We’re at the midpoint of the baseball season with Bonita, Bishop Amat, Covina, Chino Hills, Glendora, Sierra Vista and South Hills all having great years and in league title position, with Bishop Amat on top of the Division 4 poll and Bonita No. 3 in D-3. It’s also a great time to check in with our leading candidates for player of the year. By no means is player of the year limited to this list, you never know who might have a great second half or go nuts in the playoffs, but for now, I’ll share who I think the top ten candidates are, and of course, these are in no particular order.
Above: If you had to name a front runner, it’s hard to argue against Garza, doing it offensively and defensively for the Hacienda League leading Bearcats, also ranked No. 3 in Division 3.
Ty France, South Hills, Jr. — Of course we don’t have the numbers on him, South Hills doesn’t like this stuff to get out, but we’ve seen France enough to know whether he’s catching or pitching, he’s been a force and swings a great bat too. In fact, you can say the same thing about his teammate C.J. Saylor, also having a great year offensively and defensively.
Nick Hynes, Covina, Jr. — I don’t know if it’s Valle Vista League pitching or what, but statistically, he’s a monster. Hynes is batting. 588 with 15 RBIs and three home runs, and the Colts are in first place.
Elias Novelo, Sierra Vista, Sr — Another player who fills out the stat box for the impressive Dons, going for their third straight Montview League title. Novelo is hitting .453 with an area-leading 35 RBIs and three homers. But that’s only half the story, he’s also 7-0 on the mound with a 1.46 ERA and 42 strikeouts.
Justin Garza, Bonita, Jr. — If we were giving away the award today, how could you give it to anyone else. All he’s done is go 7-0 with a 0.37 ERA, owns a head-to-head win over Diamond Bar’s Kenny Mathews, and has been nails in the absence of 6-8 lefty Adam McCreery. If that’s not enough, he’s also among the area hitting leaders batting .429.
Kenny Mathews, Diamond Bar, Sr. — The Cal State Fullerton bound pitcher is 4-2 with a 0.67 ERA and 56 strikeouts. The Brahmas don’t have a lot of offense, except for Mathews and a few guys. Mathews also is hitting .444 with seven doubles and 11 RBIs.
Joseph Keller, Chino Hills, Jr — Doing it hitting and pitching for the Sierra League leading Huskies. Keller is batting. 575 with 8 RBIs and 2 home runs. On the hill he is 2-2 but has an impressive 0.95 ERA in 22 innings.
Rio Ruiz, Bishop Amat, Jr. — Best player on the best team? It’s easy to make the argument, and he’s having another solid year. Ruiz is hitting. 482 with 24 RBIs, seven doubles, two triples and two home runs.
Rouric Bridgewater, Diamond Ranch, Sr. — He’s probably the area’s most feared hitter on a team that isn’t going to win much. But statistically, he’s doing it again, batting .467 with 18 RBIs and four homers.
Matt Munoz, San Dimas — One of the best defensive infielders I’ve seen, and the kid can hit too, batting .429 with eight RBIs and 3 triples.
Nick Cooksey, Glendora, Sr The Tartans slugger is batting .439 with 17 RBIs and five home runs. John Alexander you could put on this list too, I’ve always thought John has the smoothest swinging stroke around.