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Sherman Oaks Notre Dame wins Mission League baseball championship

Down by three runs in the seventh inning of the Mission League championship game, Harvard-Westlake had two runners aboard and home-run hitter Drew Bowser at the plate. On the mound was pitcher Chris Aldrich of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. The count was stuck at 2-and-2.

Five times Bowser fouled off Aldrich’s pitches. Neither player was giving in.

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“I was not giving him anything to hit out,” Aldrich said.

On the sixth pitch, Bowser hit the ball as hard as he could on a line drive. But third baseman Diego Baquerio caught the line drive for the game’s final out for a 5-2 Notre Dame victory. Knight players charged out of the dugout to celebrate a Mission League championship.

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It was only on Monday when Harvard-Westlake defeated the Knights and ace Lucas Gordon 5-2. Things didn’t look too good for Notre Dame. Then, the Knights, behind pitcher Carter Kessinger, beat the Wolverines 7-5 on Tuesday.

On Thursday, left-hander Connor Skertich escaped several potential scoring situations in the early innings and lasted 4 1/3 innings before Adrich took over and allowed no runs in 2 2/3 innings for the Knights.

“We hit balls right at them,” Bowser said.

The Knights (23-6, 15-3) executed with their bunts and also got timely hitting. Ben Griffin had an RBI sacrifice fly and RJ Gordon an RBI single in the first inning. In the fifth, after Harvard-Westlake had closed to 3-2, Baquerio and Jeff Pierantoni contributed RBI singles.

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“Connor was able to hold them off,” coach Tom Dill said.

Harvard-Westlake (23-5-1, 14-3-1) and Notre Dame figure to be contenders when the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs begin next Thursday. The pairings will be announced on Monday. This week’s pressure-filled games was good preparation for the single elimination format.

“No matter what, both are going to be better after today and make a run,” Dill predicted before the game.

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