Kingsburg stuns CVC with late rally

Hunter SasselliBy John Murphy 

KINGSBURG — The outcome of the Kingsburg High baseball game came down to one dramatic play.

Kingsburg stunned first-place Central Valley Christian 4-3 on Friday in a Central Sequoia League game that was very much in doubt when Seth Costi stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.

The Vikings trailed 3-2 and had runners on second and third base with two outs. Costi sent a Noah Flores delivery into the gap between right and center field for a single, scoring one run to tie the game and sending teammate Ben Coito flying around third base, heading for the plate and the possible winning run.

Coito angled himself toward the inside of the plate as he slid in while Connor Paden blocked his path. The umpire singled safe as Coito raised a cloud of dust and Paden wound up on the ground shaken from Coito sliding into him (Paden was fine after being examined by Kingsburg trainer Victoria Lam).

The excitement wasn’t finished. Viking players celebrated, Cavalier coach Graham Harrison questioned the plate umpire about the call and at least one assistant coach from each team tangled verbally with each other before the teams separated.

“He was out,” Harrison said. “He never got to the plate, but it didn’t come down to one call. Even if he’s out, they still have a chance to win. That wasn’t the reason we lost.”

Kingsburg coach Michael Garza saw the pivotal play differently.

“It was a bang-bang play,” Garza said. “He slid. I thought (Paden) was a little far out and I thought (Coito) had to go around him. He did a good job – Ben avoided the contact as best as he could and got in there.”

The player that set the play in motion was Costi, who dropped the ball nicely into the outfield.

“I was for sure looking at it,” Costi said. “I was kind of in shock. It was my first (walkoff hit) ever. It felt amazing.”

Costi said his only concern was whether Coito was safe at home – something the plate umpire confirmed, much to the displeasure of Cavalier fans, at least one of whom boisterously let the ump know about it.

The result was an important victory for Kingburg (13-8 overall and 4-4 in league, as of the game’s conclusion). Heading into this week, Kingsburg was 2 ½ games behind CVC (18-4, 7-2), with Selma (16-5, 6-3) in second place.

“We played bad defense and we didn’t capitalize offensively,” Harrison said. “We left guys on the bases that should have gotten in and that’s baseball; it happens. We’re still in first place and if we take care of business, we’ll be CSL champions.”

It was a huge victory for Garza, a first-year coach.

“I am very happy with the boys,” he said. “The bats didn’t come alive until the end, but when we get going, we get going.”

Tied 2-2 after five innings, CVC nudged ahead on a run-scoring single by Jack Reitsma in the sixth. Relief pitcher Riley Walls had issued a one-out walk to Trenton Vanderveen, then balked him to second.

Costi had two hits and the two big RBIs for Kingsburg. Coito, batting ninth, went 3-for-3.

Walls got the win on the mound, in relief of Riley Cooper who pitched five innings and allowed five hits, while striking out five and walking nobody.






Napa scandal puts hazing in spotlight


School and team hazing are like the red, itchy rash that just will not go away. You try balms and lotions, but the attack is relentless.

If it does vanish for a spell, it seems to reappear when you least expect it and wreak its havoc again. Such was the case at Napa High School in the otherwise genteel wine country, where a hazing complaint was reported to Napa police on Nov. 19 regarding an alleged assault involving junior football varsity players holding teammates down, grabbing them and hitting them.

The aftermath has been ugly, with two players expelled and veteran and well-regarded football coach Troy Mott resigning after the district refused to give him control over the rehiring of his assistant coaches for next season.

Neither Kingsburg Joint Union High School District Athletic Director Thomas Sembritzki, Selma Unified School District AD Randy Esraelian nor Kingsburg football coach David Wilson, when contacted, had heard of the mess in wine country, but Esraelian had heard of a local example.

“There was an incident made public at Lemoore [two years ago[ and a coach was let go because of it,” he said. “You hear about it here and there. Hazing is a pretty big buzzword. There’s no longer any tolerance for older kids putting younger kids through a baptism of fire.”

Hazing is defined by as “The act of forcing humiliating or abusive tasks upon someone in order to ridicule him, or to initiate him into a group.” The term comes from the late 17th century French word “haser,” which means to irritate or annoy.

According to, 91 percent of high school students belong to at least one group, and 48 percent of them report being hazed. Forty-three percent were subjected to humiliating activities and 30 percent performed potentially illegal acts as part of their initiation. Every type of high school group was involved in hazing, including 24 percent in church groups.

Like that red rash, nobody wishes it on anyone, and you especially won’t want it yourself.

“Our coaches meet with the players and go over their expectations,” Sembritzki said. “There is no manuscript for when things go crazy and bad things happen, like when we had multiple suicides at our school one year.”

Neither has Wilson experienced any hazing problems in the Kingsburg football program, though the possibility is always there.

“Culturally, it’s not something that’s happened here,” he said. “I remember in college in the 1990s we had a talent show and if the seniors didn’t approve of your routine, you got your head shaved, but I didn’t even think of that as hazing, per se.”

Definitely examples of hazing in other areas or what Sembritzki described as “when things go crazy” are these:

  • In 2014, two Woodside High School basketball coaches were fired after an incident at a motel in Newman where the team was playing in a holiday tournament. Two players were allegedly jumped and beaten and then taped to chairs. One player had lipstick applied to his face and the other was forced to watch Spanish-language television for hours.
  • Mountain View High of Mesa, Ariz. football coach Bernie Busken, who led the team to three state championships in the 1990s, was fired in the spring of 2002 for allowing hazing rituals, including “pink bellies” (slapping someone on the stomach until their skin turns pink or red), to continue after being warned by the district, according to the Arizona Republic.
  • In the barren, windswept town of Yucca Valley in 2000, five Yucca Valley High football players settled for a sexual battery charge after admitting involvement in a sexual assault at an off-campus football camp.

The latter is ill, criminal behavior, and a long way from a shaved head after a bad talent show skit. The problem is, there is no wiggle room now when it comes to teasing or horseplay. These are teenagers, and some do not grasp the difference between horseplay and outright brutality or sodomy, the latter a growing trend according to a recent “Outside the Lines” report. As a result, student-athletes are being victimized, some are getting expelled or arrested and coaching careers are going in the dumper.

Sembritzki seemed to send a warning shot for all coaches and athletes when he said “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. We’re not bulletproof, but I haven’t heard of anything like this at our school. But with social media the way it is and every kid having a cell phone, you can bet that everything that happens, good or bad, will get posted.”

John Murphy can be reached at 583-2413 or