DICKS SPORTING GOODS SEMIFINALS
Bonita 7, La Puente 2
South Hills 5, West Covina 0
Final: Bonita vs. South Hills at Jay Littleton Field, Ontario, Saturday at 7 p.m.
By Fred J. Robledo
The stage is set for Saturday night.
With Bonita High School’s 7-2 victory over La Puente in the semifinals of the Dicks Sporting Goods preseason tournament, the Bearcats advance to Saturday’s championship where Cal State Fullerton-bound pitcher Justin Garza will go for his 19th straight win dating back to his sophomore year.
Bonita will face South Hills, a 5-0 winner over crosstown rival West Covina in the Dicks Sporting Goods championship at Jay Littleton Field in Ontario at 7 p.m.
Littleton Field is where they filmed the movie, “A League of Their Own.”
“We’re hoping to get a good crowd,” Bonita coach John Knott said. “Any time you can get people to show up and get excited about a game, that’s what you want. We figure there will be a playoff atmosphere and that’s something you can draw back on later in the season.”
South Hills pitcher Kevin McKelvey pitched his second straight complete-game shutout in the win over West Covina.
South Hills coach Kevin Smith says his team is looking forward to the challenge of facing Garza.
“It’s always good when you get to go against a quality pitcher,” Smith said. “He’s one of the elite pitchers of the Valley, it’s a great test.”
Knott and Northview coach Darren Murphy, who are co-directors of the tournament, moved the championship from Bonita to Littleton Field because of the bleachers and fan-friendly setting.
“It shows that those two (Murphy and Knott) have a lot of class,” Smith said. “(John) could have easily had another home game but they did what they thought was right for the fans who will have a chance to sit down in nice seats and enjoy the game. Hopefully we get a good turnout.”
Bonita punched its ticket to the final by jumping all over La Puente in the first inning.
After Garza singled home Thomas Castro from third, Anthony Gonzalez belted a double with the bases loaded to drive in two more runs. After Tyler Heslop’s fly out scored Jacob Blunt, the Bearcats led 4-0.
“That’s the goal, to score early,” Knott said. “Any time you wait your first-round through the order (to score runs) which is easy to do, it’s already the fourth inning and the pressure mounts.
“We talk about that all the time, to come out, try to score first and set the tone and dictate the tempo.”
La Puente didn’t do itself any favors by squandering the lead runner in the first four innings.
After the Warriors’ Michael Patini led off the first with a double, he was picked off by Bearcats starter Parker Merritt, who got the win and pitched four scoreless innings.
La Puente’s lead runner was doubled-up in the second inning, caught stealing in the third and a double play ended any threat in the fourth.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes today,” Warriors coach John Hermosillo said. “The first couple innings we ran ourselves out of the game. We fought hard and made it 4-2, but we let some big opportunities get away from us early.”
Ethan Etchebarren’s single scored Ryan Franco from third and Patini’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Cody Hrey from third to cut Bonita’s lead to 4-2 in the fifth. La Puente kept plugging away and loaded the bases, but Luis Jacobo’s ground out ended the inning.
After Garza drove home his second run in the fifth to extend the Bearcats’ lead to 5-2, Justin Row hit a two-run homer in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Below: Bonita and South Hills will play at Jay Littleton Field where they filmed “A League of Their Own.”