Pirates baseball moves on to Final Four

Pirate baseball moved on to the Final Four after defeating Mt. Sac in two games over the weekend.

Orange Coast College’s baseball team will make its return to Fresno and to the Final Four contest after head coach John Altobelli’s 700th and 701st win as a coach, sweeping eighth seed Mt. San Antonio over the weekend.

Altobelli became the 16th head coach in California community college baseball history to join the 700-win club.

In Friday’s opener, both teams exploded offensively. The Mounties got its offense rolling with a two-run top of the first inning.

OCC sophomore Jacob Gentry answered back with a three-run home run to start the five-run bottom of the first inning for the Pirates.

With the game tied 5-5 going into the bottom of the sixth inning with the heart of its lineup coming up to bat, Coast was able to break through and never look back.

First-team All-Orange Empire Conference infielder Gentry got the inning started with a double down the left-field line. He scored following an RBI-single by freshman first-team All-OEC member David Morgan. After a failed pick-off attempt moved Morgan to third, catcher Todd Jackson put him across the plate with a double to right-center, putting the Pirates up 7-5.

Another big Coast inning came in the bottom of the eighth after a walk, hit by pitch and intentional walk loaded the bases for first-team All-OEC third baseman Murphy Stehly. He ripped a ball down the left field line and with the help of a bobble by the Mountie defense, the bases cleared and put the Pirates up 10-5.

Pirate starting pitcher Cole Van Den Helder (11-1) threw eight innings to pick up his 11th win on the season. He gave up five runs on nine hits with one walk and seven strikeouts on the afternoon. He picked up first-team All-OEC honors as a starting pitcher.

OEC Player of the Year Davis Delorefice came in in the bottom of the ninth inning to wrap up the victory for the Pirates.

“It's a nice number to see, but right now, we all are focused on one more win this weekend,” Altobelli said of his 700th win. “I’ve been lucky to have coached some amazing young men over the years and I’ve had tremendous assistant coaches to help me throughout the years. Let’s just keep this thing rolling for a little while longer.”

A day later and one win away from getting their tickets punched to Fresno, the Pirates squad came to complete its third sweep of the playoffs.

Due to the playoffs scheduling, the Pirates were considered the visiting team even though the contest was held at Wendell Pickens Field.

Coast kept the offense hot as it rallied for 15 runs on 16 hits compared to Mt. SAC’s one run on three hits.

The fun began right from the opening inning as the “visiting” Pirates loaded the bases with one out, courtesy of two walks and a single. Stehly followed up with a double into the left-center field gap, scoring all three runs to put the Pirates up, 3-0.

Six Pirate hitters had a multi-hit afternoon including Gentry, who added four hits and three RBIs to his stats. Stehly and Morgan both went 2-4 and scored two runs each. Delorefice, Skylar Limonchi and Tommy Williams all contributed two hits each in the offensive marathon. Tyler Lasch reached base four times, scored three runs and drove in three runs. All the men earned first team All-OEC honors except Limonchi who made second-team.

Starting pitcher Michael Rhylick continued his dominance on the mound as he held the Mounties to one run on three hits with five strikeouts over his six innings of work.

Relievers Kevin Ishimaru, Ben Davis and Vince Inman each pitched scoreless, hitless frames to secure the victory.

With the wins, the Pirates (35-8-1) will be the No. 1 seed out of Southern California at next week's California Community College Athletic Association Baseball State Championships, located at Fresno City College's John Euless Ballpark.

The Pirates will return to the State Final Four for the eighth time in Altobelli’s coaching tenure. OCC will be shooting for seventh state title in school history and the 94th overall state title in school history.

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