COSTA MESA – It'll be a State Final Four rematch for a trip to this year's big dance as the Orange Coast College baseball team hosts Mt. San Antonio College in the 2019 Southern California Sectional playoffs this weekend, here 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) set for Sunday at 12 p.m.
"It's going to be a tough, tough matchup, that's for sure," OCC head coach John Altobelli said. "They're playing well in the playoffs with wins over two of our top conference opponents (Santa Ana and Riverside) so we will have be match or surpass their focus and intensity and play our best baseball of the season. Getting to the Final Four is what we all play for so it's going to be a battle this weekend."
The top-seeded Pirates (33-8-1), champions of the Orange Empire Conference for the third year in a row, have won seven straight games and are winners in 13-of-15 heading into this weekend. Coast is 4-0 in the postseason with wins over L.A. Mission (8-1, 10-3) and Long Beach City (9-6, 2-0).
With a lineup as deep as any team in the state, Coast enters this weekend's sectional with a team batting average of .321 and with six different Pirates with 40-or-more hits, there aren't too many easy out to be found in the lineup.
Sophomore Murphy Stehly leads the way with a .372 average with 47 hits, 30 runs, 15 doubles and 33 RBI, followed closely by outfielder Davis Delorefice (.372, 51 hits, 36 runs, seven triples, 30 RBI), Jacob Gentry (.364, 40 hits, 13 doubles, 30 RBI), Tommy Williams (.357, 45 hits, 40 runs, 23 RBI), Tyler Lasch (.357, 52 hits, 40 runs, 31 RBI) and David Morgan (.308, 41 hits, 23 runs, 31 RBI).
On the mound for the Pirates in the series opener will be sophomore righty Cole Van Den Helder, who is 10-1 with a 3.37 ERA, allowing 30 earned runs on 67 hits with 54 strikeouts over 80 2/3 innings. Last week's Game 2 starter, Michael Ryhlick (3-1, 2.93 ERA, 39 strikeouts over 52 2/3 innings) scattered eight hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings in OCC's 2-0 series-clinching win over Long Beach. Sophomore righty Ben Davis (6-3, 1.85 ERA, 61 strikeouts in 63 2/3 IP) and sophomore lefty Vince Inman (4-0, 1.32 ERA) have been dominant out of the bullpen, with Delorefice (1-1, four saves, 2.98 ERA) ready to close things up.
The eighth-seeded Mounties (26-18), co-champions of the South Coast Conference's North Division, dropped their playoff opener with Santa Ana, 15-5, only to bounce right back and sweep a doubleheader from the Dons (11-5, 16-10) to advance to the Super Regional. There, Mt. SAC swept past No. 3-seed Riverside (8-4, 12-8) to earn a trip to the Sectionals.
With a .293 team batting average, Mt. SAC comes in with a strong and steady lineup that is led by sophomore outfielder Kyle Koontz (.355, 44 hits, 26 runs, 17 RBI), freshman Albert Luevano (.347, 61 hits, 27 runs, 24 RBI) and sluggers Michael Sandoval (.310, 49 hits, five HR, 37 RBI) and Dylan Zavala (.304, 48 hits, 3 HR, 26 RBI).
Starting pitchers Christian Longoria (5-4, 5.45 ERA, 66 strikeouts, 66 IP) and Noah Woodall (4-1, 2.73 ERA, 54 strikeouts, 66 IP) can keep the Mounties in the game before they turn the ball over to standout reliever Steven Ordorica, who is 8-1 with five saves and a 2.30 ERA. He's allowed just 11 earned runs over 43 innings with 31 strikeouts.
The Pirates and Mounties were the SoCal representatives of last year's State Final Four and in Game 2, the Pirates outlasted Mt. SAC, 10-4 in 12 innings to stay alive and ended the Mounties' season.
The CCCAA State Baseball Championships will take place May 25-27 at Fresno City College's John Euless Ballpark.