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Notre Dame Catches Second Wind to Final

Division IV: Knights defeat Ridgecrest Burroughs, 8-5, in eight innings to earn trip to Dodger Stadium.


RIDGECREST — The road to Dodger Stadium is full of odd twists and turns, but rarely does it wind through Rosamond, Mojave and Inyokern.

Notre Dame High endured a three-hour bus ride in the desert to the farthest reaches of the Southern Section, a 3 1/2-hour game played in a howling wind and a four-run, score-tying seventh inning by Ridgecrest Burroughs before prevailing, 8-5, in eight innings Tuesday to advance to the Division IV final Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

The Knights (19-9) dropped from Division I this season to play against schools of similar enrollment, but there was nothing easy about this semifinal.

"It was a game of resilience and the team that stayed the most focused won," Coach Tom Dill said.

After Burroughs tied the score, 5-5, with its last-gasp rally, Notre Dame came back with three runs in the eighth. The key hit was a two-run double by catcher Matt Cunningham, who also hit a two-run home run in the fifth.

Brendan Ryan, a second baseman who by his estimation has pitched fewer than a dozen innings this season, retired the Burros in the bottom of the inning, getting the final out on a long, wind-blown fly that center fielder Steve Moss chased down.

"This was a game you want to watch as a fan, but it was incredibly difficult to play," said Ryan, who battled leg cramps throughout the game.

Ridgecrest might be only a dot on the map midway between Lancaster and Bishop, but it has produced a bumper crop of ballplayers at Burroughs, most of them juniors. The Burros beat Chaminade in the quarterfinals and will undoubtedly make noise next season as well behind pitcher J.D. Martin, center fielder Caleb Crow, shortstop John Foisy and catcher Spencer Richards.

Martin, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, struck out eight in six innings and allowed only an unearned run through four innings. Notre Dame's Daniel Browne was more effective, hurling four shutout innings before giving way to Matt Kohon after the Knights extended their lead to 4-0 in the top of the fifth.

James Rivero homered down the right-field line--taking advantage of the direction the wind was blowing--and Cunningham belted a two-run shot with two out, also to right.

Kohon, who has been effective throughout the playoffs, gave up a solo homer to Foisy in the fifth, but sailed through the sixth. Rivero drove in Moss with a single in the sixth and the Knights led, 5-1, needing only three outs.

Exhorted by a large, raucous crowd, Burroughs bounced back. Three consecutive hits produced a run, and with one out Crow belted a three-run home run to center to tie the score. Martin, batting next, nearly ended the game with a blast to center that Moss caught at the fence.

Ryan replaced Kohon and, after giving up a single, got the third out on another fly to center.

"Everybody was hitting the ball in the air, trying to take advantage of the wind," Dill said.

Notre Dame faithful have a decision to make Saturday. The final against San Luis Obispo is at 10 a.m. and graduation ceremonies are at 10:30. The 14 seniors on the team will receive diplomas at a mass Friday night.

"It's unfortunate because the graduation time can't be changed and the Southern Section appears unwilling to change the game time," Athletic Director Kevin Rooney said.

Playing on the pastoral diamond at Dodger Stadium is sure to be unforgettable for Notre Dame, which is in a final for the first time in school history.

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