FRANKLIN LOAN CENTER GAME OF THE WEEK: San Gorgonio Might be the Highest Peak in Southern California, But It’s Bonita That Reaches New Heights

June 1, 2010
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Matt Rodriguez, No. 15, greets Evan Highley who scored along with Brian Tuttle on a three-run homer in the top of the seventh by K.C. Huth, seen rounding third base.

Matt Rodriguez, No. 15, greets Evan Highley who scored along with Brian Tuttle on a three-run homer in the top of the seventh by K.C. Huth, seen rounding third base.

Although San Gorgonio came into the Southern Section Division 3 CIF semifinals with a gaudy .390 team batting average, it was Bonita that did most of the hitting and scoring, pounding out 20 hits en route to a 13-4 victory over the Spartans, sending the Bearcats into the finals on Saturday in Lake Elsinore against Ocean View, 6-3 winners over Beckman.

Nothing could have prepared Spartans ace Adam Quintana, 11-2 with a 1.63 E.R.A. on the season and the three pitchers that followed, for Bonita’s power surge.

In the top of the first, it was Robert Mier once again setting the table for the hungry Bearcats with a solid single to left. Next, Matt Gelalich laid down a perfect bunt for a base hit, putting runners on first and second with no outs. After Evan Highley lined out and a double steal by Bonita, Brian Tuttle walked to load the bases.

Then, the first of many strange plays transpired. After Quintana fanned K.C. Huth, Spartans catcher Luke Staples rolled the ball back to the mound, thinking there were three outs. Quintana was able to quickly recover the ball and hold the runners.

Despite the mental mistep, it looked as if San Gorgonio and Quintana might wiggle off the hook. That’s when Bonita struck. First, a passed ball by Staples allowed Mier to score the game’s first run. Matt Rodriguez, who’s having a monster post-season, followed by lining a double to drive in Gelalich and Tuttle. Catcher Mark Lindsay followed with a walk and then Thomas Victoria lined an RBI single to drive in Rodriguez. The inning mercifully came to a close when Justin Garza flied to right, but not before Bonita had scored four runs and put a considerable dent in Quintana’s impressive  E.R.A. while late-arriving fans were still claiming their programs, opening their water bottles and finding their seats.

At that point, no one knew if the four runs would hold up for the whole game or just one inning. It appeared the latter when Spartans lead-off hitter Andy Crowley, entering the game hitting .579, hit a single. His steal attempt of second, however, was foiled on a perfect throw from Bonita catcher Mark Lindsay. After Staples grounded out to third, Quintana, hitting .536, lashed a triple to right. Clean-up hitter Ricky Elias, a .438 hitter, walked, putting runners on the corners with two outs. But the threat ended when Brian Tuttle, Bonita’s senior ace, got Juan Rocha, a .390 hitter on the season, to ground to shortstop Justin Garza for the force at second.

In the top of the second it was Mier again getting another base knock. After Qunitana wild pitched him to second, Gelalich bunted Mier to third and then Highley drove Mier home with a single.

Mier is just one of Bonita’s catalysts, but a key one indeed. He’s a table setter, but also the team’s leading home run hitter.

“My whole philosophy is just try to get on anyway I can,” Mier said, still with moist eye black on his face. “If it’s an error, a hit, a walk, whatever, I’m just always trying to get on base, get our team going and let Jello do his job and move me over and then have our No. 3 and No. 4 hitters bring me in.”

Bonita’s quick start helped quiet the home town San Gorgonio crowd.

Evan Highley appears handcuffed before he goes on to hit a double in the top of the seventh.

Evan Highley appears handcuffed before he goes on to hit a double in the top of the seventh. Matt Gelalich, at thirdm would score on the double.

“We knew it was going to be a hostile environment,” Mier added. “We just wanted to come out early and silence the crowd and silence the team, and that’s what we did.”

Much of that silent treatment was the result of Tuttle’s right arm, but it would have been too much to ask of even Tuttle to hold down the Spartans’ offense the entire game. The senior even gave the Spartans a boost in the bottom of the second. With one out, Matt Pacho doubled and Devin Deshane walked. No. 9 hitter Caleb Cacho dropped down a well executed bunt that Tuttle rushed and misfired past first, allowing Pacho to score and put runners on second and third with just one out. Then Tuttle got Crowley to hit a tapper back to the mound that he corralled and threw home to cut down Deshane at the plate. With two outs, Cacho at third, Crowley at first and Staples at the plate, Crowley deliberately got caught in a rundown between first and second long enough for Cacho to score from third. Staples finally struck back, but San Gorgonio was back in the game, trailing 5-2 at the end of two.

In the top of the third, Bonita came knocking again, putting together a two-out rally on a single by Garza and walks to Mier and Gelalich. Highley, however, grounded to short for an easy force to end the Bearcats bases-loaded threat.

The momentum seemed to be swinging San Gorgonio’s way. In the bottom of the third, Quintana ripped a lead-off single to get the hometown crowd on its feet. After Elias fanned, Rocha singled to put runners on the corners with just one out. Then in the biggest play of the game, in another delayed steal attempt, Quintana broke for home but was tagged out by Lindsay as Quintana tried to slide around the Bonita backstop to no avail.

Before the dust could settle, the home plate umpire threw Quintana out of the game. Apparently, the umpire didn’t like something he saw or heard from Quintana, so he tossed San Gorgonio’s best player out of the game. Surprisingly, the ejection didn’t draw a huge protest from the San Gorgonio bench.

Approached after the game on why he threw Quintana out, the home plate umpire said, “I don’t respond to the media when I’m wearing the uniform,” and walked away.

After the game, Bonita Coach John Knott tried to explain what took place.

“That probably changed the game in the sense he’s been their horse all year,” Knott said of Quintana’s ejection. “You could tell that deflated them a little bit.

“Basically, what happened was there was a play at the plate, and some words exchanged and the umpire heard something … and booted him out.

“Tough situation to deal with,” Knott added, “but we all have rules and stuff that we have to abide by.”

Another inning that had started promising for San Gorgonio crashed and burned.  But much of the credit has to go to Tuttle who made the big pitches when he had to.

“What can you say about that kid,” Knott said. “He’s not only a winner, he’s a champion out there. He handles himself well. He doesn’t get too rattled. Realistically, of the four runs they scored, two or three of them we gave them. He’s the guy we want in that situation. He doesn’t get rattled. He made mistakes and he did not let that get the best of him. He was totally under control.”

In the top of the fourth, Bonita went back to work, scoring a run on three straight singles by Rodriguez, Lindsay and Thomas Victoria to go up 6-2.

In the bottom of the fifth, San Gorgonio punched across two more runs to make it 6-4, the big blow coming on a two-run double by Rocha

Bonita, however, responded two of their own in the top of the sixth for a four-run cushion. After Tuttle walked to lead off the inning, Huth followed with a double and Rodriguez had an RBI single to cash in Tuttle. Huth held at third while Rodriguez moved up to second on a wild pitch and then Lindsay hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Huth for the inning’s second run.

After walking a pair in the bottom of the sixth, Tuttle ended up striking out the side.

In the top of the seventh, Bonita exploded for five more runs, leaving no doubt about the Bearcats’ dominance. Of the first five batters the Bearcats sent to the plate, Mier and Gelalich each tripled, Highley doubled, and Huth hit a 3-run homer. Also in the inning, Tyler Heslop and Nolan Henley singled.

In the bottom of the seventh, Tuttle set down the Spartans in order, with Highley snagging the final pop up out of the sky to send Bonita into the finals.

For Bonita, if it wasn’t Mier, it was Gelalich doing the damage. If it wasn’t Gelalich, it was Highley. If it wasn’t Highley, it was Tuttle. If it wasn’t Tuttle, it was Huth. If it wasn’t Huth, it was Rodriguez, who was filling in for injured clean-up hitter Anthony Ramos. If it wasn’t Rodriguez and the ghost of Ramos, it was Lindsay, and so forth and so on up and down the lineup. Victoria, batting in the eight spot had three singles before he was pulled for a pinch hitter. Garza hitting out of the nine hole played brilliantly at short and chipped in a third-inning single. Enjoying multi-hit games were Mier, Gelalich, Highley, Huth, Rodriguez, Lindsay and Victoria.

“That’s what we’ve talked about all year,” Knott said. “We’re not led by one or two guys. We have a number of guys not only in the lineup, but also on the bench who can contribute.”

Has Bonita reached its peak? Is reaching the big dance enough — a big game that Bonita has not played in since 1951, according to one reliable report.

“We’re just going to stay in the moment, realizing that we still have to get better with some stuff,” Knott said. “What happened today is going to be over with. All of us can enjoy this win tonight, and then tomorrow is a new day, and we have a whole new objective, which is to get ready for Saturday.”

Get ready. The year 1951 was a long time ago – about six decades ago. Game time is Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Diamond, the regular home of Lake Elsinore Storm, which is located at 500 Diamond Drive.

History awaits your arrival.

FRANKLIN LOAN CENTER: Where your home financing needs are met with honest, responsible, experienced consultants, 333 East Foothill Blvd., San Dimas, Marc Burns, Branch Manager, (909) 962-6351,

One Response to “FRANKLIN LOAN CENTER GAME OF THE WEEK: San Gorgonio Might be the Highest Peak in Southern California, But It’s Bonita That Reaches New Heights”

  1. They played in the game in the mid 70s, I think it was 1974, but we haven’t won since ’51.

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