TEMECULA ---- The word is "knack," and Dakota Thompson has it. That's a knack for the big hit or the clutch defensive play or the timely comment to a teammate.
But the senior catcher for the Temecula Valley High baseball team isn't perfect. One of those instances came in the third inning of the Golden Bears' CIF Southern Section Division I playoff opener on Friday afternoon, when his bunt attempt was hit sharply right to the pitcher, leading to a forceout at third base.
The next time he came to the plate, Temecula Valley coach Tony Nobiensky had a word with him.
"I told him right before that at-bat, 'You owe me one,' " Nobiensky said.
Thompson delivered. He has a knack for it.
A check-swing, two-run double by Thompson was the catalyst for a four-run inning that lifted Temecula Valley to an 11-0 victory over Santiago. Joey Esposito threw one-hit ball for six innings to support an 11-hit attack.
Temecula Valley (19-6) will meet Santa Ana Mater Dei, a 3-1 winner over Oxnard Rio Mesa, on Tuesday in the second round at a site to be determined.
The Golden Bears batted around in two innings and sent eight batters to the plate in a third against Santiago.
"I'm really proud of the approaches our guys are having at the plate," Nobiensky said. "Especially in pressure games. Last week was pressure. Both games we had to win. And then today, being in the playoffs.
"I'm proud of them, the way they've taken (to) the approach we keep teaching all season."
Thompson was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs, and extended his streak of games with an RBI to four.
The top five players in the Golden Bears' lineup scored eight runs. And the bottom four spots in the order combined for eight RBIs, including sacrifice flies by Josh Garcia, Phillip Fuentes and Drew Seelman.
"If one person's not picking us up," Thompson said, "another person is. We've got the bottom of the lineup, the top of the lineup coming through and making good at-bats."
Santiago (17-11-1) defeated San Clemente 11-2 in a wild-card round game on Tuesday, but had no answer for Esposito, whose biggest crisis was a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning.
"I think his game plan was to stay down," Corona Santiago coach Ty De Trinidad said. "And he did a fantastic job keeping everything down on us. He was able to get himself out of a crucial jam. Because that could have been the turning point of the game."
Esposito struck out Cody Bruder to end the threat in the fifth. He also struck out Ian Schultheiss with two on and two out in the first and got a double play from his defense with a runner on first in the second.
After the go-ahead run came to the plate in the top of the fifth, Temecula Valley got the clutch hit from Thompson in the bottom of the frame. With the bases loaded and one out, he got a high-and-tight pitch on a 1-1 count.
"He came with a fastball up and in," Thompson said. "I kind of was late on it, and got jammed. But then got deep enough and was able to poke it. I wasn't really sure where it went, then I saw it and took off running."
The ball landed a few feet fair down the first-base line to score Jake Huskey and Dennis Morton. Kyle Plantier followed with a run-scoring fielder's choice, and Garcia hit a sac fly to make it 8-0.
Keith Kozak closed it out for the Golden Bears with two strikeouts in one inning of relief.