A year ago at this time, the Bruins’ season was over. They had played 25 games, winning just four times. Three-hundred and sixty-five days later the Bruins are El Camino League Champions and are preparing for the first round of the CCS playoffs. In 2019, they finished 11-4 in league play and 15-8-1 overall.
Could first-year Head Coach Brad Comstock have possibly foreseen such a turnaround in his first season?
“No, no,” responded the head coach. “I was really expecting just to hopefully be at .500. Just so the boys could be proud of what they did and not have that same feeling from last year. To go 11-4 and 15-8 overall is above and beyond what I thought.”
Assistant Coach Pedro Martinez coached many of these same kids two years ago when they were on JV. He knew they had it in them to turn it around if they put in the extra work.
“I had the majority of these guys for my JV team and they won the league title two years ago,” said Martinez on if he could have imagined such a quick turnaround. “So, could I envision it? Yes. Did I know they had the talent? Yes. Did I think we would be successful after what happened last year? Well, mixed bag, but no. It was just a matter if they were willing to put it together and put the hard work in. They bought in and fed of one another.”
Two of the team leaders whom bought in right away were senior batterymates in pitcher Zach Penrod and catcher Noah Dembowski. Both showed appreciation for what coach Comstock was able to teach them about the art of pitching and working different batters with different strategies.
“He wanted to help me from the start, so it’s been great to have his support,” remarked Penrod. “Getting support from another pitcher is great, someone I can build off of and learn from.”
“It’s been a really fun learning experience,” confirmed Dembowski on working with coach Comstock, a former Triple-A pitcher. “Just going through the lineup, now I can kind of understand what the pitching sequence is like in the pros. With a powerful hitter you wanna get him reaching or pumping him a fastball when he’s expecting offspeed.”
While Penrod has been the go-to ace and Dembowski the cleanup hitting catcher, the spark plug for the squad has been senior leadoff hitter and speedy outfielder Connor Valory.
“His energy is tremendous, he’s a competitor,” said Assistant Coach Al Bonvicino on Valory. “He’s a very quiet individual, but when he speaks the kids listen. Connor is our leader, when Connor goes, the rest of them go. The senior leadership on this club has been tremendous and Connor leads the way.”
Valory, Penrod, Dembowski, and fellow senior starters Ryan Oeschger, Justin Cedro, Alijah Amaya, and Jake Millett are the backbone of what is a tight-knit club. When given the opportunity to have a seniors only celebration for winning league, the leadership group chose to invite the whole team, a sign of the overall team chemistry.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen from day one was their attitude,” noted Bonvicino. “They come out and want to practice and want to work. And they all get along together.”
The Bruins are a 12 seed in the Division I CCS bracket.