LANCASTER – As second baseman Emilio Bonifacio goes, so go the JetHawks. Bonifacio, an unpolished prospect at the start of the season, has emerged as one of the California League’s most exciting players. Going into Friday’s game against Rancho Cucamonga, the JetHawks catalyst led the league with 42 stolen bases, was second in runs scored with 85, and ranked fourth in the league with a .327 batting average (129 for 395.) In games in which Bonifacio has multiple hits, the JetHawks are 24-16. They are 24-38 when he has one hit or less. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2In the second half, the JetHawks are 14-6 when Bonifacio has multiple-hit games. They are 2-10 in all other games. The stunning statistical correlation is no coincidence, JetHawks manager Brett Butler said. “He’s the guy who turns the key to the car and ignites the engine,” Butler said. Bonifacio’s surge has catapulted the JetHawks into contention for a second-half title. Going into play Friday, the JetHawks (48-54, 16-16 second half) were in third place, trailing first-place Lake Elsinore (19-14) by 21/2 games. Bonifacio batted .447 (59 for 132) in a 30-game home hitting streak that ended in Thursday’s 16-5 loss to Inland Empire. The JetHawks were 21-9 over that stretch. Bonifacio, ranked 27th among the JetHawks parent Arizona Diamondbacks organizational prospects at the start of the season, batted .266 (248 for 933) in two years at low-A South Bend (Ind.) in the Midwest League. His exceptional speed has produced wildly exciting results. In Tuesday’s 10-7 victory over Inland Empire, Bonifacio scored all the way from second on Chris Rahl’s sixth inning infield hit. “He’s shown that he’s an incredible athlete,” Butler said. The 21-year-old Dominican Republic native’s rapid development is especially timely for the Diamondbacks, who lack depth at his position. More importantly, he is the organization’s only pure leadoff hitter. In a private meeting two months ago, Butler told Bonifacio that he would never realize his potential if he didn’t improve his small-ball skills. “I told him, `Your swing’s way too big if you’re going to be a leadoff guy,’ ” Butler said. Butler has worked with Bonifacio on bunting and working the count in his favor. “Right now, look at the (Diamondbacks). They’re looking for a prototypical leadoff hitter,” Butler said. “That’s his ticket to the big leagues.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!