LA VERNE -- There were two things Justin Garza noticed as he warmed up in the bullpen Friday afternoon. His fastball had a little extra zip. His curveball had a sharper break to it.
Garza's pregame intuitions were no fluke, it turned out. The right-hander came within two outs of throwing a no-hitter, leading top-seeded Bonita to a 10-0 win against visiting Bell Gardens in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 baseball playoffs. He improved to 12-0 on the season.
"I would have liked the no-hitter," Garza said, "but, more importantly, we got the win. I felt good."
Garza struck out 10, surrendered two seventh-inning hits and walked two. It was his seventh complete game of the year in 12 starts.
"What's nice about him," Bonita coach John Knott said, "is that he stays within himself and he doesn't try to do too much. He doesn't overthrow very often."
Garza walked the second batter he faced and proceeded to retire the next 16 batters in a row. He worked ahead in the count all game, following a season-long pattern that had helped him to a 0.60 ERA heading into Friday.
"There's a big difference between a 0-and-1 count and 1-and-0 count," Garza said.
And there's a big difference between a 3-0 lead and a 0-3 deficit, too. Bonita (25-4), the Hacienda League champion, scored three in the first, giving Garza some leeway to pound the strike zone. Nolan Henley blew the game open with a three-run shot in the fifth.
The Bearcats tacked on three in the sixth. Despite the double-digit lead, Knott said he didn't even think about taking Garza out of the game.
"We could have pitched somebody else," Knott said, "but stuff like that happens once in a blue moon."
Garza struck out Albert Flores to start the seventh. Danny Romero spoiled the no-hit bid with a liner down the third-base line. Bell Gardens (14-9) finally had something to cheer for.
"Justin was sharp," Knott said. "He was effective with all of his pitches, just like he's been all year."