John “Nut and Honey” Honell has been a contributor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune for over a decade and particularly has a great interest in baseball. He’s well known among area coaches and now and then writes a contributor column for this blog. Today he’s writing about Valley baseball. These are his thoughts ...
By John Honell, Correspondent
With the high school baseball season entering the home stretch, here are a few observations from someone who saw Hal Newhouser pitch against Joe Dimaggio in the first major league game he ever attended. (that is another way of saying, I’m old).
PALOMARES LEAGUE – Everyone talks, rightfully so, about all the Division 1 pitchers in the league. There are more 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 games in this league than I’ve ever seen at the high school level.
There just don’t seem to be many, if any, Division 1 hitters. That’s probably why there are three teams, Glendora, Ayala and South Hills tied for first with Bonita just one game back.
Coaches have told me that CIF is only going to take the top three teams from each league in Division 2 for the playoffs, that means one very good team isn’t going to make it.
South Hills might have the deepest pitching staff in the league but have had trouble scoring runs.
Glendora couldn’t hold leads early in the season but might be playing the best ball of anyone in the league right now.
There are some really good arms on the Tartan staff but, their problems were more mental than physical.
Doc Henley appears to have hauled his psychology couch into the bullpen to get his kids hot at the right time.
The Tartans and Huskies play each other twice, the last week of the season. One of them might be that very good team that doesn’t get to the playoffs.
MONTVIEW LEAGUE – Defending champ Sierra Vista graduated almost its entire team from last season’s run to the CIF semifinals, so finding the Dons with a one game lead with only two weeks left in the season is a little surprising.
The Dons do have a (not so) secret weapon in veteran coach Brett Stevens who, in my opinion, (but nobody asked) should have been last years Coach of the Year. He thinks baseball is the only major sport and can’t understand why anyone would want to go to a basketball or football game but, he always has his 12-man roster prepared and ready to win.
With a few games left against the bottom two teams to close out the season that would, normally, be enough to earn the top spot in the upcoming playoffs.
Normally, however, is not a word that should ever be used in the Montview.
The competition is terrific, the kids have an obvious love of the game and play with more enthusiasm than every other league in the Valley.
All that being said, if you want to see some strange bounces and even stranger happenings, the Montview League is the place to be on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
HACIENDA LEAGUE – Walnut might be the hottest team in the Valley with a 10-game winning streak. They started the season 2-7-2, including 1-3 in league play. Since then Walnut alum and head coach Paul Acosta has convinced his team that solid defense and playing unselfish baseball is a lot more fun.
They have a one-game lead over Los Altos but there are three other teams tied for third, only one game behind the Conquerors.
The Mustangs have to play two games against Los Altos next week and finish the season with two games against Chino.
There is no room for error in this league, so good fielding and whoever best follows the “Just win Baby” advice of the late Al Davis will determine the three teams that make the playoffs.
VALLE VISTA LEAGUE – The battle is for second and third place with undefeated San Dimas (24-0) on its way to a record season. The Saints are ranked 16th nationally by Max Preps, 6th in the State, No. 1 by this newspaper, the only publication that has it right.
Nogales is only two games back with Covina and Wilson tied for third one game behind the Nobles.
The old saying that “baseball is a game of inches” couldn’t be more in evidence at Saints games.
At least 10 major league scouts seem to be at games UCLA commit Peter Lambert is on the mound. He is listed on the roster as being 6 foot 2 inches. His ERA is 0.24. But don’t discount Jacob Castillo when he is on the mound. He is listed at 5 foot 11 inches. His ERA is 0.12. That 1-2 pitching combination should take them a long way in the playoffs.