Bonita coach John Knott said it best, the Bearcats are not a one-trick pony; pitching depth and Castro and Heslop are why they’re still playing

Justin Garza gets headlines, but Thomas Castro (left) and Tyler Heslop (right) are also a big reason Bonita is facing Alhambra for the Division 3 championship at Dodger Stadium on Friday at 1:30 p.m.

By Aram Tolegian, staff writer
– It’s easy to see pitcher Justin Garza’s gaudy stats and think the Bonita High School baseball team is a one-man show.

In fact, that’s exactly what most people do.

Sure, the Bearcats likely wouldn’t be playing in Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon for the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship without Garza. But they also wouldn’t be there without players like Thomas Castro and Tyler Heslop, either.

“We’re not a one-man show,” Castro said. “We know that’s what everyone says, but we know that this is a team.”

No game could prove Castro right better than Tuesday’s semifinal, in which the Bearcats didn’t have Garza starting but still beat Gahr, 3-0, to reach the championship game.

Parker Merritt, a junior, got the start and the win. Garza preserved the victory by coming out of the bullpen. In between, the Bearcats did the little things needed to show yet again they’re formidable with or without their ace.

Fortunately for Bonita, Garza will get the start on Friday and that puts them in a good position to beat Alhambra. But it’s going to take more than another monster effort from Garza to come away with the hardware. It’s going to take more great play from Castro and Heslop, the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the Bearcats’ lineup.

“Heslop and Castro have had tremendous years for us,” Bonita coach John Knott said.

“Castro is the only kid I can honestly say that can play eight positions at the varsity level or above. We don’t even pitch him and he probably throws a mid-80s fastball. He can play anywhere in the outfield. He can play anywhere in the field and could probably catch if we had him work at it.

“Heslop, just really stepped it up this year and has been so consistent driving in runs. He’s playing with a hurt leg right now and just willing himself through it. I’m just happy for both kids.”

Although Bonita has worn the label of a team with limited run-scoring potential this season, the numbers don’t quite agree. Castro is hitting .489 with 31 RBIs. Heslop is hitting .423 with 30 RBIs.

As good as Garza’s been, it’s safe to say that without Castro and Heslop in the middle of the order, Bonita doesn’t win 31 games. It should also be remembered that when Garza pitches, Bonita’s opponent is on its best behavior defensively because it knows that there’s no margin for error.

“I know we have guys around Garza that can play,” Knott said. “Justin’s not the first kid in the history of the San Gabriel Valley who’s going to get drafted. You need a whole team to make it to a CIF championship. You can’t do it with one guy.

“He’s been part of many great individual moments. The strength of our defense has been Justin, but we’ve made all the routine plays. It’s definitely a team effort. And I have to give Justin a lot of credit, he’s definitely self-promoting.”

Castro and Heslop grew up playing in La Verne Little League together and have enjoyed success all the way up the ladder. That’s part of the reason why the Bearcats are such a tight-knit group and there’s no egos to be found anywhere on the diamond.

“We play very good together,” Heslop said. “We’re just not that cocky of a team. We all know that each one of us has to contribute, so we have each other’s backs.”

If by early evening on Friday the Bearcats find themselves alone atop the mountain in Division 3, the fan perception as to who gets the credit and how much won’t mean a thing.

Garza will be counted on to be his usual solid self. The defense will be counted on to be its usual reliable self. Castro and Heslop will be counted on to do their usual routine of coming up with the key hit, big or small, to get the runs needed for a win.

And when the dust settles, a dogpile of players and coaches will tell everyone all they need to know as to whether the 2012 Bearcats were one man or one team.

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Any thoughts on Softball player of the year and first team? Lots of tough choices

When I think of Chino Hills, St. Lucy’s and Bishop Amat, the area’s best three softball teams, there are a collection of standouts that make those teams great, and in Chino Hills’ case, this is especially true. It’s hard to nail down just one MVP. There were players from other teams with great individual seasons, so picking an MVP for the area is especially difficult this year. But we only get one player of the year and one first team, so who do you think should be on the list.
2 Pitchers:
1: Catcher
4 Infielders:
3 Outfielders:
1 Utility.

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Baseball Playoffs: Bonita punches its ticket to Dodger Stadium with 3-0 win at Gahr; Pacifica ends South Hills’ title hopes, 2-1

Bonita, the Trib’s No. 1 nearly all season, is the lone team to advance to a championship after its 3-0 win over Gahr. Bonita will face Alhambra, a 6-4 winner over Beckman, in the Division 3 championship on Friday at Dodger Stadium at 1:30 p.m. South Hills battled, but fell 2-1 to Pacifica.

Bonita’s semifinal photo gallery

By Brian Reed-Baiotto
— Bonita High baseball coach John Knott rolled the dice in Tuesday’s CIF-SS Division 3 semifinal playoff game when he handed the ball to junior right-hander Parker Merritt instead of hard-throwing ace Justin Garza.

Knott’s gamble, though, paid off big time, as Merritt (8-1) went six-plus shutout innings on five hits to lead Bonita to a 3-0 victory at Gahr.

The Bearcats (30-2), now have Garza (11-1) ready and able to throw up to nine innings in Friday’s championship game against Alhambra (24-3) at Dodger Stadium at 1:30.
Garza replaced Merritt with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the seventh and Gahr’s Hector Partida at the plate representing the tying run.

Garza struck out Partida and Anthony Rodriguez, and then got Oscar Reyna to ground out to punch the Bearcats ticket to Chavez Ravine.

“This was such an exciting win, because everyone thinks of us as a one-trick pony and that we can’t win unless Garza is on the mound,” Knott said. “Parker did a great job of throwing strikes and hitting his spots and puts us in a very desirable position with our ace on the mound in the championship game.”

Bonita’s Nolan Henley made arguably the game’s biggest play in the bottom of the third inning when Gahr (19-11) had runners on first and second with two outs and Arizona State-bound junior slugger Kevin Franklin at the plate.

Franklin hit a shot to deep right-center field that looked to be well beyond Henley’s reach, but the senior center fielder ran under it and saved two runs for Merritt.

Henley then led off the top of the fourth with a single, stole second and moved to third when Anthony Gonzlez was able to fight off an Andrew Encinas pitch and punched the ball to the right side.

Bonita catcher Jacob Blunt’s one-out single up the middle with the Gahr infield on the grass scored Henley and gave the Bearcats a 1-0 lead.

Encinas retired Joe Willard for the second out, but the Bearcats No. 9 hitter Woody Reyes was able to extend the inning with a two-out single and brought leadoff man Justin Row to the plate.

Row tripled to deep left field when his line shot grazed off the glove of a diving Gladiators left fielder Adonis Morrison and scored Blunt and Reyes to extend the Bonita lead to 3-0.

Merritt cruised into the sixth, when, with one out, Jaime Estrada reached base on a Thomas Castro error at third base and Franklin singled to give the Gladiators first and third with one out and the tying run at the plate.

Merritt, however, got Daniel Gomez to hit a ground ball to Garza at short and the star senior turned it into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

“I just wanted to get us to Dodger Stadium by throwing strikes, mixing my pitches and location and allowing our defense to make plays behind me,” Merritt said. “Henley gave us the momentum by making that huge play in the third and we got hits when we needed them. We’re very excited to have Justin on the mound in the biggest game of the season.”

Garza is 24-1 over the past two season’s and had a heavy pitch count in Friday’s 2-1 nail biter over Paramount, but the senior right-hander was chomping at the bit to close out the Gladiators.

“I wanted the ball in the fifth, but Parker did a great job today and has done so all year,” Garza said. “I was so excited to get a chance to close out the game and felt really fresh. We’ve put ourselves in a great position thanks to Parker’s outstanding effort today.”

Encinas (7-6) got the loss after allowing three runs on seven hits and struck out six Bonita batters over 6 1/3 innings.

The Gahr junior lefty threw 23 innings in the postseason, and got out of a bases-loaded and one-out scenario unscathed in the third by getting Castro to fly out to shallow center and striking out Tyler Heslop.

Blunt and Row had two hits apiece for Bonita.

Keith Birmingham’s South Hills photo gallery

Pacifica 2, South Hills 1: South Hills High School looked to be in the catbird seat.

The Huskies, after being no-hit for five innings, fought back and looked to be sitting pretty in the sixth, with runners on first and third and their two best hitters – Cameron Saylor and Tyler France – due up.

Pacifica’s Kyle Davis had other ideas.

The senior struck out Saylor and France, then tagged out Danny Sheehan at the plate to keep a one-run lead intact to lead the Mariners to a 2-1 victory. over host South Hils.

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Softball: Chino Hills’ Paige Gumz delivers the dagger with a three-run homer to lift the Huskies past Bishop Amat 7-3 to reach the title game; South Torrance blanks St. Lucy’s 2-0

CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Softball Semifinals
Chino Hills 7, Bishop Amat 3
South Torrance 2, St. Lucy’s 0

South Torrance 2, St.Lucy’s 0: St. Lucy’s had overcome its share of off-field turmoil to make its deepest postseason run in seven years.

That made the Regents’ 2-0 loss to South Torrance in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 3 semifinals that much harder to take.

Keith Birmingham’s Chino Hills-Bishop Amat photo gallery

By Fred J. Robledo, SGVN
All the heartbreak and pain the Chino Hills High School softball team suffered through in losing three straight CIF-Southern Section Divisional semifinal games became yesterday’s news with one big swing.

Chino Hills catcher Paige Gumz broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run homer to left in the sixth inning and the Huskies kept their foot on the gas to post a 7-3 victory over Bishop Amat to advance to the Division 3 championship this weekend at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.

It was the top-seed Huskies’ (31-3) 25th consecutive win and they will meet South Torrance, a 2-0 winner over St. Lucy’s, in the championship either Friday or Saturday in hopes of winning the school’s second title and first since beating El Dorado 2-1 for the Division 2 title in 2005.

“It couldn’t of happen to a better kid,” Chino Hills coach Mike Southworth said of Gumz’s tie-breaking homer. “I guess if you had to write a script with a scenario of one of your seniors to get a big hit, she’s one of the girls you would root for.

“She’s just special. She’s improved every year on her hitting and she’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever been around. For her to be that girl in that situation to deliver it for us is what I just said, it’s special.”

Chino Hills scored twice in the first and led 2-0 until Bishop Amat’s Amanda Sanchez doubled to left in the fifth inning to bring in Miranda Larios and Brandy Galaviz to tie the score 2-2.

Amat had a chance to add a couple more runs, but Chino Hills pitcher Nikki Innamorato got Amat’s big threat Lexi Gonzalez to ground out with go-ahead runners on second and third to get out of the fifth.

Chino Hills immediately struck back in the sixth.

Arizona State-bound shortstop Nikki Girard, who doubled in the Huskies’ two runs in the first and doubled in the third, delivered her third hit, a one-out single to get the inning going.

Garie Blando followed with a grounder to second that Amat tried to turn a double play on, but the throw hit Girard in the back going to second and everyone was safe.

“We get that double play it’s a different game,” Amat coach Jesse Mendez said. “Against another team we might get away with it, but not them.”

He was right, because the Fresno State-bound Gumz delivered the dagger with a three-run shot and was thinking of the past stepping into the box.

“I was thinking of the last three years and how we had the semifinals curse,” Gumz said. “I really wanted to step up and break it.

“But I don’t get that chance without Nikki and Garie getting on. I got the (homer), but it was a team effort all the way.”

Chino Hills wasn’t done, sophomore Patricia Parks’ two-out single drove in two more to complete a five-run sixth to stake the Huskies to a comfortable 7-2 lead.

“We had to get over this hump,” Girard said. “It was our fourth straight year in the semifinals. We didn’t want to go home again. You have to give it up to everyone, there were so many clutch hits and for Paige, she’s been our leader all year.”

Bishop Amat’s Cassie Padilla led off the bottom of the sixth with a double and later scored, but after rallying to tie it, falling behind five runs was too much to overcome.

“There were a couple plays in the game that made the difference and that’s what happens when two good teams face, it’s the little things,” Mendez said. “I thought we hit the ball well, we pitched well, but they’re a great team and they took advantage of the opportunities we gave them, so give them credit.

“But I’m proud of my girls, they fought and came up short against a very good team.”

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Baseball Quarterfinals: Bonita hangs on for 2-1 win; South Hills pounds Rancho Verde, 10-0; Glendora loses 3-2 heartbreaker in eight innings and Los Altos falls 2-1

Keith Durflinger’s Bonita photo gallery

Bonita matches Paramount’s run in the sixth and pitcher Justin Garza does the rest as Bearcats advance to semifinals

Bonita 2, Paramount 1: Top-seeded Bonita High School hung on and moved into the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 baseball playoffs with a 2-1 win over visiting Paramount on Friday in front of an overflow crowd.

The Bearcats, who lost in the semifinals last year and in the finals in 2010, will play at Gahr, a 15-4 winner over Quartz Hill, on Tuesday.

The Bearcats (29-2) took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning of Friday’s quarterfinal, then got two outstanding defensive plays to give ace Justin Garza his 11th victory of the season.

South Hills’ Ty France belts three doubles with four RBIs in another easy win for the Huskies, but it won’t be that way on Tuesday against powerful Pacifica, who clobbered defending champ Mission Viejo, 17-2

South Hills 10, Rancho Verde 0: The CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoffs were supposed to be a bunch of grind-it-out, survive-and-advance nail-biters because of the parity and quality of the division.
South Hills didn’t get that memo.
Senior Ty France belted three doubles with four RBIs, including a bases-loaded double in the second that drove in three runs and pitcher Adrian DeHorta did the rest, scattering four hits and going the distance as South Hills easily defeated host Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley 10-0 in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Trabuco Hills 3, Glendora 2: After a thrilling run through the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, the season came to an abrupt end for the Glendora High School baseball team.
Trabuco Hills (18-13) scored the winning run on a passed ball in the eighth inning to defeat the visiting Tartans (18-10), 3-2, in Friday’s Division 2 quarterfinal game.

Beckman 2, Los Altos 1: The Conquerors had Kaprielian on the ropes in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out, but only scored once in a 2-1 loss to the host Patriots. The Conquerors finished 20-10.

Friday’s Baseball Quarterfinal Results
Division 2
Trabuco Hills 3, Glendora 2 (8 innings)
South Hills 10, Rancho Verde 0
Division 3
Bonita 2, Paramount 1
Beckman 2, Los Altos 1

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TRACK: 13 area athletes get past Masters to qualify for state, including Damien’s Jarrett Gonzalez and Bonita’s Nikki Wheatley

Keith Birmingham’s Masters Photo Gallery

By Keith Lair, staff writer
The CIF-Southern Section Masters Meet was very predictable on Friday night. But it also was very unpredictable.

Victories at the meet at Cerritos College were not nearly as important as a place or a top time. The top five finishers and those who met the CIF State qualifying standard advanced to next week’s CIF State Meet at Clovis Buchanan High School.

How predictable was it? Nearly every one of the 24 athletes from the Valley said that was the No. 1 goal for the meet, which featured only the top athletes from last weekend’s CIF-SS division finals.

Blustery swirling winds made it difficult, especially for field event competitors. It was close to 20 degrees cooler than Thursday and the wind-chill made it feel more like the end of winter.

“It’s just the weather,” said Cantwell Sacred Heart’s Adam Aguirre, the only area qualifier making back-to-back appearances in the state meet. “All your muscles are not warmed up.

“I wanted to qualify and after that, I just let it go.”

Also unpredictable – and predictable, according to some coaches – was the amount of qualifiers from the section. All nine athletes in the boys’ 300-meter hurdles race, including Damien’s Jarrett Gonzales and Diamond Ranch’s Andrew Fischer, advanced. Eleven of the 12 in the 1,600, including Rowland’s Nick Rivera, La Salle’s Daniel De La Torre and Arcadia’s Sergio Gonzalez, qualified.

In all 13 athletes earned berths in next week’s meet. Maranatha’s Ebony Crear echoed the thoughts of all 10.

“That was my goal for the whole season,” the sophomore hurdler said.

Two athletes, De La Torre and Gonzalez, earned qualifying times in both distance events and also made it in the 3,200.

De La Torre, a junior, ran the 1,600 in 4:12.98 and the 3,200 in 9:06.13. Gonzalez, a senior, ran the 1,600 in 4:13.23 and the 3,200 in 9:06.88. Rivera qualified fourth with a time of 4:11.84.

De La Torre will be the lone area athlete to attempt a double. Gonzalez said he will run in only the 3,200 next week; there are no Friday night qualifying races in the meet’s longest race.

“I will only run one race,” said Gonzalez, the CIF-SS and state Division 1 cross country champion. “The two mile, I’m already in that state final. A tired man can do only so much while a rested man can do so much better.”

Three athletes who tried to qualify in multiple events only advanced in one.

Bonita sophomore Nikki Wheatley advanced in the triple jump, her best event, by placing fourth in 38-4. She failed to qualify in the long jump at 17-1 1/2 and in the high jump at 5-3.

She said the weather conditions had a lot to do with it.

“Being so cold threw me off,” she said. “I had to warm up between every single jump.”

The triple jump was her last event.

“I was hoping to go (to state) in all three, but it was a lot of jumps,” she said. “That made for a lot of pressure (in the triple jump). I knew I had to make it, but it was also my best event. I made it. That’s all that matters.”

Crear qualified in the 100 hurdles by finishing fourth in a personal-best 14.09. She failed to advance in the 300 hurdles in 44.29 after making the Masters with one of the meet’s best times.

Aguirre tied for third in the high jump at 6-5; South Pasadena sophomore Claire Kieffer-Wright, who tied for third in the high jump at 5-5 on her third and final attempt and Temple City senior Philippe Ueng, who cleared 15-3 in the pole vault on his first attempt.

All advanced to state.

Three area athletes advanced in the 400. Arcadia senior Alex McElwee was third in 48.48, San Marino’s Kyle Ezold fourth in 48.60 and La Serna’s German Fabela fifth in 48.69.

Damien’s Gonzales, who has the state’s top 300 hurdles time, struggled to find his step on the hurdles and finished fourth in 37.61. Diamond Ranch’s Fischer ran 37.79.

Among those who did not qualify were Arcadia’s Tony Moseley was eighth in the 800 in 1:54.51; Glendora’s Rocki Bartholomew, eighth in the discus at 132-7; Monrovia’s Michael Harris, ninth in the triple jump at 45-5 3/4 and the Damien 1,600 relay team of Kenneth Armstrong, Michael Sanchez, Gonzales and Hayden Clase, which was ninth in 3:21.38.

Damien’s Tracey Logan was 11th in the discus in 159-11 and Santa Fe’s Lucas Bedolla 12th in the long jump in 21-1 3/4.

626-962-8811, ext. 2242

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