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Coach Mel Brnovich, right, gives Gabriel Salgado a high five in the 2018 District Championship game. Brnovich was instrumental in each of the Manta Rays’ district championships in recent years.

Mel Brnovich’s time as the head coach of the Lemon Bay baseball team lasted just six games, but it went according to plan — for the most part, at least.

The school announced on Monday afternoon via its athletics Facebook page that associate coach Zach Gonzales has taken over the position of head coach with Brnovich returning to his previous role as an assistant.

While Brnovich couldn’t have predicted the outbreak of the coronavirus would cancel most of the high school baseball season, he knew he wouldn’t stay on as head coach for long.

“I just filled in the gap last year,” he said. “I wanted the kids to have a coach. I didn’t want to leave them without anyone.

“Too much work has been put into this program since Casey Hanrahan and Dan Flaherty and I wasn’t going to let this program go backward. But when I met Zach and saw his resume, I said, ‘Hey, as long as everything goes how I think it will, this team is yours.’”

A native of Houston, Texas, Gonzales left his hometown to play college baseball for Southwestern Christian University in Oklahoma. A four-year player, Gonzales became a student assistant coach during his time there while also coaching in a youth league.

After a brief return to Houston, Gonzales, 25, said he relocated to Englewood for an opportunity in his business — real estate investment — and it didn’t take him long to get involved with area baseball teams such as the Florida Burn and Lemon Bay High.

Though Gonzales initially applied to be the head coach of the Mantas last year, the school had already given the job to Brnovich. However, Gonzales chose to stay on the staff.

“I told the athletic director to send over my resume to (Brnovich) and he took me on this year,” Gonzales said. “It was going well. I actually got to implement a lot of what I’m used to doing, a lot of the programs we ran in college.”

After working hand-in-hand with Brnovich during the offseason, Gonzales was allowed to do many of the tasks that usually fall to a head coach — workout programs, speeches to the team and coaching third base.

Though this season was shortened and the Mantas went 2-4, Brnovich felt that he saw enough in his assistant that made him comfortable handing over the reins.

“Actually we talked about this last year, but I wanted to see him in action first. He loves coaching, and let’s face it, there’s a big age difference between me and him. He’s exactly what Lemon Bay needs. There’s been a lot of turnover there in recent years and they need someone consistent.

“I trust him like my son. I have no doubt he’s gonna be a long fixture here at Lemon Bay.”


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