Bonita Claws to Decisive Victory; League Title Now in ‘Cat Control

May 2, 2009
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Big-game pitcher Nico Calderaro's guttiest performance of the year helped the Bearcats defeat the Chargers 5-4 at Bonita, May 1.

Big-game pitcher Nico Calderaro's guttiest performance of the year helped the Bearcats defeat the Chargers 5-4 at Bonita, May 1.

Why do we enjoy sports? Why do we enjoy baseball? Because like life, every decision you make or don’t make between the chalk lines hurts you or helps you. You don’t have to wait days or years to see the results of your decision. Often the consequences come fast and furious. So, there in the top of the seventh inning with two outs, Charger runners on first and second, the score 5-4, the Miramonte League lead hanging in the balance, and possibly the league’s most dangerous player approaching the plate, out skips Bonita coach John Knott, as cool as the weather, walking straight to the mound. Does he stay with starter Nico Calderaro or bring in closer Jio Mier, who blows 90 mph gas?

After hurling for six innings, Calderaro was clearly battling his command down the stretch. He had given up sharp singles to Charter Oak’s Matt Santiago and Josh Surdo, bringing up Jake Bailey, who just on Wednesday had torched Bonita with two home runs and five RBIs to pace a convincing Charger victory.

“It would have had to have fallen apart for us to bring in Jio,” said Knott. “Nico would have to walk Bailey and load ‘em up. He’s earned the right to be in that game and in that situation. He wants the ball. There’s just no way, I could have taken that ball from his hands. It was obvious that he was leaking oil, that he was tired. But he just made big pitches when he had to. He didn’t give in.”

After starting off Bailey with a curve in the dirt, Calderaro induced Bailey into hitting a dribbler in front of the mound, which he scooped and tossed to first to close out the game.

Calderaro said after the game that he didn’t think he’d be facing Bailey with the game on the line. “I didn’t even think I was going to get to Bailey to be honest,” Calderaro said. “I just left a couple of fast balls up, and kind of got too confident with it, and they stroked a couple hits. They fight. They don’t make it easy.”

Calderaro didn’t exactly make it easy for the Chargers, either, in arguably the biggest game of the season for both teams. “It was a must-win,” Calderaro said. “I needed to take one for the team, and the team joined in and helped me out a lot today. Their run-support was huge. This game was definitely a turning point for us, especially when people at the bottom of the lineup are getting hits. That’s how you win championships.”

A joyful Bonita strides off the field after a hard-fought, character-testing victory over Charter Oak.

A joyful Bonita strides off the field after a hard-fought, character-testing victory over Charter Oak.

The game featured another turning point or decision, but this one had nothing to do with the players or coaches.
With Bonita batting in the bottom of the fourth, with Evan Highly at the plate and Jio Mier on third, representing the go-ahead run in the 2-2 contest, Highly grounded harmlessly to Charger third baseman Michael Hernandez who threw a little wide to first baseman Kenny Kissell for what was ruled the third out by the infield umpire. On an appeal from the Bonita bench, the home plate umpire reversed the call, ruling that Kissell had come off the bag. The reversal brought Charger coach Tom Quinley storming off the bench, whose protestations were of no avail. After play resumed, Reynosa bounced his first pitch, and on his second attempt, junior left fielder Anthony Ramos lined a dead-red fastball over the field fence to give the Bearcats a 5-2 lead they would never relinquish.

“There’s really no better story on this team than Anthony Ramos,” Knott said. “He was a kid who was probably the last kid we kept on this team, and you could have made an argument that maybe he should have been on JVs. He’s just awesome. He stays after, works hard, listens, buys into everything we’re about. He deserved to be in this game, to get that at-bat. I just feel great for that kid.”

Ramos wasn’t the only Bonita hero. Second baseman Ryan Henley singled sharply to lead off the game, and came all the way around to score along with Mier on a two-out, 3-2 pitch clutch single by clean-up hitter Jason Plowman. Bonita’s 2-0 lead held up until the Charger’s clean-up hitter Chris Allen slammed a two-run homer in the top of the fourth.

In the top of the fifth, after the Chargers had scored two more runs, cutting Bonita’s lead to 5-4, Calderaro again faced Allen, this time with the bases loaded and two outs. Calderaro won this individual battle, striking out Allen on a 3-2 curve ball.

“Obviously, Charter Oak has a huge reputation,” said Knott. “They’ve done a lot of great things over the years. They’re not going to give in to anybody. You know they’re going to fight back. But I was also proud of the way our kids punched back.”

Could this finally be the smack-in-the-face, wake-up call Bonita needs to mount a deep drive in the approaching playoffs and a serious shot at a CIF division title?

“I hope,” Knott said. “I hope this propels us to continue to want to get better because ultimately we can’t overlook anybody. We play Walnut. We play Wilson. We have to play one game at a time. One moment at a time.”

One gutsy decision at a time.

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