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
LA VERNE
– 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.

aram.tolegian@sgvn.com

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • Bonita

    great story on Tyler and Thomas. They have played together since they were 8 at both LVLL and the Diamond Bar Destroyers travel ball team. The more things change, the more they stay the same…they were always the two best players at LVLL in their age group. Props to all the seniors. This is a really tight group who spend just as much time off together off the field as on the field. Good luck Friday boys. Bring home the ring!!

  • SGV Fan

    Does anyone know what time the gates open at Dodger Stadium tomorrow and what the entrance fee is?

  • rememberthemoors

    Nice story. The Moors 8X Almont League Champions.
    Did I say 8X Almont League Champions? They did not get to the promise land on good looks alone, talent helps. Go get em’ boyz. Remember The MOORS!!

  • Don

    SGV Fan,

    Nothing in the CIF Bulletin about gate time opening. Dodger Stadium usually opens the gates 1 1/2 hours before game time so if you and I get there at noon, I’ll bring the frisbee.

    CIF Bulletins says General Admittance Tickets are $10, $5 for Students. Parking is $5.

    If you see Frank McCourt in a striped shirt, holding a can at the gate don’t give him anything.

  • Cong ’76

    Just for clarities sake, the Bearcats are only playing this years Almont league champs, right? :)

  • Bonita

    1) The only parking gate that will be open is Entrance A which is Stadium Way off the Pasadena Freeway.
    2) Park in Lot G (No charge for parking) No tail gate parties are allowed. Security will be patrolling prior to game.
    3) Tickets will be on sale at one location only, Ticket booth is located in Parking Lot G in the leftfield entrance.
    4) No advance sale of tickets for the game. Ticket prices are $10.00 for adults, $5.00 for students with a valid high school ID and $5.00 for children under 13. Admission is good for all three games. Division 2 and 1 play later that day.
    5) Bonita will have two busses for students that want to go down. Charge is $5.00 per student for the bus ride. School is ending at noon on Friday.
    6) Entrance into the stadium is from Lot G leftfield corner. Parking Lot and Stadium gates open at 12:00 noon. Infield practice for Bonita will start at 12:45 pm. Game time is 1:30 pm.
    7) All seating is the first level of the playing field. No assigned seats, but Bonita will be sitting on the third base side and of the seating behind home plate. Sorry, but the right field pavilion with all you can eat will not be open.
    8) Players will enter on the Lot G side and will go to the field from section 27. No dressing room access.
    9) Bonita will be providing the singer for the National Anthem.
    10) Game programs will be available for $5.00
    11) Game time will be 7 innings or 3 hours. If game time is called, it shall be finished on Tuesday, June 5th at the home school alternate site.
    12) The awards will be made at the home plate area following the game. An official photographer will take photos of the winning team following the game.
    13) If you have friends or relatives who cant make it to the game. It will be broadcast at http://www.foxsportswest.com

  • Bonita

    i tried to cut and paste all the event info, but it being held for Fred’s review. Gates open at noon. Park in lot G near LF.

  • FYI

    Its nice to see the Trib finally doing a piece on BONITA. There was so little coverage of them during the season, except for Justin Garza. Because of the crucial role good starting pitching plays in all levels of baseball (and softball) the attention on Garza is deserved and well-placed. But as this story points out, and all BONITA fans already knew, that BONITA is a great team. This story could have also mentioned outstanding seasons by Jr. SS JUSTIN ROW (.376 / 25 rbis/ team leading 4 HRs . . . source: MaxPreps) and the young man played tremendous, steady defense you need from a SS . . . Nolan Henley, Jacob Blunt, Anthony Gonzalez and Justin Garza all hit over .300. Parker Merritt, as mentioned in the article, gave the Bearcats a solid, if off the radar, season as the other pitcher. Woody Reyes was solid at 2B and dont forget the contributions of the coaches; Knott, Newell and Cates. The TEAM batting average over their 33 game (thus far) season was a cool .345 and the runs-per-game average was north of 6. Yeah, BONITA is more than just Justin Garza. Castro and Heslop, along with Garza, made the Tribs All Area Team but a case could have easily been made for Row, who will no doubt be on this list next season. Congrats BEARCATS. All of you.

  • SGV Fan

    FYI, it is a great article. Funny thing is, even if Garza wasn’t a pitcher, he’d deserve all the attention and accolades for his bat and glove. He is one of the best defenders around and his bat his above .400 and that’s not to mention his baseball smarts. His stolen base on Tuesday was one of the most “heads up” plays I have ever seen and at a crucial time. Bonita is a great TEAM and I’m sure Mr Garza would be the first to give his boys all the credit. Good luck tomorrow Bearcats! Go get it!

  • GBH

    I gotta go Bonita here. Alhambra? I didn’t know they had a baseball team? Badmiton? Yes. Baseball? No. Bonita has run through Div-3 like a hot knife through butter! I don’t expect that to change with the mighty moors being the only thing standing in the way. Congratulations on the Championship Bonita!!!!

  • AHS Parent

    WOW Fred… If GBH had said soccer instead of badmiton you would have deleted it as a racial comment. Alhambra has a good team that has not given up once all season. Lets keep these comments positive ..this is a big time in the lives of both teams..can we just play nice?

  • AHS Parent

    WOW Fred… If GBH had said soccer instead of badmiton you would have deleted it as a racial comment. Alhambra has a good team that has not given up once all season. Lets keep these comments positive ..this is a big time in the lives of both teams..can we just play nice?

  • AHS Parent

    WOW Fred… If GBH had said soccer instead of badmiton you would have deleted it as a racial comment. Alhambra has a good team that has not given up once all season. Lets keep these comments positive ..this is a big time in the lives of both teams..can we just play nice?

  • Bonita

    To AHS:

    I am sure that GBH is really not a Bonita insider, just a blog idiot trying to stir trouble. Bonita has had very high CIF expecations each of the past 4 years and have yet to win it all so believe me when I tell you that that the players, coaches, students, parents and alumni all have the highest respect for the effort it took both teams to get to Dodger Stadium. We know Alhambra will come to play and expect a very competitive game. May the best team win!!

  • AHS Parent

    To Bonita…That was a classy comment and all the Moors feel the same way. This is a dream come true for all the student athletes who have played long and hard to get to the final dance. Let’s all have fun…this is one of those “once in a lifetime” things. PLAY BALL! (GO MOORS!!!) :)

  • AHS Parent

    To Bonita…That was a classy comment and all the Moors feel the same way. This is a dream come true for all the student athletes who have played long and hard to get to the final dance. Let’s all have fun…this is one of those “once in a lifetime” things. PLAY BALL! (GO MOORS!!!) :)

  • AHS Parent

    To Bonita…That was a classy comment and all the Moors feel the same way. This is a dream come true for all the student athletes who have played long and hard to get to the final dance. Let’s all have fun…this is one of those “once in a lifetime” things. PLAY BALL! (GO MOORS!!!) :)

  • 12th man

    Fred,
    Rio on the cover of Maxpreps!! David Berg making Noise at UCLA breaking Pac12 record & Bruin record…Where are the stories? Your sleeping on the job~

  • Think Again

    fyi

    Row good hitter yes! Good SS NO! Way too many throwing errors and his arm is average at best.

  • Cooperstown Coach

    Congrats to Bonita, take it all the way. Congrats to Castro, Heslop, Garcia, and Johnson for being a part of championship baseball and being championship players whether or not you guys win you are all headed for greatness. We are all very proud of you and I hope you are as proud of yourselves. Good luck and best wishes for the future,

    Your Cooperstown Coach ’06′ and admirer from the south!!!!!!!!!!