Orange Coast College baseball returned in grand fashion this week, as the Pirates won three out of four games against conference-rival Fullerton Hornets to open the exhibition season.
Tuesday’s game was Nate Johnson’s first appearance as head coach, and the baseball team’s first contest in 396 days. Though games this spring are not considered “official” and only exhibitions, Johnson was excited to get it started.
“It felt good,” Johnson said. “Obviously there’s the little things you forget about but as soon as we got back into the swing of things, it was like riding a bike.”
The Pirates dropped the series opener 8-5, but Johnson praised his team’s fight after such a long hiatus.
“I thought we did a lot well, this being our first game in 396 days,” Johnson said. “I think if we were to do anything better, maybe some of our at-bats with runners in scoring position or with two outs. If we were able to get some two-out knocks, it would have been a different ballgame.”
The interconference opener also featured some drama, when in the top of the eighth inning a collision took place during a play at home plate.
The video shows Fullerton right fielder Matt Darr running shoulder-first into OCC freshman catcher Brandon Guy, who held on after the contact for the out. No ejections were made, and the game continued on from there.
“I’m reacting to my catcher getting blown up, and their head coach is reacting to our catcher moving up the line to catch the ball,” Johnson said. “He was defending his guy. I was defending my guy. It’s one of those plays that just happens. You try to avoid it from happening, but it’s going to happen once in a while.”
Whether or not the Pirates played with a chip on their shoulder for the rest of the series, the outcome spoke for itself. OCC piled on 16 runs and 18 hits in their 16-7 win over the Hornets on Thursday.
Right-handed pitcher Alex Shadid tossed five innings of relief, keeping Fullerton’s bats at bay while the offense poured on more and more runs. Two sophomores; Centerfielder Cameron Mahaffy and Shortstop David Morgan went deep in OCC’s first win of the season.
On Friday, the Orange Empire Conference rivals played a doubleheader to conclude the series – the first game being a non-conference six-inning contest.
OCC ran away with the first game of the doubleheader, 9-6, after a four-run fifth inning went unanswered by Fullerton. Five different Pirates finished with an RBI.
To conclude the series, the Pirates sailed away with one more conference win, blowing out the Hornets 11-3, backed by an eight inning, 11 strikeout performance from sophomore pitcher Kelly Austin.
OCC will continue conference play against Irvine Valley College (IVC) on April 20.