Pirates host El Camino in Southern California Sectional baseball showdown

Pirates host El Camino in Southern California Sectional baseball showdown

COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team will host El Camino in the 2017 Southern California Sectional playoffs, beginning on Friday at 2 p.m. at Wendell Pickens Field.

Game 2 of this best-of-three series will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a third game (if necessary) scheduled for Sunday at 12 p.m.

"All along, we've been keeping an eye on this team because their record has been so impressive," OCC head coach John Altobelli said. "From what we've heard, they have some arms to deal with on the mound and they have a few guys to focus on at the plate. But, I love our team and our biggest focus is being able to play the best baseball we can and if we can do that, I like our chances against anyone."

The top-seeded Pirates (35-10) and fifth-seeded Warriors (37-8) have both had their time atop the state baseball rankings throughout this season and this weekend's matchup has the makings of being a classic.

After a stumble in the opening game of the Super Regionals against Santa Ana, OCC regrouped and topped the Dons, 5-1 on Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday to advance to this week's sectional matchup. 

In Saturday's win, Coast was led by starter Ryan Randel (7-3, 3.00 ERA), who pitched a complete game and held SAC to just one run on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts. OCC's big blow at the plate came from slugger Eric Wagaman (.335, 14 HR, 48 RBI), who ripped a crucial two-run home run and finished the game 3-for-4 with two run and two RBI.

In the series finale, Coast took advantage of eight walks and ripped 14 hits en route to the 9-4 win. Nolan Powers (.315, 39 hits, 13 RBI) went 4-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Wagaman (2-for-4, two runs, two RBI), Travis Moniot (2-for-2, reached base five times) and Ramiro Velasco (2-for-5, one run, two RBI) added to the offensive support. Moniot enters this weekend's series with a .359 batting average, 51 hits, seven HR, 34 RBI, 17 stolen bases, a .528 on-base percentage and a school-record 47 walks. Velasco anchors the heart of the order with a .310 average, 39 hits, five HR, 21 RBI.

Other Pirate hitters to keep an eye on include catcher Robert Teel (.375, 39 hits, 22 RBI), second baseman J.T. Navarro (.302, 48 hits, 24 RBI) and outfielders Jacob White (.280, 35 hits, 14 RBI) and Luke Hussung (.264, 24 hits, three HR, 19 RBI, 11 stolen bases).

Reliever Blair Lewis (4-1, four saves, 1.70 ERA) came out of the bullpen and threw five shutout innings, allowing just one hit, no walks and three strikeouts.

Starters Kyle Robeniol (7-1, 2.18 ERA), McKinley LeFore (8-1, 3.50 ERA) and reliever Cameron Jabara (6-1, 3.59 ERA) will need to bring their best stuff to the mound this weekend against a daunting El Camino lineup.

For the Warriors, they have had a season for the ages. Winners of 25 straight during the regular season, ECC stumbled a bit down the stretch with five straight losses and took a dip in the rankings. But, the South Coast Conference co-champions returned to championship form with series wins over No. 12 Glendale (3-1, 2-6, 20-8) and No. 7 Pasadena City (6-1, 9-2) to advance to this weekend's sectional.

It starts with starting pitching for ECC and the Warriors have plenty of firepower with the trio of Taylor Rashi (11-3, 1.73 ERA, 127 strikeouts, 104 IP), Cassius Hamm (11-3, 2.99 ERA, 121 strikeouts, 93 1/3 IP) and Ricky Ramos (6-1, 3.66 ERA). Out of the bullpen, the foursome of Trevor Talpas, Kenneth Haus, Thomas Stropky and Jake Carr have a combined 8-1 record and 11 saves.

At the plate, the Warriors have been just as dominant with 504 hits in 45 games (11.2 hits/game) and a .310 team batting average. Leading the way has been sophomore catcher Travor Casanova (.392, 73 hits, 61 runs, 26 XBH, 40 RBI) and outfielders Ty Conrad (.332, 63 hits, 53 runs, 37 RBI), Cody Wissler (.348, 56 hits, 30 RBI) and Ryan Eastburn (.335, 54 hits, 45 RBI).

The winner of this series will advance to the California Community College Athletic Association Baseball State Championships, hosted by Fresno City College, beginning May 27-29.