Notre Dame Bows Out in Championship Style

Usually teams like to savor a victory, especially when it propels them into the playoffs.

But not the Notre Dame High baseball team.

After its 11-2 victory at home against St. John Bosco on Friday, which made the Knights co-champions of the Del Rey League, there was no pile of celebrants, no dumping of Gatorade, no hoisting of Coach Bob Mandeville onto shoulders.

Instead, the players dragged the infield as quickly as possible and headed to nearby Valley College to watch Crespi finish a game against Alemany, a game that had a bearing on the Knights' playoff opponent. Crespi won, 7-4, and shares the title with the Knights, who lost a coin toss and will enter the playoffs as the league's second-seeded team.

The Knights appeared in no hurry to score early. Through the first three innings, they managed one hit and no runs against a sub-.500 team with a lineup juggled to include all of the St. John Bosco seniors, who were playing in their last game. Notre Dame's offense finally came around, however, with five runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings.

Senior Rob Kostenbader (3-1) got the win, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings while striking out nine.

"Yesterday was recovery day from the prom," Kostenbader said. "My arm felt real lively today. All year we've been starting slow, then after we see the pitcher once we get our confidence."

Notre Dame (19-9, 8-4 in league play) sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, an inning that ended in controversy. Catcher Bobby Hughes led off with a walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Bill Brewer. When Hughes' position in the lineup came up again, he re-entered without informing the umpire. Hughes was called out, ending the inning. He was not allowed to return to the game.

"I thought he didn't have to announce until he took his position," Mandeville said.

Every Notre Dame starter registered a hit except Hughes, and Chad Ratliff was 3 for 5 with three runs batted in. In the fourth he drove home Steve Martinez and Steve Hamilton with a double to left-center field to give Notre Dame a 4-0 lead. In his next at-bat, Ratliff singled home Tony Ljubetic to extend the lead to 7-0.

The win was bittersweet for Notre Dame players because it was the last Del Rey League game for the school's successful baseball program. The Knights are moving to the newly formed San Fernando Valley League next season.

"There's a lot of seniors on this team," Kostenbader said. "We made the playoffs last year, but came up a little bit short. It's nice that we came back up and recaptured league our last year."

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