COSTA MESA — Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli said he really doesn't have a classic No. 3, cleanup, or No. 5 hitter this season, but rather a bunch of No. 6 and No. 7 hitters to fill in between the top and bottom of the order.
Regardless, the Pirates are showing they are all about producing numbers from every region of the lineup, as was the case Thursday in their 14-6 win over visiting Golden West in the Orange Empire Conference opener for both teams.
De facto OCC cleanup hitter Austin Saenz certainly acted the part against the Rustlers, driving in five runs and going three for five with a single, double and triple.
Saenz, a freshman who redshirted last season at Cal State Fullerton, spearheaded a 17-hit attack to which all nine OCC starters contributed hits. Eight Pirates drove in runs and eight scored at least one run to allow the hosts (13-3, 1-0 in conference) to rally from a 3-0 deficit.
OCC, which ranks second in the state in runs (108) and is fourth in the state with a .304 team batting average, was also led by sophomore leadoff man Zach Nehrir, who went three for four, was hit by a pitch, drove in a run and scored three.
Sophomore third baseman Manny Argomaniz, the No. 3 hitter, was two for four with one RBI and two runs scored, while sophomore first baseman Danny Jiminez was one for four with two RBIs and one run in the No. 5 spot.
Freshman designated hitter Anthony Virgen and freshman left fielder Cody Bruder, occupying the Nos. 6 and 7 spots, were both two for three with one RBI.
Greg Espinoza, a slick-fielding freshman shortstop hitting in the No. 9 spot, was two for three with a run scored, while sophomore second baseman Ricky Navarro (the No. 2 hitter), and freshman catcher Tucker Chad (batting No. 8) both had one hit and one RBI. Navarro scored twice and Chadd once as OCC tormented Rustlers pitching.
"I was really impressed with our offense today," said Altobelli, whose team has now scored in double figures three times and had at least 10 hits in 12 games. "Our guys had quality at-bats and executed when we had our hit and run plays going. I thought they didn't try to do too much. They were staying inside the ball and using the whole field. I thought it was one of our better offensive outings this year."
Saenz typified the OCC hitters' consistently sound approach. He came to the plate in the eighth inning needing a home run to complete a cycle, but refused to overswing.
"I was trying to stick with the approach I had the while game," Saenz, who with 16 RBIs is tied for fourth in the state, said. "I was trying to go the other way and stay inside the ball. I wasn't changing anything up, just trying to see the ball well."
OCC produced four runs on five hits in the bottom of the third inning, then had 10 hits and 10 combined runs in the fifth and sixth innings to reward freshman reliever David Wilson with the victory.
Wilson, who came on for starter Dallas Draveczki in the second inning blanked Golden West for 61/3 innings on three hits. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
"[Wilson, who improved to 3-0] really settled things down," Altobelli said. "He was throwing strikes and did a great job for us."
The Rustlers rallied for three in the ninth off two OCC relievers, but the OCC lead was never threatened. Golden West starting pitcher Jason Dietrich, who had won his three previous decisions, allowed eight runs on 11 hits in 42/3 innings to pick up the loss.
"Every guy is finding a way to contribute to the team and we're all starting to realize what our roles are," Saenz said.
OCC has seven regulars batting .300 or better, with Navarro and Argomaniz (11 RBIs) leading the way at .377, Nehrir (13 RBIs) hitting .373, Saenz batting .372 and Bruder (11 RBIs) hitting .357.
The Pirates resume conference play against visiting Cypress on Saturday at noon.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 14,
Golden West 6
SCORE BY INNINGS
GWC 030 000 003 – 6 10 2
OCC 004 046 00X – 14 17 2
Deitrich, Burkett (5), Farris (6), Norman (7) and Yazdanbakhsh; Draviczki, Wilson (2), Hartwell (9), Longville (9) and Chadd, Toll-McKillop (9). W – Wilson, 3-0. L – Deitrich, 3-1. 2B – Larson (GWC), Whiteman (GWC), Saenz (OCC), Virgen (OCC), Bruder (OCC), Chadd (OCC). 3B – Saenz (OCC).