Bonita’s Justin Garza finishes sensational career with Tribune player of the year honors; Bearcats coach John Knott named coach of the year

ALL-AREA STORY: Bonita’s Justin Garza earned the San Gabriel Valley Tribune baseball player of the year award and the Bearcats’ John Knott coach of the year. Read the full story along with all the first-team selections.

ALL-AREA PHOTO GALLERY

2012 TRIBUNE ALL-AREA BASEBALL

Player of the Year: Justin Garza, Bonita, Sr.
Coach of the Year: John Knott, Bonita

FIRST TEAM
Pitcher: Daniel Zamora, Bishop Amat, Sr.
Pitcher: Ty France, South Hills, Sr.
Catcher: Steven Camberos, Los Altos, Sr.
Infielder: Donovan Holmes, Glendora, Sr.
Infielder: Danny Sheehan, South Hills, Sr.
Infielder: Joe Munoz, Los Altos, Sr.
Infielder: Adam Alcantara, Bishop Amat, Jr.
Outfield: Thomas Castro, Bonita, Sr.
Outfield: Wyatt Wood, Glendora, Sr.
Outfield: Erik Gonzalez, Nogales, Jr.
Utility: Tyler Heslop, Bonita, Sr.

SECOND TEAM
Pitcher: Parker Merritt, Bonita, Jr.
Pitcher: Kevin McKelvey, South Hills, Sr.
Catcher: C.J. Saylor, South Hills, Sr.
Infielder: Adrian Guzman, Nogales, Jr.
Infielder: Justin Row, Bonita, Jr.
Infielder: Grant Hockin, Damien, So.
Infielder: Giovanni Rivera, Sierra Vista, Sr.
Outfield: Shawn Kennedy, San Dimas, Sr.
Outfield: Scott Hurst, Bishop Amat, So.
Outfield: Jake Grijalva, Northview, Jr.
Utility: Henry Omana, Diamond Bar, Sr.

By Aram Tolegian, SGVN twitter.com/ChemicalAT

Expectations were high in many places and several teams gave great accounts of themselves in the postseason. Then, a handful of talents were selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Business as usual in the Valley, one might say. But that didn’t accurately compartmentalize what took place this season at Bonita.

Right-handed ace Justin Garza put together one of the most magical years by a pitcher in Valley history. He and his teammates were guided brilliantly every step of the way by their coach John Knott. When the dust cleared, Bonita was celebrating a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 championship on the field of Dodger Stadium.

After the Bearcats brought home the area’s only CIF-SS title, swept the Hacienda League and won a whopping 32 games, Garza is the Tribune’s Player of the Year and Knott is Coach of the Year.

“There’s so many great coaches over the years who have been part of the San Gabriel Valley and a lot of great teams, and it’s exciting just to be part of a team that ended their season on a win playing at Dodger Stadium,” Knott said.

You didn’t have to look far to see why Bonita was a cut above. Garza was downright dominant from start to finish. His finished with a 25-1 career record. As a senior, he was 12-1 with a minuscule 0.72 ERA in 88 innings pitched.

“I think I’ve earned it,” Garza said of being named Tribune Player of the Year. “I think I’ve worked hard these last couple years, especially this year. It’s a great feeling to be the best player in this area because I know we’ve got a lot of great players out here who come out of this area. It’s definitely an honor.”

After tipping his hand with a strong junior season, Garza was a high-profile player this season. Multiple scouts congregated for each of his starts and Bonita was expected to do special things. Despite that, Garza said he felt no pressure to deliver.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Garza said. “I know what I’m capable of doing. I just let whatever happened happen.”

Garza’s exploits led to him being named to Baseball America’s All-American first team.

Garza dominated the spotlight, but the rest of the first team had many special moments of its own.

Strong pitching also was on display at Bishop Amat where ace Daniel Zamora had nine wins, four of them complete games, and a 2.08 ERA in 67 innings against a rugged schedule.

South Hills coach Kevin Smith had three solid pitchers to choose from, but when the stakes were their highest, Smith often turned to Ty France. The hard-throwing senior, who also played infield, was a force. He came up big in the postseason and was also named Sierra League MVP after the Huskies won the league.

France wasn’t the only Huskies player to make the first team. Danny Sheehan earned a spot in the infield after delivering in several ways and being considered by South Hills coaches as the unsung hero of the team.

Glendora’s Donovan Holmes got his name on the first-team infield by using his speed and a good eye at the plate to hit .455 and score 33 runs for the Tartans. He also stole 16 bases.

Bishop Amat’s Adam Alcantara led the 20-win Lancers with 31 RBIs and a .435 average.

Los Altos slugger Joe Munoz rounded the first-team infield. He hit .419 with five home runs and 27 RBIs. The 6-foot-2 shortstop became the highest-drafted area player when the Arizona Diamondbacks took him in the second round.

Munoz was joined on the All-Area team by teammate Steven Camberos, who is the first-team catcher after hitting .516 with 27 RBIs.

Wyatt Wood made the All-Area team after a stellar all-around performance for Glendora. He hit .424 and led the Tartans in RBIs with 24. He also won five games and had a 2.39 ERA in 58 2/3 innings.

While Garza did his thing on the mound for Bonita, his teammates Thomas Castro and Tyler Heslop led the team at the plate. Castro topped the Bearcats in RBIs with 32. Heslop was close behind at 31. Castro finished with a .480 batting average while Heslop hit .410.

Looking for a big reason why Nogales stunned the Valle Vista League with a league championship? Look no farther than Erik Gonzalez, who was named league MVP after helping the Nobles on the mound, at the plate and in the field.

Years from now, the Valley figures to look back with pride at the 2012 season. Garza’s dominance. Bonita’s magical run. Several players being selected in the MLB draft. Business as usual, maybe, but amazing nonetheless.

“If you work hard, have a dream and you stick to it, then anything can happen,” Garza said. “That’s what I went by. That was the example I wanted to set.”

aram.tolegian@sgvn.com

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  • SH Fan

    Congratulations to all the young men.

    Bonita. so many close calls throughout the years, congratulations on a dream season, great year.

    Ty France had a great year, at the plate on the mound and at shortstop, clutch hitter. Lil’ Danny Sheehan what great upswing, one of best lead off hitters in valley this year, scored a ton of runs and quality at bats. CJ Saylor very easily could be a first teamer. Not a better catcher in the area, key hits throughout the year, no better closer in the area. Bet there would be more teams after him if he closed all yea long and not just the big games.

    Good luck to all the kids in their future endeavors.

  • Lance Amat

    Congratulations to all the Boys who earned post season honors and a GREAT JOB to the Amat Lancers on the All Valley Teams!!! Way to represent the Bishop Amat Family guys, all great youngmen, keep up the good work!