SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- All Notre Dame head coach Tom Dill could say was "wow."
In an action filled final two innings that jam packed baseball's best qualities into a 40 minute span, Dill's Knights team went from stunned to overjoyed in their Division 1 Southern Section quarterfinal showdown against No. 1 overall seed Orange Lutheran.
With the game tied 4-4 and the bases loaded with two down in the bottom of the eighth inning, Notre Dame senior Brandon Gonzaga placed a bunt beautifully down the third baseline bringing home Ryan Limerick for the game-winning run. The Knights won 5-4, but in the top of the seventh they nearly gave the game away.
NOTRE DAME SURVIVES 'GUT PUNCH' SEVENTH INNING
Notre Dame led 4-0 to start the seventh following an RBI single from Madden Ocko and a two-RBI double from Christian Miranda in the third inning and then another RBI double from Ocko in the fourth. Senior Cole Clark had thrown six scoreless innings for the Knights and induced three double plays.
Dill elected to bring in right-handed side-armer Diego Herrera to close the game. After retiring the first batter he faced, Herrera gave up singles to Jacob Pereda and Derek Curiel. Karson Bowen then hit a sacrifice fly making the score 4-1.
With two outs and a runner on second, Herrera walked Mikey Romero. That brought up junior Casey Borba, who on a 3-2 pitch, annihilated a ball over the left field fence to tie the game 4-4.
Notre Dame went from being one strike away from a 4-1 win, to a tie game.
"I have been punched in the gut like that before and most of the time, you don't turn it around to be honest with you," Dill said.
Dill brought in Zack Romero to escape the seventh and he got Bryan Martinez to fly out to end the inning.
"We were a little demoralized," Gonzaga said. "But at the end of the day, before the game we said this is a good team. We're going to take some punches, but the best thing to do is not flinch, go right back up and be ready for a dogfight."
EIGHTH INNING DRAMA
Orange Lutheran brought in TCU signee Louis Rodriguez to pitch in the bottom of the seventh and he got Notre Dame's three hitters out in order.
Romero gave up a two out single in the top of the eighth inning to Pereda, but then retired Curiel to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Limerick hit a single up the middle and then Rodriguez walked Anthony Reveles. Following a strikeout, Greg Pierantoni hit a ground ball to first that Gabe Miranda fielded and got the out, but the Notre Dame runners advanced to second and third.
An intentional walk of Dean West brought Gonzaga to the plate.
"I knew before the sign was even given that I was going to get the [bunt] call," Gonzaga said. "...I thought to myself if I could just put it in the right spot, it's game over and that's what I tried to do."
D1 IS WIDE OPEN
In the semifinal round on Tuesday, Notre Dame will take on Huntington Beach and JSerra plays Villa Park. Any of these four teams could walk away with the Division 1 crown next weekend at Cal State Fullerton.