By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
For those interested in classic baseball matchups, it will be hard to find a better one than wild-card entrant Yucaipa (27-6) taking on top-seeded Glendora (26-2-1) in the CIF- Southern Section Division 2 championship at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. That’s because the Tartans are sending out UCLA-bound right-hander Adam Plutko, also a potential high draft choice in this month’s Major League Baseball amateur draft. (To continue, click thread).
Above: Glendora will face highly regarded 6-foot-5 pitcher Taijuan Walker, who has been clocked in the mid 90s.
Yucaipa, however, might have an even more promising draft prospect on the hill in 6-foot-5, 200-pound Taijuan Walker, whose fastball has been clocked in the mid-90 s.
Plutko returned in the quarterfinals after missing nearly a month with a strained back, throwing a no-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Placentia Valencia to improve his record to 9-1 with a 1.28 ERA and 91 strikeouts in just 60 innings of work.
Walker, who threw a three- hit shutout in the Thunderbirds’ 3-0 quarterfinal win over Santa Barbara, also pitched an inning of relief to close out their 7-5 semifinal victory over El Toro.
Walker is 10-3 with a 1.52 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 64 innings – providing a matchup just as intriguing for scouts as it is for fans.
Glendora is playing in its first championship.
Yucaipa advanced after beating Rancho Verde in a wild- card game before knocking off second-seeded Crespi, 3-1, in the first round.
“You couldn’t script it any better,” Tartans coach Dan Henley said. “He’s (Walker) got a special arm; it’s what you expect to face at the end of the season in a championship game. You would like to think it gets easier, but you know it doesn’t.
“It’s obviously our first shot at a championship, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity. You just have to calm your nerves and play. You know it’s a big game with a lot riding on it, but you have to stay calm and do what you’ve done all season.”
Ending a long drought?
The last time the Bonita baseball team won a CIF title, the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and Harry S. Truman was the president.
Gas was 27 cents a gallon, the minimum wage was 75 cents an hour, and the average price of a home was $16,000.
The Bearcats’ only championship came in 1951, when they beat Escondido, 7-6, to capture what was then the small- schools Southern Group division.
That’s 59 years since their only title, which is longer than most high schools have existed.
Bonita (24-4-1) advanced to the Division 3 championship with their tenth consecutive victory, a 13-4 win at San Gorgonio on Tuesday.
The Bearcats will face Ocean View (21-9), winners of six in a row after knocking off Gahr 7-3 in the semifinals, on Saturday at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore at 1 p.m., with the Glendora-Yucaipa game to follow.
The fact that the Bearcats advanced at all is quite a story. Last year’s Bonita team featured several notable seniors, such as first-round Major League draft choice Jiovanni Mier, who signed with the Houston Astros.
When the Bearcats lost in the semifinals to eventual champion South Hills, the tears couldn’t escape Bearcats coach John Knott, who thought his best chance in years had slipped away.
Knott knew that the Bearcats would be young and green this season, and he couldn’t imagine the production from his youngsters, such as sophomore Robert Mier, who’s hitting .438 with seven homers and 31 RBIs, or junior Matt Gelalich, who’s batting .514.
There also are seniors coming through in the clutch, such as Brian Tuttle (.400) and Evan Highley (.411, 35 RBIs), and other contributors such as KC Huth and Anthony Ramos.