COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team is one win away from another trip to Fresno following Friday afternoon's 10-7 win over visiting Mt. San Antonio in Game 1 of the Southern California Sectional playoffs, played at Wendell Pickens Field.
In addition to an always-important series-opening win, Friday's victory marked career win No. 700 for longtime head coach, John Altobelli, becoming just the 16th head coach in California Community College baseball history to join The 700 Club.
"It's a nice number to see, but right now, we all are focused on one more win this weekend," Altobelli said. "I've been lucky to have coached some amazing young men over the years and I've had tremendous assistant coaches to help me throughout the years. Let's just keep this thing rolling for a little while longer."
With the win, the top-seeded Pirates (34-8-1) leads this weekend's best-of-three series, 1-0, over the eighth-seeded Mounties (26-19) with Game 2 set for Saturday at OCC, beginning at 1 p.m.
Pirate ace Cole Van Den Helder fought through eight tough innings to pick up his 11th victory of the season (11-1), he allowed five runs on nine hits with one walk and seven strikeouts before Davis Delorefice pitched the ninth to wrap the game up.
"Great, great job by Cole today," Altobelli said of Van Den Helder. "Good pitchers find a way to win, even when the stuff isn't as where they want it to be and Cole found a way to get the job done. His ability to go deep today will give us plenty of options for the rest of the series."
After Mt. SAC scored two runs in the top of the first, Gentry followed with his three-run blast in the bottom of the first that capped off a five-run opening frame for the Pirates.
It stayed that way until the top of the fourth, when the Mounties mounted a comeback and tied the game at 5. A two-run single by Tyus Santa Ana and a run-scoring single by Alex Gonzalez capped off the three-run frame for the guests.
Mounties' reliever Pablo Valenzuela kept the Pirates in check for three innings before OCC finally pieced together another productive set of at-bats. In the bottom of the sixth, Gentry led off with a bloop double down the left-field line and scored on an RBI-single by David Morgan, giving OCC a 6-5 lead. After a misplayed pickoff attempt moved Morgan to third, Todd Jackson drove him in with an RBI-double to right-center, putting the Pirates up, 7-5.
In the bottom of the eighth Coast had the bases loaded with two outs, courtesy of a walk, a hit batter and an intentional walk that brought up Stehly to the plate. OCC's top hitter increased his average to .380 when he lined a two-run double down the left field line that cleared the bases following a bobble in the outfield. That gave Coast a comfy 10-5 advantage, but the Mounties did not go away quietly.
A walk, a HBP and a lost fly ball to left loaded the bases with just one out and Mt. SAC's most dangerous hitter, Michael Sandoval, at the plate. But Delorefice stepped up and struck out Sandoval for the second out. After a two-run single by Albert Luevano, Delorefice coaxed a line-out to second baseman Adam Serrano to end the game.