Orange Coast College’s baseball team rallied from an early deficit to sweep the Santa Ana Dons in its second walk-off win of the series and earned the first seed in the Orange Empire Conference going into playoffs.
With Riverside’s loss to Cypress roughly 20 minutes after the thriller at Wendell Pickens Field concluded, OCC was declared the outright OEC champions for the third consecutive season.
The top-seeded Pirates have likely secured home-field advantage throughout the regional playoffs.
“We finished on top and there’s right where we want to be,” head coach John Altobelli said. “Obviously were playing well now so I like our chances [heading into playoffs].”
OCC had its backs against the wall early in the game, but the “Never Ever Give Up” jerseys rang true as the men did just that — never gave up.
After falling behind 5-0 in the top of the first inning, the Pirates slowly chipped away to be down two runs before having a two-out offense explosion in the bottom of the ninth.
With two outs and down by two runs, OCC managed to get runners on first and second.
Sophomore Murphy Stehly legged out an infield single to the shortstop to force the bases loaded for freshman third baseman David Morgan.
Morgan flared a perfectly-placed untouchable ball into right field for a double, scoring right fielder Davis Delorefice and pinch runner Caleb Anderson which evened the score at six.
Santa Ana’s 12 hits (all singles) put up a fight, but OCC’s 13th hit proved to be deadly.
Sophomore Jacob Gentry, delivered the final blow, hitting a line drive single to right field, scoring Stehly. The RBI made the benches clear, Gatorade coolers empty and created a championship Pirate pile in the outfield.
Gentry lead the offensive charge for the Pirates, going 4-5 on the afternoon.
He finished the 16 games of conference with a .411 batting average and 19 RBIs.
Of Coast’s 13 hits, seven were doubles. RBI’s by Skylar Limonchi, Todd Jackson and Gentry proved to be too much for the Santa Ana pitching.
“To get the big couple hits off their No. 1 guy was huge so it was a good team victory,” Altobelli said.
Starting pitcher Brenden Argomaniz (5-3) collected the win despite giving up five runs off as many hits in his one inning of work.
Freshman Michael Rhylick worked six innings in relief, only giving up one run on six hits, while sending three Dons to the bench on strikes.
He posted a 3.68 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched during conference play.
Coast had faith in the freshman to shut down the Don offense to give a chance for OCC to chip away to victory, according to Altobelli.
The Pirates continue to truck on to the road to Fresno as the first round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs begin Friday at Wendell Pickens Field at 2 p.m., the team’s opponent is not known at time of print.