Village News Reporter
Bonsall High School's baseball team completed the Legionnaires' first-ever season with a 13-6 victory May 12.
The win at the Pala Sports Complex, where Bonsall home games are played, gave the Legionnaires a final season record of 4-12-1 including a 2-6 Patriot League mark which placed Bonsall fourth in the final five-team standings.
"I believe it met expectations," said Bonsall coach Danny Mencias.
The May 12 game also had Senior Night ceremonies. Andrew Becker, Jack Gates, Jacob Klein, Luke Lopez, David Montejo, Garret Murphy, David Romo, Nate Valera and Emil Watkins were the 12th-graders who participated this year.
"It's our first year. We did better than we expected, and hopefully next year we'll do even better," Murphy said.
Because High Tech High North County does not have its own field, the May 12 game was played at the Pala Sports Complex, but Bonsall batted as the visiting team. The Raptors held a 5-1 lead after two innings. Bonsall scored twice in the third, eight times in the fifth, and twice in the top of the seventh to take a 13-5 lead.
Romo pitched the first six innings, allowing eight hits while striking out 11. Murphy threw the final inning, allowing one run on one hit, striking out a batter, and ending the season with a fielding putout. The Raptors base runner had escaped a rundown between second and third and had returned to second base safely, but he then stepped off the bag and Murphy, who had left the mound to handle any necessary throws, tagged the runner to end the game.
"That was just fun," Murphy said.
Although Bonsall added baseball for 2022, the school dropped tennis. Murphy had been on the Legionnaires' tennis team for his first three high school years. Gates also played tennis for Bonsall in 2021.
"This is my first year playing in a while," Murphy said of being on the baseball team.
"We had a blast. It was a good season just in terms of the unity the team has," Mencias said.
Bonsall began the season March 1 with a 21-2 home loss to Bayfront Charter and then lost two games against Guajome Park Academy, a 28-8 contest March 8 in Pala and a 22-3 matchup March 10 in Vista.
Borrego Springs High School's baseball team made a March 17 trip to Pala. The Legionnaires scored six times in the first and once in the second for a 7-0 lead. Each team scored twice in the fourth. The Rams scored three times in the fifth and once in the top of the sixth. Eight Bonsall runs in the bottom of the sixth created a 17-6 lead, and a Rams tally in the top of the seventh finalized the score at 17-7.
Romo had a double and a home run, also reached base as a hit batter, scored three runs, and drove in five runs. Watkins had two doubles, was hit by a pitch, scored twice, drove in a teammate, and scored a base. Murphy and freshman Nico Hartman each stole three bases.
Bonsall had a 16-6 lead after six innings in the Legionnaires' March 21 home game against Julian. Ten Eagles runs in the top of the seventh created a 16-16 score. Bonsall had a runner on second base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and the batter had a 2-0 count. The Pala Sports Complex sprinklers went off and the game was called for safety reasons and declared a 16-16 tie.
The next three Legionnaires games were all home losses. The March 22 contest with Army-Navy had a 21-0 score, the March 24 game against Bayfront Charter had a 20-5 result, and the April 5 league opener against Liberty Charter was a 6-2 Lions victory in which Bonsall was held to two hits.
The Legionnaires' final non-league win of 2022 occurred April 7 at Borrego Springs. The 23-7 victory included Romo driving in six runs with four scoring on a grand slam and Murphy drawing four walks and scoring four times while garnering a single in his other plate appearance.
Bonsall returned to Patriot League play April 19 at Gompers, and the Eagles won that 8-7 game. An April 21 home league game against Ocean View Christian was a 26-3 Patriots triumph which was called after four innings; Ocean View had a 26-0 lead before Bonsall scored three times in the bottom of the fourth and Romo had the sole hit of the game for Bonsall.
El Cajon Valley traveled to Pala for an April 25 matchup and returned home with a 15-4 win. Bonsall then lost two league games on the road; the April 26 score at High Tech High North County was 12-10 while the April 28 game at Liberty Charter was called after five innings and was a 34-0 Lions victory as well as a combined no-hitter for Liberty Charter pitchers Brody Harris and Tommy Scanlon (each of whom walked two Bonsall batters, and Scanlon also hit a batter).
Gompers traveled to Pala on May 5, and the Legionnaires obtained their first-ever league win. "That was a game for the ages," Mencias said.
The Eagles scored the game's first run in the top of the first. Bonsall scored three times in the second. Two of those runs were on Gates' first home run of the season. "He finally got it in a crucial game," Mencias said.
Four Gompers runs in the top of the fifth gave the Eagles a 5-3 lead. Bonsall scored once in the bottom of the fifth and Gompers scored a run in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Romo hit a grand slam to give Bonsall an 8-6 cushion. Gompers scored once in the top of the seventh, but Murphy didn't allow any additional runs and the Legionnaires had an 8-7 win.
"That was probably our best game," Mencias said.
"That night they were a team," Mencias said. "They came together as a team."
Romo also had a double and a single against Gompers. Gates added a double and drove in three runs altogether.
The May 10 league game at Ocean View Christian was a 17-0 loss for Bonsall but lasted the full 6 1/2 innings (since the Patriots were ahead there was no need to play the bottom of the seventh). Bonsall had three hits in that game. The score was 2-0 after three innings although the Patriots scored five times in the fourth, six runs in the fifth, and four times in the sixth.
Liberty Charter and Ocean View Christian both had 7-1 Patriot League records to share the league championship. "We were in a tough division," Mencias said.
Bonsall's offense May 12 included three hits apiece by Romo and Murphy, Romo driving in two runs, Watkins scoring three times, Lopez and junior Isaac Alcantar each bringing in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Murphy stealing five bases.
"We had some really close games with some really good teams," Mencias said.
Mencias noted the need to develop pitchers. "That was a big difference maker," he said.
"We were so close in a lot of games, but we couldn't close it because we ran out of pitching," Mencias said. "That's the thing we're going to have to work on in the off-season, pitching."
Bonsall began the season with 19 players and ended the season with 16 players. The losses were due primarily to grades. "We've had a lot of injuries all season," Mencias said. "A lot of them got hurt."
Mencias noted that those who were injured – primarily from errant throws – stayed with the team.
"This year basically helped me kind of set up for next year," Mencias said. "We should give it a run next year."
Bonsall will be without the nine 2022 seniors, although they were willing to be part of the developmental process. "It was really great," Romo said. "Made a lot of good memories."
The commute from Bonsall to Pala was another obstacle the team faced. Bonsall practiced Mondays through Thursdays if there wasn't a game. "The parents of the kids, they were willing to come out here even with the gas prices," Mencias said.
The decision to have a team was finalized in January. "In less than four months these guys are playing baseball," Mencias said. "They've advanced so much."
Mencias noted that the objective this year was to develop players rather than to attain a specific win-loss record. "That was the goal the whole season," he said.
"By the end they were making much less errors," Mencias said. "They were more competitive."
The reduction in errant throws or catches was complemented by knowledge of how to play the game. "Towards the end right now they were getting the fundamentals," Mencias said.
Without previous baseball experience many of the Bonsall players learned the fundamentals during the initial practices. "It's unfortunate I didn't have the program four years ago," Mencias said.
Mencias will seek Sullivan Middle School students and current Bonsall students in physical education classes for his 2023 team.
"I'm just super proud of this first year," Mencias said. "They managed to come together as a team and win a couple of games."