local coach I've talked to claims he is the rising star amongst local young coaches. It doesn't hurt to have quality athletes who listen to what the coaches ask them to do...and then execute.

In yesterday's game at Carlsbad, a questionable walk followed by a seeing eye single and a wild pitch in the bottom of the 3rd had the Mavericks in the hole 2-0 against the Lancers. With the bases still loaded and one out many teams and pitchers would have folded. Not the Mavericks and senior right-hander Drew Logan (5-0, 1 save, 1.72 ERA). Logan reached back for a little extra and blew by the last two batters, striking them out to end the inning.

On offense, junior Scott Clement (.575 overall BA, .702 in league play, 6HR, 34 RBI) put a charge into a 2-2 fastball that made the ball look like it was shot from a cannon...to dead straightaway center field. The ball left the yard without sinking and was estimated at over 400 feet. That tied the score at 2-2. Then in the top of the sixth, senior third baseman Nick Diel (Sonoma State), who made several sparkling defensive plays on hard hit grounders, launched a rocket with one on over the 355 foot power alley in left that cleared the fence by a bunch. The Mavericks would add another run on Joey Burke's (.463 overall BA, 36 RBI, 24 SB) RBI double, but that Diel shot gave Logan the adrenalin and the lead he would need to close out Carlsbad with a complete game performance...giving up 5 hits and striking out 7.

Baseball...and Softball...may be the hardest sports to truly rank, but after seeing La Costa Canyon three times this year I can't imagine there is a team that consistently wins in a variety of situations (they did allow 12 runs in one of the doubleheader games against Mt. Carmel but still won 16-12) or executes better on a daily basis than La Costa Canyon. Clement sums it up by saying, "We know if we play our game...with solid defense...for the team...not as individuals...we feel we can win every game."

With the tough CIF San Diego Section Div I playoffs upcoming, that feat will be a real challenge with teams like Rancho Bernardo, Montgomery and Rancho Buena Vista looming on the horizon. Should they run the table, no one will be able to argue who is No. 1...maybe then they will really earn some respect.

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