State record coaching lists for baseball and softball have now all been updated through the 2021 season and here’s a look at the most significant milestone wins that were celebrated. For baseball, it would have to be Lakewood’s Spud O’Neil reaching 900 victories while in softball it was a 600th victory for Westlake Village Oaks Christian’s Pete Ackermann. We just wish Pete could have enjoyed it more as he had to miss much of the rest of the season with a health issue.
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BASEBALL MILESTONES 2021
Walter “Spud” O’Neil (Lakewood)
It was thought that Lakewood’s iconic coach was going to get his 900th win in a career that began in 1980 in Colton last year, but the pandemic put it on hold until last April. O’Neil won his 900th with a 4-3 win over El Dorado of Placentia in which Lakewood Mayor Todd Rogers attended. O’Neil became just the fourth in state history (according to our own record book) to reach 900, joining the late John Stevenson of El Segundo, Sam Blalock of San Diego Mt. Carmel/Rancho Bernardo and Guy Anderson from Cordova of Rancho Cordova. One of O’Neil’s assistant coaches for 14 years was Rob Wigod, who has gone on to become CIF Southern Section commissioner. ““The way Spud treats people is what’s amazing to me,” Wigod told the562.org. “He is an icon, but he’s so humble, and so willing to help other coaches. This is a great tribute to a great man.”
Mike Mitchell (Christian, El Cajon)
The longtime skipper of the Patriots moved up the most on the all-time state list with a squad that finished 27-5, won the CIF San Diego Section D2 title, came in as runner-up in the CIF SoCal D5 regional playoffs and had State Small Schools Player of the Year Braedon Ross. Mitchell, who has been coaching at Christian since 1996 with earlier years at Coronado, moved up five positions on the all-time list. He starts the next season with a reported 557 wins.
Kevin Smith (Covina)
It’s happy trails for Smith, who announced his retirement after the 2021 season. He’s been at four different schools in the San Gabriel Valley — Sierra Vista (Baldwin Park), Baldwin Park, South Hills (Covina) and Covina. Smith has been at Covina for only four years (one being the pandemic season) and had his most success from 1999 to 2014 at South Hills. His teams there won 13 league titles and we saw him and the Huskies win the CIFSS D3 title in 2009. One of his players on that team, Ty France, was State Freshman of the Year and is currently playing for the Seattle Mariners. Smith also was a head coach at Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) for three years and was an assistant coach at Citrus College and the local small college level for several years. He retires with 516 reported high school varsity victories.
Justin Machado (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad)
This was the first-ever year of CIF Southern California regional championships in baseball (the first-ever state championships were shelved until next year) and one of the first championship teams was coached by a member of the state’s 500-win club. Machado, who won his 500th game at La Costa Canyon in 2019 and has been at the school since 1996, guided the Mavericks to a win over Millikan of Long Beach in the CIF SoCal D2 final. He’ll start the 2022 season with a reported 537 victories.
Cliff Rold (Edison, Fresno)
Baseball coaches with 400 wins or more are not yet on the all-time state list, but one of those getting No. 400 recently was Rold. According to CIF Central Section historian Bob Barnett, Rold won No. 400 on May 27 this season in a 4-0 victory against visiting Madera. Rold has been coaching at Edison since 1994. With 28 years of dedication to Edison baseball, Rold has five league championships (1997, 2000, ‘01, ‘05, ’15) and two section championships (2009, ’12). Edison had to wait 50 years from 1946 to 1997 to claim a league title. Coach Rold graduated from Roosevelt (Fresno) in 1975, made first-team North Yosemite League as a catcher, earned honorable mention by the Fresno Bee, was a KMJ and KMJ TV all-star, and played against teams coached by Jack Hannah, Mike Noakes and Merv Carter.
SOFTBALL MILESTONES 2020
Pete Ackermann (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village)
Everyone at Oaks Christian knew the 600th win for Ackermann was coming quickly at the start of the season, and his team got it for him in its first game of the season in a 17-0 domination of Sun Valley Village Christian. Ackermann, who began coaching at Newbury Park in the 1990s, has been at Oaks Christian since the school began. More than 500 of his wins have come with the Lions. According to our own exclusive state record lists, he became just the 18th softball coach in state history to achieve 600 or more wins. “I am thankful for all the players, coaches, parents, and the administration who have allowed me to attain this milestone,” Ackermann told the L.A. Daily News. Not long after collecting that win Ackermann had to be hospitalized with a health issue. Assistants handled everything for the rest of the season, but we’re told he’s getting better. It should be noted that since Ackermann is still officially the head coach he still gets the coaching win. It’s only until he’s no longer the head coach officially that the wins would go to a new head coach.
Mike D’Amato (Independence, Bakersfield)
It will only be two more wins until D’Amato reaches 700 for his career after his squad at Independence this season went 16-3. According to CIF Central Section historian Bob Barnett, D’Amato has coached at Highland and Garces (both Bakersfield) and was in his 34th year coaching at three different schools. He finished up 2021 with 698 career victories. Many players from this year’s helped immensely, especially Rylee Price, who was one of the reported state leaders in RBI.
Rick Robinson (Norco)
Last year, Robinson became the 17th coach in state history to reach 600 wins. This year, his milestone was becoming the winningest coach in Inland Empire history. The Cougars once again were one of the top teams in the state and were No. 1 in the state when they lost to Esperanza of Anaheim in the CIFSS D1 semifinals, which ended their season at 27-2. Along the way, Robinson surpassed the career win total of former Corona High head coach JoAnn Byrd at 603 and will start 2022 with 629. Robinson began coaching as an assistant under Byrd and we know it will always seem strange for him to be ahead of her in any kind of coaching list.
If there are any other coaches with 500 or more wins in baseball and softball that we need to start to follow, email info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Tennis is the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports