Brandon Gonzaga admired third baseman Randy Thompson on Friday afternoon in the lower eighth inning of an already wild Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoff game at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. The bases were loaded, the count was 2 and 1, there were two outs and no one in their right mind would consider bunting, right?
“Coach Thompson and I have been on the same page all year,” Gonzaga said. “He trusts me with the bunt and I trust myself. He gave me the signal, but I already knew if I could put it in the right place, game over. “
Gonzaga lowered his bunt to third base, leaving Lutheran orange pitcher Louis Rodriguez out of play as the winning streak crossed home. Notre Dame took a 5-4 win over seeded Lancers to advance to Tuesday’s semi-finals against Huntington Beach. Huntington Beach defeated Foothill 12-5.
“It was a big bunt,” said Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba. “You couldn’t have implemented it better.”
Orange Lutheran never considered the possibility of Gonzaga getting a bunt against Rodriguez. During the game, Notre Dame had failed six times to put down bunts.
“We were due,” Thompson said.
The fact that Notre Dame could bounce back after what happened in the top spot in seventh place was even more surprising. Cole Clark pitched six goalless innings. Notre Dame was leading 4-0, but Clark walked away after throwing 100 pitches. Diego Herrera enters. He took out the first hitter, but Jacob Pereda and Derek Curiel followed suit with singles. Karson Bowen drove in the first run of the Lancers with a sacrifice fly. When Mikey Romero drew a walk, Casey Borba approached the pot representing the draw run.
Borba barely managed to survive twice on two shots, failing on the ball. The count reached 3 and 2. He continued hitting the ball over the left court fence for a three-point home run. Borba, a young man, is the son of the head coach.
“I had a tear in my eye,” said his father.
Momentum moved to the Lancers.
“It was heartbreaking,” Clark said as he watched the rally unfold from the bench.
Zack Romero came in and was able to finish the innings, then hit a goalless eighth, allowing Notre Dame to take a deep breath.
In the lower eighth, Ryan Limerick started off with a single, then Anthony Reveles walked. The next hitter is out after failing to bunt. After a groundout put the runners in second and third, Dean West was intentionally paced to load the bases for Gonzaga.
Cole doesn’t even know the sign of the bunt for Notre Dame, so when he saw the Gonzaga bunt, he was just as shocked as the overflowing crowd.
“Nobody expects a drag bunt,” he said. “Brandon pulled the clutch out.”
Notre Dame’s defense was outstanding on the inside, leading to three double plays. Madden Ocko had a single RBI and a double RBI. Christian Miranda contributed a two-run double during Notre Dame’s quarter of three runs.
The other semifinal on Tuesday will see JSerra at Villa Park. JSerra broke a tie in sixth place with Andrew Lamb and Trent Caraway’s home runs by beating defending champion Harvard-Westlake 6-1. Villa Park received three hits and two home runs from Gavin Grahovac to beat Cypress 4-2.