When you can count the number of returning contributors on one hand, there is usually no call to envision a championship ring on one of those fingers.
But Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli believes that there may be enough talented hands to achieve great success in his 19th season at the helm.
The Pirates were 19-17 last season, coming off a 2009 campaign that included the program's fourth state crown and a school-record 37 victories.
After OCC fell to Compton in the regional play-in game last season, Altobelli vowed that 2011 would bring a deeper postseason run.
That confidence has been tempered by injuries, and losses to eligibility, but Altobelli believes that an emphasis on quality over quantity may help this season's results.
"Last year, everybody and their brother wanted to play for us, and we had close to 90 guys in the fall," Altobelli said. "I think that watered down the process and didn't allow the guys who wound up playing to get enough quality cuts and the reps they needed. This year, we made a conscious effort to keep the numbers down. We started with between 40 and 50 kids. They got more reps and bonded more quickly as a team. It has been a much better experience for the players and coaches."
Three starting position players return, as does staff ace Ryan Doran, who is one of only two pitchers back who logged any innings in 2010.
Doran was 6-1 with a 2.98 earned-run average as a freshman, when nine of his 15 appearances were starts. He allowed just 51 hits and 13 walks in 571/3 innings. He struck out 31 and collected one save.
Among the returners is sophomore center fielder Kevin Cho, who led the Pirates with a .374 batting average and eight stolen bases last season. He made 33 starts as a freshman, producing a team-best 52 hits while driving in 21 runs.
Jordan Beck returns at shortstop after batting .368 with 22 RBIs in 30 games last season, including 27 starts.
Sam Michaels, who hit .354 with one home run and 22 RBIs in 32 games last season, is back at third base, giving the Pirates some proven offensive weapons to build around.
Steven McMichael is another sophomore who saw action last season. The outfielder, slated to be the backup in left to UC Irvine transfer Chris Carlson, hit .304 with two RBIs in 46 at-bats last spring. He stole seven bases without being caught.
Carlson is a freshman left-handed hitter who will occupy a spot in the middle of the batting order, Altobelli said. Carlson was a two-time first-team All-CIF Southern Section performer at Chino Hills High. He hit .427 with eight homers and 29 RBIs as a senior in 2009.
Matt Moynihan, a sophomore transfer from the University of San Diego, is another left-handed hitter who is projected to start in right field. He hit .388 in 49 at-bats and was six for six in stolen-base attempts for the Toreros in 2010.
Zach Chavez, a sophomore transfer from Santa Barbara City College, is a stocky, 5-foot-9 dynamo that Altobelli describes as "one fast-twitch fiber muscle," who figures to bring speed, defense and versatility to the lineup.
"He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds, which is flying," Altobelli said of Chavez, who hit .357 in nine games (all starts) at SBCC last season.
Matt Glazier, who hit .330, led the team with six home runs and drove in 24 last season, is out for the year due to a back injury, Altobelli said. Replacing him at first might be a platoon of freshman Brian Garza (Servite High) and Eilert Meyers (Vista High). Meyers, a 225-pounder, hits left-handed.
Colton Hamill, who redshirted last season, is expected to see time at third and/or second, while Newport Harbor product Austin Wobrock, primarily a shortstop, has been the team's leading hitter since January, Altobelli said.
Josh Evans and Trent Woodward, both freshmen out of Chino Hills High, are expected to compete for time behind the plate, where freshman Blake Hugaert (Orange Lutheran) is also in the picture.
Evans is expected to fill the closer role, Altobelli said.
Dorn is expected to anchor the staff, which will also feature sophomore starter Mike Smith and returner Mitch Maltby. Smith played briefly at Butte College out of Rancho Buena Vista High in San Diego County. The 6-4 right-hander has returned to the diamond after more than a season away from the game.
Maltby threw two innings last season before being shut down due to injury and earning a medical redshirt. The 6-6, 220-pound freshman right-hander is expected to be the No. 3 starter.
Another potential standout on the bump is Chad Thompson, a 6-8, 205-pound freshman out of El Toro High who sat out last season with Tommy John surgery. He began throwing again in January and is a potential blue-chip performer, according to scouts and four-year college recruiters.
In 26 innings as a touted senior in 2009, Thompson struck out 45, allowed 14 hits and had a 0.27 ERA.
Mark DeFrenza and Ryan Boselo, both All-Newport-Mesa performers at Estancia High last season, are expected to contribute on the mound, where Altobelli expects a group effort.
"Our theme is going to be pitch by committee," Altobelli said. "There may be a lot of appearances and not a lot of innings, because we're going to be running kids in and out."
Freshmen Brian O'Keefe and Garrett Hartwell are the staff's only lefties and join freshman Cory Davis, Conor Schmidt and Jed Vandernaald as potential mound contributors.
The Pirates open the season Thursday at Cuesta College. Their first home game is Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Long Beach City.