Danner's curveball devastates Notre Dame, leads Huntington Beach to Boras Classic semifinals

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — While Hagen Danner warmed up on Wednesday, Huntington Beach High Coach Benji Medure asked his pitching coach a question. Danner was about to face Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, the No. 3-ranked baseball team in the state by CalHiSports.com, on the second day of the Boras Classic.

“How is he going to be today?” Medure asked Adam Springston about Danner.

“I don’t know,” Springston responded. “I don’t know if he’s relaxed, or he just doesn’t seem as twitchy as he normally seems.”

The batters facing Danner were the ones who looked jittery. They tried to cheat on his 90-plus mph fastball in the first inning, then the senior went to his curveball, and it proved to be devastating.

The right-hander dominated the Knights for six innings, and he blasted a solo home run.

Danner struck out 10, allowed one hit and walked two, leading the No. 5 Oilers to an 8-2 win at JSerra and a trip to the semifinals of the South bracket.

Initially, Danner wasn’t going to get the start on the mound. He asked Medure for the ball.

The UCLA signee also asked Medure for the ball in the seventh.

“I begged him for me to finish, but we have a pitch count for me,” said Danner, adding that his pitch count is 80. “I went over it actually to 86. He definitely wasn’t going to let me [come back out]. I kept begging him, tapping him on his shoulder, ‘Hey! Let me go! Let me go!’”

The way Danner was fooling the Knights with his curveball, retiring the side in order for a fourth time wouldn’t have been an issue.

Danner didn’t go the distance like teammate Nick Pratto did in the opener on Tuesday, but he improved to 7-0. With Danner and Pratto, a left-hander who struck out 12 in a 4-1 win against La Verne Damien, Huntington Beach has arguably the best one-two punch in the state.

The duo has led Huntington Beach (17-3) to Thursday’s semifinal with Corona Santiago (15-5) at Mater Dei at 6 p.m. Since losing in extra innings at Los Alamitos on April 5, the Oilers’ first game back from the National High School Invitational in North Carolina, Medure’s team has won six straight.

Notre Dame (14-4) helped the Oilers score first with a couple of miscues in the first inning. Pratto made it all the way to third base after left fielder Devan Ornelas dropped a fly ball. Three pitches later, the USC signee raced home after catcher Jalen Parks couldn’t handle Carter Kessinger’s outside pitch.

Then Hunter Greene, who most likely will go No. 1 in the Major League Baseball Draft on June 12, misplayed Danner’s grounder to shortstop.

Other than the first inning, the game was tight. Kessinger (3-1) kept Notre Dame in it, as the Knights trailed, 1-0, going into the fifth.

Kessinger wasn’t throwing as hard as Danner, who was clocked around 93-94, or throwing a no-hitter like Danner, but it wasn’t until the third inning that Kessinger gave up a hit. Dylan Ramirez went the other way, singling to left field, the first of his two hits.

There was a stretch where Danner didn’t allow Notre Dame to make contact. From the first to the fourth inning, he retired nine in a row, five via strikeout. One of those strikeouts was against Daylen Reyes, a freshman committed to UCLA.

Danner had a no-hitter going, and Greene almost broke it up in the fourth. He hit a slow chopper to shortstop Trevor Windisch, who quickly fielded it and fired to Pratto at first to get Greene.

Danner also struck out Greene in the sixth on a curveball.

“I said I wanted to pound him with the fastball, to see what he could do against me,” said Danner, who teamed up with Greene last year, helping the U.S. under-18 team win the gold medal at the COPABE Pan American “AAA” Championships in Mexico. “Once I saw that he was cheating my fastball a little bit, I wanted to go to my curveball a little more, so I did in his last at-bat and got him.”

The one batter Danner couldn’t get out was Kessinger in the fifth. He led off the inning with a hard-hit grounder right at Danner.

“He almost hit me,” said Danner, who was unable to stop the ball as it traveled past him and into center field for a single.

Notre Dame only had one other hit. Reliever Nate Madole gave up a two-run home run to left field to Michigan-bound senior Logan Pollack in the seventh.

Left field is also where Danner homered to lead off the sixth inning, giving the Oilers a 5-0 lead. His homer came an inning after Windisch led off with an inside-the-park home run.

Windisch really shouldn’t have had to run the bases because the ball went over the fence in left-center field, hitting a pole and bouncing back into the outfield. The umpires didn’t see that it cleared the fence.

“It kept carrying, and I saw the guy jump up at the wall and I did a little fist pump,” said Windisch, who sparked a three-run fifth inning. “It was in the ballpark, so I kept going. I heard Medure say, ‘It hit off the light pole,’ and I said, ‘What?’ I just kept running.”

Boras Classic

South Quarterfinals

Huntington Beach 8, Notre Dame 2

Huntington 100 031 3 – 8 9 0

Notre Dame 000 000 2 – 2 2 3

Danner, Madole (7) and Ortiz; Kessinger, Hart (6), Winters (6), Skertich (7) and Parks. W – Danner, 7-0. L –Kessinger, 3-1. HR – Windisch (HB), Danner (HB), Pollack (ND).

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByDCP

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