Bonita Saves Best for Last in Dramatic Walk-0ff Victory Over Diamond Bar

April 3, 2010
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Matt Rodriguez is somewhere in the pile.

Matt Rodriguez is somewhere in the pile.

Has anyone seen Matt Rodriguez?

Has anyone seen Matt Rodriguez?

Matt Rodriguez emerges a hero!

Matt Rodriguez emerges a hero!

Trailing at one point in the game, 8-0, Bonita defeated Diamond Bar, 10-9, on a walk-off bases loaded line single by Matt Rodriguez, who was immediately mugged by his teammates after helping the Bearcats complete their amazing comeback.

Rodriguez may never have come to the plate with a chance to be the hero were it not been for the clutch contributions of his teammates hitting ahead of him in the fateful seventh that saw Bonita down by two runs, 9-7. Brian Tuttle, the Bearcats’ starting pitcher hitting out of the nine hole, stroked a two-strike sinking curveball to start off the inning. Lead-off hitter Robert Mier then launched a fastball over the left field fence to knot the score at 9-9.

Mier had actually missed a take sign relayed by Bonita Coach John Knott before hitting the big blast.

“It was kind of a funny thing,” Knott said moments after the game. “He looked me at me to take. I said, ‘Swing,’ and then right after I said, ‘Swing,’ I gave him the take, but his head went down and missed it, and then he hit out.”

The home run brought out Brahmas coach Eric Shibley to make a pitching change. Shibley elected to go with his ace who had pitched seven innings just the day before, then thought better of it before choosing another pitcher. It may have been just a delaying tactic to buy the second pitcher more time to warm up.

Whatever the strategy, it didn’t work. With still no outs, Matt Gelalich walked, Evan Highley, who had three hits, singled, and then Gelallich and Highley each moved up on a double steal on a fake bunt attempt by Anthony Ramos. Then Ramos walked, setting the stage for Rodriguez, who had been 0-for-3 until he connected on the game-winner.

Knott actually had Rodriguez try a suicide squeeze earlier in the count, but Rodriguez fouled the ball back. Then on a 3-2 count, Rodriguez delivered, and the on-field celebration began. It may have lasted longer, but the coaches pulled the plug on it, most likely, for two reasons: One, to spare Rodriguez who was at the bottom of the dog pile, and two, to remind the players that their season still had a long way to go. Such celebrations are usually saved for May and June.

“I was really happy for the kids,” Knott said. “Matt Gelalich had great poise today. Really, one through nine, I thought our guys swung the bat really well.

But mostly Knott, like the Bonita faithful in the stands, was in awe of the dramatic turn of events.

“It just goes to show you, this is a very humbling game,” he said. “You can have a bad at-bat, you can make a mistake, you can look bad, coaches can get in your butt a little bit, and then all of a sudden, you’re the hero.

“So, it’s just so important to try to keep your head above water, to be a good teammate and pull for one another because your time is going to come.”

Bonita’s time almost didn’t arrive, however. Going into game against Diamond Bar, Bonita’s pitching staff had given up just one run over the last four games, a remarkable string that included three shutouts. Diamond Bar, however, wasn’t about to play along. In the first three innings, the Brahmas scored 8 runs on 11 hits. The team’s first three hitters in the line-up, Chester Pak, Jeff Crowe and Kenny Mathews, were 9-for-9, including a pair of doubles.

Bonita, which had defeated South Pasadena earlier in the day, 11-0, showed its first signs of life in the in the bottom of third. In the inning, Bonita batted around, scoring four runs on five singles in an inning that was also aided by a Brahmas error and a walk. The damage could have been worse, but two Bearcats, Kyle Moderow and Jc Huth, were cut down by perfect throws at home plate.

In the top of the fourth, Diamond Bar pushed across another run to go up, 9-4, and appeared to be cruising to an easy victory.

In the top of the fifth, Knott brought in Adam McCreery to face the Brahmas’ hot-hitting top of the line-up. The move was a good one, as McCreery faced just one batter over the minimum, including a punch-out of Jonathan Munoz.

The bottom half of the fifth started out promising for the Bearcats. Greg Victoria doubled to lead off the inning, but he was left stranded. With two outs, Gelalich flied deep to right before the hit was hauled in at the fence.

In the sixth, Knott called on Brandon Murfett to give the Bearcats a quality inning of relief work. After walking the first two batters, the junior pitcher buckled down, pouncing on a bunt and forcing Robert Torres at third, and then fanning both Taylor Cavazos and Josh Viloria to end the inning.

In the bottom of the inning, Bonita edged closer, 9-7, on a clutch scoring single by catcher Mark Lindsay and an RBI ground out by Kc Huth.

In the top of the seventh, it was Justin Garza’s turn to hold the Brahmas in check. Garza struck out Pak and Crowe, no easy task, then after walking Matthews, induced Munoz to fly to left.

By shutting down the Brahmas’ potent offensive attack over the last three innings, Bonita still had a chance, and the team made the most of it.

Just ask the guy at the bottom of the pile!

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