COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team showed the heart of a champion on Friday with a three-run, ninth-inning rally to stun visiting Santa Ana, 7-6, and earn the No. 1 seed out of the Orange Empire Conference heading into postseason play.
Trailing 5-0 before evening coming to the plate, the Pirates (29-8-1, 16-5) chipped away with four runs over the next seven innings before delivering the knockout blow in the ninth.
With runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Pirates trailing, 6-4, Murphy Stehly kept the game alive with an infield single to load the bases. David Morgan then stepped up and lob-wedged a perfectly-placed bloop double down the right-field line, scoring two runs and tying the game at 6.
Jacob Gentry, who finished the afternoon 4-for-5, ripped a single to right to score Stehly with the game-winning run.
With the win, coupled with Riverside's 9-8 loss to Cypress on Friday, the Pirates won the outright OEC title for the third consecutive year and most likely, home-field advantage throughout the Southern California Regional playoffs, which kick off on Friday at 2 p.m.
"These guys just never quit ... you gotta love that," OCC head coach John Altobelli said. "This was a game where they (Santa Ana) made every big play and found some holes early on the get control of things, but we just kept battling and battling."
In addition to the offense, OCC relief pitcher Michael Ryhlick did a stellar job of keeping the Pirates close after SAC (24-15, 12-9) jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Rhylick allowed just one run over six innings of work, allowing six hits and two walks, while striking out three.
"He stepped up and did a fantastic job for us," Altobelli said of Rhylick. "Picking up a win in this Game 3 each week has not been easy and we will need guys like Michael to blow their neck and pick up big innings for us."
Stehly finished with two hits, a run and two RBI for OCC, while Skylar Limonchi added two hits and one RBI.
For the Dons, Frank Garcia went 3-for-4 with one run scored, while Grant Askins added two hits, a run and an RBI.
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