Carson High’s Tonino heats up after cold start
It certainly wasn’t the way Joe Tonino envisioned his senior year starting.
Tonino, Carson High’s senior outfielder-designated hitter, suffered a shoulder injury diving for a ball during a preseason practice, and then he went 0-for-8 at the plate in the season-opening Mike Bearman Tournament.
And, if that wasn’t enough, he injured his other shoulder diving back into first base early in the Northern 4A opener at Reno. Disconsolate doesn’t even begin to describe Tonino’s emotional state.
“I popped my shoulder back (the first injury),” Tonino said Wednesday afternoon prior to practice before the McQueen series. “It was sore for a while, but started feeling better. And then I injured the other shoulder diving back into first base against Reno.
“The trainer (at Reno) got the shoulder popped back in, but I didn’t go back into the game. Dr. Cummings thinks I have a torn labrum, but I don’t think it is because Coach (Bryan Manoukian) tore his and said he had no movement. I think it’s just stretched. I’ve been doing a lot of physical therapy with our trainer (Adam Hunsaker), and it’s getting better and better.”
The injury relegated Tonino to just being the team’s regular designated hitter, and it might’ve been a blessing in disguise. Tonino only had to think about one thing — offense — and he’s been on a streak that not many hitters experience.
Since the five-game trip to the Bay Area and seven Northern 4A games, Tonino has hit safely in 10 of the 12 contests, and he has had six multiple-hit games in that span. He’s now hitting .422 overall and over .500 in league games.
Carson has won nine of its last 12 games, and Tonino has played a major role in the team’s resurgence. Carson is now 12-8 overall and 6-4 in league heading into the second half of the 4A season.
“After the first week (following the injury at Reno), I was focusing more on my hitting. Coach told me I was wrapping around the ball. I started doing drills, and I finally started to figure it out. I changed my stance at the plate and have been focusing on hitting the ball up the middle and to the right side. All I’m thinking about is keeping my hands inside.”
Tonino admitted he was nervous early in the season when he wasn’t hitting, and that’s understandable.
“Joe is a very emotional player,” Manoukian said. “When things are going well for him it’s great. When negative things happen, it affects the next at-bat or flyball. Just worrying about hitting and running the bases allows him to control his own destiny a little more and stay positive. He isn’t carrying at-bats out to the field. In baseball, sometimes there are 40 minutes between at-bats.”
Manoukian said Tonino’s ability to go the opposite way and buying into that philosophy has made all the difference in the world.
“That is the key to success in hitting, especially in high school baseball,” Manoukian said. “Everybody is throwing in and out and trying not to get hurt. You might not see an inside pitch you can drive (for an entire game).
“Joe has been hitting the ball up the middle and hard. He hasn’t had any cheap hits, The homer (grand slam) he hit against Reed might have been the hardest hit ball to the opposite field we’ve had all season. He almost had one at North Valleys, but he casted around it, and when he rounded the base he gave me a little sign that he knew what he did. The quality of his at-bats have improved 1,000 percent since the first game.”
In the 16-9 win over Reed, Tonino hit a two-run double to spark a six-run fifth inning, and then he hit the aforementioned grand slam to extend Carson’s lead. Easily his most productive game from a run-producing aspect.
Manuokian said Tonino’s mechanics are now back after a little lull.
“He wasn’t relaxed and trusting himself before,” the CHS coach said. “He was being over aggressive. He was taking strikes and swinging at balls for the first eight games.”
And now, the right-handed hitting Tonino is hitting everything to all different parts of the ballpark, and he’s a confident hitter.
“I’m not nervous,” Tonino said. “I’m just going up there and hitting the ball.”
“When I knew my swing had a hole that was in the back of my mind (when I played),” Manoukian said. “It (confidence) might be 70 percent. He might get a hit because he believes he is going to get a hit. There are a lot of major leaguers with pretty bad approaches and they’re successful because they are confident.”