The Bonita Bearcats varsity baseball team started the season with a 21-1 shellacking over Ayala and finished the season on a similar tear, winning games 13-0, 17-0, 13-1 and yesterday’s finale 10-2 over Walnut. They closed the books on the regular season, finishing 19-4-1.
If you missed the first inning of yesterday’s ballgame against Walnut, you could have turned around and got an early start on the weekend. Bonita banged out nine straight hits for an 8-run explosion, and with senior Josh Yepez (6-2) cruising on the hill, any doubt about the game’s outcome was thinking not based in any kind of reality. Over two seasons, Yepez had a 1.19 ERA and was 12-2.
Yet it was still a bittersweet day. Because it was Senior Day, Coach John Knott formally and publicly said goodbye to eight seniors (Kyle Moderow, Anthony Ramos, Brian Tuttle, Kyle Pine, Evan Highley, Cody Sykes, Josh Yepez and Greg Victoria). Knott said their contributions anchored the team from the start.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the seniors,” “Knott said. “What surprised me was how much they stepped up and how they really didn’t drop the ball at all from the groups of seniors we’ve had here the last two years. They just kept it going. I have a lot of respect for them – the way they went about their business. Guys have had some great individual years. Their performances have been very impressive.”
The team’s dominating league performance was so impressive, Knott’s biggest battle might not be the physical part of the game, but the game’s mental aspects – getting his players focused on the intensity and heightened pressure of the playoffs, better known as baseball’s second season.
Knott said the team never laid down even when his players knew they had wrapped up the Miramonte league championship.
“The team never came out flat even when they didn’t have anything to play for,” Knott said. “I was proud of these guys. They took advantage of our opportunity to play and get some momentum going into the playoffs.”
Of course, no season is perfect, and Bonita, like all teams, faced challenges.
There were several turning points, according to Knott. One was the way the team bounced back after losing to Claremont, 19-3, in the Glendora tournament.
“But if I had to point to one game that stood out the most, it would have to be the Los Altos game that we played here on Saturday where we beat them 10-1. We had lost to them over there, and at the time, the game was for first place because the winner would have owned the tiebreaker. We were facing their best lefthander, and very similar to what we did to the lefthander today, we just took him out of the game.”
“What’s been fun about this team is,” Knott added, it hasn’t been one game, one moment; it’s been just a bunch of them, from sweeping Charter Oak to coming back and defeating Diamond Bar, where we showed our heart and ability to fight back.”
With the playoffs finally here, does Coach Knott continue the team’s same approach, does he now tighten the reins, does he shorten up his bench? How does he play it in the upcoming, one-and-go-home post-season series, where the best teams do not always win it all?
“We’ll continue to play it one game at a time,” Knott said. “We’ll prepare for each game as we always do. We don’t have to go over the severity of it – you know it, you lose and you go home.
“We shouldn’t add any pressure to ourselves. We just have to play our game. And really, I think what it comes down to is us handling our emotions because the likelihood of us making an error or giving up a few runs or getting a call going against us is probably going to happen.
“So it’s just how we handle it. It’s about staying even keel, staying pitch by pitch and staying in the moment, and if doesn’t go our way, moving on and doing whatever we can next.”
Next is Thursday, May 20, at home, where Bonita will face its first playoff opponent. That opponent will be announced at noon on Monday, May 17.