Sherman Oaks Notre Dame receives No. 1 seed for Division 1 baseball playoffs

Nearly 40 years ago, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High had one of the best high school baseball teams in Southern Section history. Led by future Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell, the Knights won their first 27 games in 1984 before losing in the Division 1 semifinals to Long Beach Millikan.

Now, the Knights are 26-2 and were seeded No. 1 Monday for the Division 1 playoffs. They will open at home against Newhall Hart on Thursday.

"We're playing good baseball right now," coach Tom Dill said.

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Dill, however, knows how challenging it is to win the Division 1 title in a single-elimination tournament loaded with standout pitchers. The good news for Notre Dame is that its pitching staff has been outstanding, led by starters Justin Lee (UCLA commit) and Oliver Boone (California), and relievers Levi Sterling and Erik Puodziunas. Sam Petrocelli has been a third starter.

Orange Lutheran and Santa Ana Foothill made the 32-team Division 1 bracket as at-large teams, something that doesn't always happen. Fortunately for them, there were only 30 automatic qualifiers.

If Notre Dame wins its opener Thursday, it could be facing a second-round matchup against a La Verne Bonita team that has two top pitchers in Justin Santiago and Garrett Patterson. But that's the challenge of Division 1 — teams are loaded with top pitchers.


Huntington Beach, with its outstanding hitting attack, will face one of the top young pitchers in Downey Warren sophomore Angel Cervantes, a UCLA commit. Santa Margarita is seeded No. 2, Huntington Beach No. 3 and JSerra No. 4.

San Bernardino Aquinas received the No. 1 seed for Division 2. Santa Ana Mater Dei earned its first playoff berth since 2017 and will open at home against Westlake Village Oaks Christian in another Division 2 game on Friday.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.