If there were an award for newcomer of the year in high school baseball, pitcher Justin Garza of La Verne Bonita would be the runaway winner.
A year ago, his earned-run average stood at 29.40 after his first two varsity appearances on the mound as a sophomore. By season's end, he threw a shutout against Covina, providing a clue to his potential. He ended up pitching 18 innings.
The 5-foot-11 right-hander wasn't on anyone's preseason all-star list this year, but he'll be on plenty come June, because he's 9-0 with an 0.47 ERA and has walked just six batters in 59 innings.
"He's been amazing to watch," Coach John Knott said. "All the things you look for out of a player, he encompasses that."
Knott calls Garza "a coach's dream," because he listens, always tries to do his best and "he just does not give in."
He throws in the mid-80s, but when he needed a pitch to strike out a batter this season in a key situation, Knott said a radar gun had him clocked at 90 mph.
Said Garza: "I'm just trying to keep my team in the game and throw strikes. People are probably surprised because I really didn't play much last year. I knew I had it in me, they knew I had it in me. I'm glad they gave me the opportunity."
Bonita (19-4) has emerged as one of the favorites in Southern Section Division 3, and with a pitcher like Garza, there's no reason the Bearcats won't be making an appearance at Dodger Stadium come June.
When the CIF Federated Council voted last week to approve regional football bowl games in 2012, there were three sections that voted against the proposal. They were the Southern Section, the San Diego Section and the North Coast Section.
There are 10 sections in the state, and there is weighted voting based on the number of schools in each section.