By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
This is why high school baseball in the San Gabriel Valley takes a back seat to nobody.
A week after Bishop Amat won Orange County’s prestigious National Classic and climbed to No. 8 in MaxPreps’ national rankings and No. 1 in its Southern California poll, the Lancers couldn’t extend their 21-game undefeated streak in a battle for best in the Valley. Bonita, behind a brilliant performance from senior pitcher Brandon Murfett, pulled out a 2-1 victory in front of standing-room only crowd at Mt. San Antonio College on Tuesday night in a charity game that benefited the R.J.’s foundation — a non-profit organization that supports terminally ill children and raises money for low-income families to promote professional, academic and athletic achievement. (To continue, click thread).
This is great stuff from Bonita coach John Knott talking to his team in the moments after the big win….
By comparison, Bonita came in ranked 289th nationally, but the Bearcats (18-3) were not intimidated at all, not after advancing to last year’s Division 3 title game and bringing a No. 2 ranking in Division 3 to Monday’s game.
“Obviously it’s a huge game against a great opponent,” Bonita coach John Knott said. “Amat has a rich tradition, probably the richest tradition in the San Gabriel Valley. There is no denying that this game was huge, but our kids have a lot of confidence in this environment. We had a lot of kids coming back from the CIF finals and we felt confident we would come out and not be intimidated.”
If Bonita’s ace is Justin Garza (8-0), what does that make Murfett (4-0)? Everyone talks about Amat’s pitching depth, but Bonita has a stellar staff as well, and that’s with 6-foot-8 lefty Adam McCreery still making his way back.
Murfett allowed just six hits, ending the game by picking off Amat’s Wallace Gonzalez at first.
“He (Murfett) didn’t have his best stuff early and it would have been easy for him to put too much pressure on himself, but as the game got going, he got better,” Bonita coach John Knott said of Murfett. “It was great to see him pitching in the last inning. It would have been easy to put pressure on himself and nibble, walk a batter here or there and give them them a chance to win it, but he didn’t. He settled down and got it done.”
Bonita’s Matt Gelalich had three hits, stole three bases and Justin Row had a triple and scored both runs to lead Bonita to its eighth straight win.
Still, Amat struck first.
Andrew Gutierrez’s two-out triple scored Gonzalez from second to give Amat a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
Bonita answered back in the fourth. Row tripled to right and later scored on Nolan Henley’s two-out infield single, tying the score 1-1.
Bonita nearly broke it open in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Thomas Castro chopped a tough ball between Amat pitcher David Berg and first base that he legged out for a single, scoring Row to make it 2-1 with the bases still loaded.
Amat got out of the inning with a big out at the plate on a passed ball and a ground out — but the real story of Amat’s night was its missed opportunities on the bases.
Jay Anderson led off the fourth with a single and stole second. But he tried stealing third with nobody out in a tie game and was thrown out.
Adam Alcantara hit a one-out triple in the fifth. But on Brandon Castaneda’s fly to right, Alcantara started home and stopped after a quick throw home from Bonita right-fielder K.C. Huth and was caught in a rundown to end the inning.
After Rio Ruiz hit a single and reached second on an error to lead off the sixth, he was replaced by Trevor Goetz on the basepaths so he could get ready to pitch the seventh.
But when Goetz tagged and went to third on Andrew Gutierrez’s fly to right for the first out, Bonita appealed that Goetz left second early and he was ruled out.
Then of course, Gonzalez was picked off to end the game.
“We did not play clean baseball,” Amat coach Andy Nieto said, whose team fell to 21-3. “Give Bonita a lot of credit, but when you don’t play clean baseball it’s a recipe for a close game and a formula to lose.”