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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Bryant Slips One Past Chatsworth

Baseball: Reliever's strikeout in seventh inning preserves 6-5 victory for Notre Dame over Chancellors in Las Vegas.

April 10, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — The joke going around about Austin Bryant's fastball is that it doesn't exceed the highway speed limit.

"I think it was 75 mph on the way," Notre Dame High Coach Tom Dill said. "I don't know if [Bryant] would be ticketed."

There were no Highway Patrol officers in sight Thursday afternoon when Bryant, a 130-pound relief pitcher, threw a fastball for a called third strike on a 3-2 count to Chad Redfern of Chatsworth with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning and the tying and winning runs at second and third.

Bryant hurled his glove into the air and began celebrating Notre Dame's 6-5 victory in a round-robin game of the Bishop Gorman tournament at Bonanza High.

"It was do or die," said Notre Dame catcher Matt Cunningham, who called for the pitch.

Of the 37 pitches Bryant threw in his three innings of shutout relief, 33 were curveballs. One was a changeup and the other three were fastballs.

"He pitched with a lot of guts," Cunningham said.

It takes exceptional pitching to beat Chatsworth (13-2), which had not scored fewer than six runs in 14 previous games. Starter Phil Polanco shut out the Chancellors for four innings and Notre Dame (7-3-1) took a 6-0 lead against ace Mike Kunes (5-1).

Notre Dame scored five runs in the first inning, taking advantage of two errors. Alec Moss had a two-run single and Jon Brewster added a two-run double.

Shortstop John Puccinelli hit his fourth home run of the season in the fifth to make it 6-0.

But Chatsworth started pounding the ball in the bottom of the fifth.

Danny Eisenberg contributed a two-run double and soon the Chancellors had the bases loaded against a tiring Polanco. In came Bryant, who failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning earlier in the day when Notre Dame lost to Bonanza, 6-4.

Bryant got Tom Morefield to pop out. Matt Fisher drove in a run with a flyout before Redfern hit a two-run double, closing the deficit to 6-5.

In the seventh, Chatsworth's Matt Cassel led off with his third hit, a single, but Bryant picked off pinch-runner Jacob Sowinsky. Kunes followed with a single and Morefield hit a ground-rule double, putting runners at second and third.

By then, the Chancellors knew all about Bryant's curveball.

But they didn't know how tough Bryant was.

"He has the heart of a lion," Notre Dame assistant Tim Cunningham said.

And they didn't know how smart he is.

"We call him the professor," Puccinelli said, referring to Bryant's 4.2 grade-point average.

Bryant got Fisher to ground out to Puccinelli for the second out, forcing the runners to hold. Up came Redfern. The count went to 3-2. Everyone knew a curveball was coming, right?

Bryant looked toward Polanco on the bench. "I pointed over to him, 'This is for you,' " he said.

His fastball found the outside corner for a called third strike.

"It feels good," Bryant said. "We beat a great team."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

SHOWDOWN IN THE DESERT

Notre Dame

Austin Bryant

Relieved Phil Polanco and got the save after throwing three innings for the Knights. He threw 37 pitches in the appearance, 34 were off-speed.

Chatsworth

Mike Kunes

The Chancellor ace suffered his first defeat of the season, dropping his record to 5-1.

Notre Dame

John Puccinelli

Hit his fourth home run of the year in the top of the fifth inning to give the Knights a 6-0 lead. It ultimately was the deciding run.

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