Bonita Powers Into First Place on Right Arm of Garza, Booming Bat of Heslop

March 30, 2012
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Garza continues to pile up the wins and impress scouts with his 93 mph fastball.

Garza continues to pile up the wins and impress scouts with his 93 mph fastball.

With first place on the line in the Hacienda League and Bonita clinging to a 2-1 lead, the Bearcats exploded for six runs on five hits in the bottom of the fifth, including a three-run homer by Tyler Heslop, to defeat the Los Altos Conquerors 8-2 at Bonita on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Bonita ace Justin Garza, his fastball consistently hitting the low 90s, surrendered two runs and twirled a three hitter. He also chipped in an RBI single in the fateful fifth to further his own cause.

I thought today we got it going a little bit,” head coach John Knott said after the game. “Today was a lot of fun.”

There were tense moments in the game, however.

Coming in with an undefeated league record, Los Altos indicated it was ready to contend from the start when Gio Morales led off the game with a deep smash to center field that Nolan Henley ran down for a long out.  

“He goes back as well as well as (Matt) Gelalich or anybody I’ve coached,” Knott said. “I thought he set the tone right there. That could have easily been a triple and a runner on third base with nobody out.”

In the bottom of the first, Garza walked with one out, moved to second on a single by Thomas Castro. Next up, Jake Blunt hit what looked like a tailor-made double play ball to shortstop, but Los Altos was only able to get the force at second, leaving runners on the corners with two outs. With Heslop at the plate, Blunt broke for second and on a poor throw down to second, Garza scored the game’s first run.

Los Altos got that run back in the second when catcher Steven Camberos led off with a double and eventually came around and scored. Garza almost wiggled off the hook when with runners on first and third and one out, he was able to slow down a comebacker by Joey Franco but was only able to get the force at second, allowing Camberos to score.

In the bottom of the fourth, Bonita broke the 1-1 tie on a Blunt lead-off double. Henley cashed him in with a two-out double to give the Bearcats a 2-1 lead. Meanwhile, Garza was locking things down from the mound.

The bottom of the fifth started innocently with pinch hitter Connor Rennard working a walk off Los Altos’ second pitcher, Jason de la Pena. Then Bonita found its groove. Row slammed a triple into the gap, Garza followed with a single. Then Los Altos misplayed an infield grounder and a bunt before Heslop walloped the three-run homer. After Anthony Gonzalez singled, Los Altos pulled Pena, who never recorded an out in the seven batters he faced. Jio Morales finally squelched the fire but not before surrendering a double to Tanner Diebold.

Garza gave up a seventh inning run before nailing down the 8-2 win.

At this point in the season, Coach Knott is wearing many hats, including team psychologist. Expectations of success are high, especially with scouts huddled behind the backstop focused on every pitch that Garza throws.

“It’s going to be tough for us to find our identity because there is so much pressure on Justin,” Knott said. “He is an 18-year-old kid. From everybody wanting to beat him to the scouts being here to just trying to stay within himself.”

But again, Garza answered and the entire team answer the call, playing superb defense and executing in key moments of the game. “Justin’s a bulldog,” Knott said. “He threw all his pitches for strike. I know he was hard on himself that he gave up a run in the seventh.”

At the same time, Knott knows it can’t be just one or two players to carry Bonita to victory each game. “We don’t need Justin to throw a shutout,” he said. “We don’t need one guy to get four hits. We need everybody.”

He got everybody to play his role on Thursday. “I thought we had a good approach, we did some things in some crucial spots,” Knott said.

“I always tell the kids to view the game as a showcase,” he added. “It’s a chance to show people what you can do. Let’s demonstrate to everybody that we play at a high level.

Knott simply wants his players to stay in the moment and not try to do too much.

Right now the players are supplying lots of memorable moments as they prepare to go on this weekend and compete in the spring-break Arcadia tournament at Arcadia High School, where the team will open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 against La Salle.


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