Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks’ baseball team always knew the road back to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title game was going to be an arduous one, and Tuesday’s win over host Bonita in the second-round of the playoffs was the latest example as the Knights needed more than just their pitching and defense to get past the Bearcats.
Notre Dame, the No. 1 seed, held off pesky Bonita 5-3 to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they will be on the road again against Corona, a 6-5 winner over San Dimas in 9 innings. Bonita finishes its season 18-5.
The Knights (28-2), who are known for their dominant pitching staff (four future division one collegiate pitchers), excelled at the plate, especially with two outs as they recorded 12 hits and saw four different players drive in a run.
“We had 12 hits today and did a little better offensively at the plate and I would say our pitching has held us in,” Notre Dame coach Tom Dill said. “We’ve been playing a lot of games where we have one-run lead or two-run leads.”
Entering the second-round game, the Knights had shutout eight of their last 10 opponents, but Notre Dame’s timely hitting made up for the rare rough, three-run first inning by Cal Berkely commit and starting pitcher Oliver Boone, who saw his team fall behind 3-2.
But Boone wasn’t the only future division I-caliber pitcher to fall victim to some timely hitting early on as the Knights also roughed up Bonita’s Justin Santiago, a Long Beach State commit, who gave up two earned runs in the opening frame.
In the top of the first inning, Santiago loaded the bases with the first three batters. The Knights made him pay with two runs on four hits. Colin Brown and Maden Ocko drove in the two runs via an RBI on a fielder’s choice and RBI single.
Ocko’s two-out single was a precursor to the Knights’ two-out success against Santiago.
Bonita responded with three runs of its own to take back the lead. After the Bearcats loaded the bases, Tyler Holley drove in two of the three runs with an RBI bloop single. One batter later, Jared Brunk gave Bonita a 3-2 lead with an RBI single up the middle.
But from that point forward, Boone was nearly unhittable. He allowed just one hit, an infield single in the fifth inning and finished with eight strikeouts and three earned runs on four hits in six innings of work.
“We did have a plan to see Oliver Boone and his slider and his fastball,” Bonita coach Ryan Marcos said. “I thought we executed the plan, attacking early and putting some runs on the board early.
“We had to pull everything out of the offensive playbook — bunts and hit-and-runs — and we didn’t execute as we should have, but when you’re facing a guy who throws 90 (miles per hour) and has a sweeping slider, it’s gonna be tough.”
Notre Dame returned the favor with some of its timely, two-out hitting in the top of the 2nd inning. With a runner on first, Dean West lined a pitch down the first base line to the wall for an RBI double. One batter later, Adam Shlesinger helped the Knights regain the lead, 4-3, with an RBI single.
Santiago struggled to overpower hitters consistently, like he’s done most of the season, and as a result, struggled to keep runners off the base paths.
Santiago would give one more as the Knights bought an insurance run in the top of the sixth inning. After Santiago loaded the bases by intentionally walking West, who finished 2-for-3 with an RBI double, the senior pitcher walked Shlesinger, scoring Notre Dame’s fifth and final run.
Shlesinger finished 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single.
Santiago’s seven total earned runs allowed in the playoffs is one less (eight) than the right-hander allowed throughout the the regular season. He went six innings, allowed five runs on 10 hits.