By John Honell Correspondent
Bonita moved one step closer to its third consecutive Hacienda League baseball championship with a 4-0 win over host Los Altos on Wednesday.
The defending CIF-Southern Section Division 3 champion Bearcats (20-2-1, 7-0) won their 23rd consecutive league game, maintaining their one-game lead over Diamond Bar.
The Bearcats got a complete-game pitching performance from senior Parker Merritt and a two-run home run from shortstop Justin Row to get past a tough Conquerors team.
“This has been a tough place for us to play,” Bearcats coach John Knott said. “They came with a lot of emotion right from the pregame. We’ve got a lot of respect for (Los Altos coach) Andrew (Formano) and his program. They didn’t quit all the way to the end.”
The Conquerors (13-8, 6-3) got runners to second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh but Merritt got the final out with his third strikeout of the game.
“We don’t give up,” Formano said. “We have nothing to lose and we’re going to keep coming after you and we’re going to play to the end. We had runners on in every inning (but the second) we just couldn’t cash in the runs.”
Merritt improved his record to 6-0, threw only 73 pitches, and didn’t allow a walk. He has allowed only one walk all season.
“Parker was very good with his ball-strike ratio,” Knott said. “His pitch count was low again and he kept our defense in it. They were aggressive at the plate
and Parker was aggressive around the plate so we knew the ball was going to be put in play and our defense made the plays today.”
Merritt gave up seven hits, four of them didn’t get out of the infield as his defense came up with 10 assists and one double play behind him.
“My plan is always to throw strikes and have my defense help out behind me,” Merritt said. “They’ve done a great job all year. I felt like I had all my pitches. I got my curve and my cutter across and just didn’t want to give up any walks.”
The Bearcats manufactured a run in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Chad Hockin singled to lead off the inning. He was sacrificed to second by Jon Reid and got to third on a Texas-league single behind second base by Joe Willard.
Austin McGilvra brought Hockin home with a sacrifice fly to center for the first run of the game.
The Bearcats put the game out of reach when Row hit his second home run of the season in the top of the fifth inning.
McGilvra doubled to lead off the inning and went to third on a wild pitch. With one out, Row hit a pitch over the left-field fence for a 3-0 lead.
“With a runner on third with less than two outs I was looking for a fast ball early,” Row said. “Luckily I was able to get one and I hit it pretty hard.”
Row also came up with a double play in the first inning and had four more assists on groundouts.
“Parker trusts his defense,” Row said. “As a pitcher you have to have that trust in your defense. We do a good job behind him. We have our errors but, he picks us up and sometimes we pick him up.”
Hockin doubled to lead off the sixth inning. Reid sacrificed pinch-runner Alex Gonzalez to third.
Gonzalez came home on a sharply hit ball by McGilvra that went for an error.
Hockin and Row each had two hits for the Bearcats.
The teams will face each other again on Friday at Bonita.