February 25, 2012
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Garza turned out the lights on Damien.

Garza turned out the lights on Damien.

Close to a thousand parents, grandparents, scouts, students and baseball fans wedged into Bonita park on Friday night to watch the 2012 unveiling of Justin Garza and the Bonita Bearcats in the opening game of the Dick’s Sporting Goods pre-season baseball tournament sponsored by Easton and Rawlings.

What they saw was a stronger, more souped-up version of the 2011 model that went 13-0 and surrendered about a half a run a game.

With Garza taking the hill against a highly rated Damien team, the game gave new meaning to the expression “foregone conclusion.” Over six shutout innings, Garza scattered four hits and struck out eight in leading Bonita to a 6-0 victory. Indeed, outside of Chad Lee and JJ Murillo, who collected two hits each, Garza blanked the entire Damien squad.

Coach Knott has good reason to be smiling.

Coach Knott has good reason to be smiling.

“He was great,” Bonita coach John Knott said about his ace. “He definitely got better as the game got going. You could tell he was a little bit nervous. He was trying to be a little fine early. He didn’t get some of the corner shots called like he’d hoped.”

Garza conceded he was amped up about getting the season underway in front of the hometown crowd.

“It feels great,” Garza said. “I’ve been waiting for this all summer.”

There’s no doubt the Cal State Fullerton-bound senior with a fastball that can reach 95 mph is under the microscope, his every move being analyzed and dissected.

“People have no idea how many phone calls and emails I get on a daily basis,” Knott said. “It’s crazy and a lot for a kid to deal with. He’s off the charts in terms of humility, in terms of his work ethic, his character. He’s a role model for all these guys. He’s just got a great demeanor and it’s real consistent and it’s genuine.”

In the first three innings, Damien managed to get at least one runner in scoring position before Garza took control.

“I’m definitely stronger, I’ve got more experience,” Garza said when asked to compare this season with last.

Garza wasn’t the only one firing on all cylinders. Justin Row was perfect on the night collecting a pair of singles and walk to go with three RBIs. Clean-up hitter Castro was three-for-four with a double.

From the first pitch of the game, Castro was locked in.

From the first pitch of the game, Castro was locked in.

Knott elected to pull Garza and go with his closer Sam Stavang in the seventh. Stavang, a junior, looked sharp, setting Damien down in order while striking out two.

Bonita also sparkled defensively. In the top of the sixth, Victor Magallanes chased down a one-out double by Lee and relayed it to second baseman Woody Reyes, who then fired a perfect strike to Castro, who dropped down the tag on a sliding Lee at third for the out.

It was that kind of night for Bonita.

“Realistically, we’re excited we’ve got a kid like Justin, but he can’t pitch every game,” Knott said. “So it’s going to be up to every guy on the team to pull for one another and put their time in and play their part.”

Bonita (1-0) resumes play this Wednesday at home against Arroyo.

Dr. Alan Alas is “La Verne’s Favorite Dentist.” To keep that perfect smile, call his office anytime, (909) 593-7561.


  1. this guy looks like he can finally be a guy that makes the majors from bonita and not only makes the majors, but succeeds there and gets significant playing time

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