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It could be argued that Kyle Tognazzini was facing some pressure this spring.

He was taking over one of the proudest baseball programs on the Central Coast at Righetti High.

Tognazzini's first varsity head coaching job came after Brian Tomooka led the Warriors the previous 14 seasons. Tomooka won league titles and playoff games before moving over to lead the softball team this season.

Expectations are almost always high at the diamond situated on the corner of Larch Avenue and Bradley Road in Orcutt.

After everything has been said and done, it's clear Tognazzini handled that pressure with ease.

He guided the Warriors to an outright Mountain League title and to the brink of the CIF Central Section Division 1 title game. 

For his success, Tognazzini has been voted the All-Area Coach of the Year by the Lee Central Coast Newspapers' sports staff.

Righetti finished 22-6 overall and 10-2 in the Mountain League. They lost to Bakersfield Frontier 2-1 in the CIF Central Section Division 1 semifinals in 11 innings. 

How did Tognazzini navigate all the obstacles in his first season as Righetti's varsity head coach?

He leaned heavily on the lessons learned while he grew up playing the game. 

Tognazzini is a baseball lifer. He played at Paso Robles High, graduating in 2005, and then Cuesta College before settling at Division I program Lipscomb University in Nashville. He spent the last few years coaching lower levels with the Warriors.

"A guy who coaches high school in Tennessee told me, 'Stay in your own dugout,'" Tognazzini said. "That was kind of the motto all year long. I didn't worry about SLO or Paso or AG. I worried about 'How can I develop my guys?' Of course I had so much confidence in what (the players) do and they continued to surprise me every single day until the end of the season."

Tognazzini says Derek Stroud at Paso Robles and Bob Miller at Cuesta were influential in shaping his coaching approach. Though his coaches at Lipscomb, manager Jeff Forehand and assistants Brian Ryman and Lance Wheeler, taught him the most critical lessons.

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"The big one was at Lipscomb," Tognazzini said. "I really leaned how to treat players the right way and how to treat people right, on and off the field."

It's clear that wins and league titles are important to Tognazzini, but the young coach says valuing relationships is just as critical to building a winning program.

"The really big thing is the relationships with these players," Tognazzini said. "I've coached these seniors as freshmen and as JV guys. They're like family to me. Moments like that are huge."

Tognazzini and his wife also welcomed their first child the summer before the season. Raising a newborn provided another interesting aspect to his first varsity head coaching job.

"Bringing my kid out to the ballpark was special," Tognazzini said. "We've got five amazing coaches on the staff and we all have kids... These kids on the team are more than baseball players, they're young men and we love them as family members. Those relationships with those guys don't stop at the end of the season, they last forever."

Caleb Dulay, the All-Area MVP, felt that.

Dulay says Tognazzini's coaching was vital throughout the season, especially when things got tough.

"He was probably the most important part because he was the one that kept us together," Dulay said. "He was the glue that holds all of us together. He was there for us all the whole year. He was there grinding, he was doing his homework and we were doing ours.

"We were there for him the whole year because he was there for us the whole year, too."

This is the third straight year a Santa Maria Valley coach has been named the All-Area Coach of the Year after Cody Smith (St. Joseph) won in 2018 and Rick Hebert (Santa Maria) won in 2017. 

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Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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