Baseball expects to start strong

The Orange Coast College baseball team plays during a game in the 2018 season at Wendell Pickens Field. The Pirates went 20-7 at home last season.

Orange Coast College’s baseball team is looking for a three-peat as the Orange Empire Conference champions in the upcoming 2019 season.

Looking for an eighth state championship in school history, the Pirates came up short in Fresno last year, taking third in state.

“I thought we had everything lined up  we don’t make a couple plays,” said head coach John Altobelli. “We’ve got a lot of those guys coming back this year so I know they’re hungry.”

Altobelli explained that there are 12 players returning from last year’s team. He says he feels lucky to have great and hard-working players year-after-year who buy into his program and work to do things the “Coast Way.”

Coast won’t see any of its conference rivals until spring, so it is hard for Altobelli to predict an outcome for the Pirates.

According to Altobelli, the Orange Empire Conference is consistently one of the toughest conferences in the state and is always competitive.

“I think we have a good pitching staff and good hitters,” Altobelli said. “We have a lot of work to do, but I like our chances and I like this group.”

Coast finished 15-6 in conference last year winning its 20th conference championship in school history.

The Pirates prepared in the fall by playing simulated games against four-year universities and professional scout teams.

“It’s a controlled scrimmage. We go three outs or five batters,” said Altobelli. “It’ll be interesting once we play real games and get after it.”

The schedule included games against the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers scout teams.

It’s tough to judge the players’ level of game play in these simulations since it isn’t a game played at 100 percent. However, Altobelli was pleased with many of his players’ performances.

Returning sophomore infielder Murphy Stehly was selected All-Conference and All-State according to Altobelli. He hit .328 last season with 27 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Altobelli will look to him as a solid glove in the infield and consistent bat in the lineup.

OCC will have an all-new catching crew this season. Both players vying for the position are hoping for bounce-back seasons.

Tyler Lasch is a catcher from El Toro High School who spent his first year at Cal State Fullerton. Competing with Lasch is Todd Jackson, a transfer from the University of San Diego.

Altobelli enters his 27th season as the head coach of the Pirate program. Last season he was named OEC Coach of the Year for the seventh time.

“They trust me. I got a pretty good track record of winning and moving guys on,” said Altobelli. “They understand that there’s a process to that.”

Considering that the Pirates have reached the Southern California Regional Playoffs in 13 of the last 14 years, trusting Altobelli seemingly rings true.  

Ten players from last season’s squad are continuing their careers at four-year universities, including an impressive battery of right handed pitcher Gus Culpo and catcher Chris Ceballos, who transferred to USC and Kansas State University respectively.

In addition to the impressive squad from last year, eight players were named to 2018’s All-Orange Empire Conference list. Seven players won first-team honors and one was on the second team.

With Altobelli at the helm, the Pirates are looking to chase championships and take a trip to Fresno in 2019.

“We got some new guys and some old face,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a good recipe for success.”

The Pirates regular season will be kick started by the second annual alumni game on Dec. 15 at Wendell Pickens Field and will be continued into 2019.

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