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Notre Dame Survives Tuneup


Sounding equal part coach and politician, Coach Tom Dill of Notre Dame High put on a positive pregame spin.

Sure, the Knights lost a coin flip with Mission League co-champion Crespi to determine the league's No. 1 seeding in the Division I playoffs. And, yes, as a result, Crespi did not have to play a wild-card game, while Notre Dame hosted Arroyo Grande on Tuesday.

But Dill said a wild-card game was a plus: It would serve as a valuable tuneup for a first-round game against Marmonte League champion Thousand Oaks on Friday.

Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 in the region by The Times, got more than a breezy workout in a tense 2-1 victory.

The Knights (23-4) needed a two-out rally in the fifth inning to score the go-ahead run.

Notre Dame loaded the bases when Brendan Ryan reached first base on a strike three passed ball. John Puccinelli followed with a walk that forced in the run that snapped a 1-1 tie.

Notre Dame fans can now exhale.

"I was expecting us to come out here and jump on these guys a little bit," Puccinelli said. "But their pitcher had good movement on the ball and battled us tough."

Ultimately, defense did it for Notre Dame.

The Knights turned two inning-ending double plays, including one in the fifth that might have been a game-saver.

With runners on first and third, Andy Warwick bounced to third, where Puccinelli began the play by rifling the ball to second base. From there, Ryan took over, throwing to first to get Warwick.

"It was a simple 1-2-3 kind of play," Puccinelli said. "We work a lot on that."

After one post-season game, the Knights can say they have survived a close playoff game.

Right-hander Kyle Mosley kept Arroyo Grande (13-11) in the game, allowing five hits, all singles.

"We got to face a good pitcher and I feel like we have the advantage going into Friday," Dill said.

Ryan Cowsill (6-1) pitched a solid game for Notre Dame, striking out seven and allowing seven hits before being replaced by Phil Polanco with two out in the seventh.

Polanco, who has battled a back injury, ended the game with a strikeout.

Polanco, who is 9-0 with a 1.07 earned-run average, defeated Thousand Oaks, 5-3, in eight innings in the San Fernando tournament.

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