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Huntington Beach baseball falls to Notre Dame in Division 1 semifinals

Huntington Beach pitcher Jack Smith reacts after the Oilers lose to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Tuesday.
Huntington Beach pitcher Jack Smith reacts after the Oilers lose to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach High baseball team came into Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff semifinal game with bats that were absolutely on fire.

The Oilers had scored double-digit run totals in each of their last five games, amassing 57 total runs during that span.

In the playoffs, though, it takes just one pitcher to end your run.

That pitcher was Sherman Oaks Notre Dame junior right-hander Oliver Boone.

Boone threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout to lift the visiting Knights to a 2-0 win before an overflow crowd at Huntington Beach High.

Mission League co-champion Notre Dame (24-7-1) has now knocked out two of Orange County’s best teams, top-seeded Orange Lutheran and No. 4-seeded Huntington Beach, in consecutive rounds. The Knights will play another one of them, JSerra, in the Division 1 final Friday at 7 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton.

Huntington Beach starting pitcher Ben Jacobs sits in the dugout after the Oilers lost to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Surf League champion Huntington Beach (22-9) was kept off-balance much of the game against Boone, who started the season as a relief pitcher and improved to 2-1. Boone said his slider was on and he allowed just three hits, walking one and striking out four.

“He commanded, and when he got in trouble he made good pitches,” Oilers coach Benji Medure said. “The wind’s blowing in, and I thought we hit the ball pretty hard a couple of times. It just didn’t go anywhere. We tried to lower our sights and try to hit some more line drives instead of trying to get airborne, but he was tough. You’ve got to give him credit, he pitched a great game.”

Notre Dame scored the game’s only runs in the top of the fifth inning. No. 9 hitter Greg Pierantoni led off with a single to shallow left, just over leaping Oilers shortstop Dean Carpentier. Dean West laid down a bunt, which the Oilers threw away at first base for an error.

Pierantoni and West were at second and third with no outs. Both would come around to score on a passed ball and wild pitch, respectively, against Huntington Beach left-handed starter Ben Jacobs (8-2).

Sherman Oaks Notre Dame's players mob pitcher Oliver Boone after the Knights beat Huntington Beach 2-0 on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Jacobs pitched six innings, allowing the two runs on three hits. He walked three and struck out nine. He stranded five Notre Dame runners in the first two innings, but that came at a cost, as he had already thrown 50 pitches.

“They didn’t beat themselves today, and we did,” Medure said. “It’s that simple. I thought we pitched well enough to win, but we made mistakes when it was crucial and we beat ourselves.”

Huntington Beach tried to rally late. Leadoff hitter Aidan Espinoza roped a one-out double off the wall in left in the bottom of the sixth.
Ralph Velazquez followed by working a 3-and-0 count, and Notre Dame decided to intentionally walk him at that point.

The next batter, Brian Trujillo, hit a sharply-hit ball down the third-base line. But Pierantoni knocked it down and was able to throw him out, though the runners did move up.

Trent Grindlinger then hit a grounder to shortstop, which was bobbled. But the throw to first still beat him by a half-step.

Huntington Beach's Ethan Porter sighs after grounding out for the final out of Tuesday's game.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Notre Dame first baseman Jack Gurevitch’s diving stop in the seventh likely prevented a double. So did center fielder West’s snag in the bottom of the fifth on Antonio Ventimiglia’s rocket shot to the gap in left-center.

“He was running as fast as I’ve ever seen him run, and he got there,” Boone said. “I couldn’t believe it. I’ve seen him run at practice, but that’s like the next level.”

Plays like those helped Notre Dame coach Tom Dill, in his 30th year, make his first Division 1 final. Meanwhile, the season is not over for Huntington Beach. The Oilers have qualified for their first CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs, which begin on May 31.

“We’re excited because we get an opportunity to play more baseball,” Medure said. “Usually you lose a semifinal game and that’s it … Hopefully we get [Notre Dame] again. We want a little revenge.”

Tony Martinez and Velazquez added hits Tuesday for the Oilers, who hope their bats light up again for the regional tournament.

“We could have packed up and said, ‘We’re a terrible hitting team,’ because we were for a long stint,” Medure said. “But these guys stuck to the process and found their stroke at the right time. Obviously, it didn’t show today, but throughout the last seven or eight games of the season our guys hit the way they should.”

Huntington Beach's Brian Trujillo tries to run out a bunt during the Division 1 semifinal game Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

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