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Notre Dame Tans Taft, Sweats Out Late Rally

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The atmosphere surrounding Saturday’s baseball game between Notre Dame and Taft high schools was the kind that gives Californians their laid-back stereotype.

Notre Dame Coach Bob Mandeville did not know that his team was playing in the fifth-place semifinal of the Palos Verdes-Redondo tournament until he showed up for a scheduled practice at Notre Dame.

Several of Mandeville’s players were equally unprepared as they played the game wearing sweats instead of baseball pants. Mandeville sported a T-shirt and sunglasses and doughnuts were seen being delivered to the Notre Dame dugout.

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Taft’s Adam Zutler arrived at the game late because he was taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test.

So it was surprising that the teams actually got down to business and played a competitive game in the midst of the pass-the-lotion-please environment.

Tony Ljubetic, in his first pitching appearence of the season, stopped a Taft rally in the seventh inning as Notre Dame held on to win, 5-3.

With runners on first and second and two out, Ljubetic earned a save by getting Mike Borzello--who represented the go-ahead run--to strike out swinging.

“I was real happy with Jeff Antoon’s and Tony Ljubetic’s pitching,” Mandeville said. “Neither of them had pitched before but they came in and threw strikes.”

The Knights (14-8 overall) missed several opportunities to have a day at the beach, as they stranded 10 baserunners.

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“We were talking about that before the game, about how we need to be able to get runners into scoring position and then we go and blow two bunts,” Mandeville said. “We’ve got to be able to get runners into scoring position early, with less than two outs.”

Taft (8-10) tied the score, 3-3, in the fourth when Bret Reisner doubled to center field, scoring Zutler and Richie Shapiro. The Knights, however, rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning when Chad Ratliff scored on a fielding error and Bobby Hughes scored on a wild pitch.

Taft has lost seven of its past eight games, and Coach Rick McKeon condemned his team for lacking spirit.

“We’ve lost a lot of the spark that we had,” McKeon said. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of. That’s what I’m upset about. We’re not playing with any enthusiasm or aggressiveness.”

Notre Dame will be without the services of Kevin Crosby, who tore ligaments in his right ankle, for an estimated two to three weeks. The injury occurred Tuesday when Crosby slid headfirst into first base in a game at Alemany.

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