Coming up clutch doesn't always mean driving in the winning run in the last of the ninth. Clutch situations often arise less obviously, in the first inning, and, say even in the fourth.
Such was the case for the host Orange Coast College baseball team on Tuesday, as it produced a string of two-out hits in the early innings to defeat Palomar, 6-2, in the season opener for both teams.
OCC, ranked No. 2 in Southern California in the preseason, in fact, scored its first four runs with a string of two-out hits to give starting pitcher David Hill and four relievers enough to handle the No. 4-ranked Comets.
With two outs in the first, Cody Nulph singled and came around to score when sophomore designated hitter Chris Iriart doubled off the left-center-field fence.
In the fourth, OCC once again struck with two outs as sophomore right fielder Tommy Bell launched a two-two pitch from starter Gary Cornish over the left-field fence to double the lead.
But OCC wasn't done yet as third baseman Ryan Perez doubled, catcher Colin Yelich tripled and center fielder Cody Bruder doubled to up the margin to 4-0. Bruder, who led OCC with a .335 batting average last season, had two hits in the No. 9 hole Tuesday.
Hill, a bounce-back from Long Beach State last season where he went 4-2 with a 4.05 earned-run average in 17 appearances, including 11 starts, covering 66 2/3 innings, held the Comets hitless through 3 1/3 innings. He gave up a leadoff double and subsequent single to start the fifth, but worked out of the jam to finish his five shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
"He gave us a solid start there, which was huge," OCC Coach John Altobelli said.
Altobelli said he was also pleased with the two-out rallies, always a luxury for the team that can convert, and a body blow to the team that fails to close out the inning.
"I liked the way we swung the bats," Altobelli said. "Our two-out hitting was huge. I think most of our rallies started with two outs"
No fewer than eight of the Pirates' 11 hits came with two outs, as eight different players contributed in the hit column for the winners.
Freshman left fielder and leadoff man Robert Longtree went three for four with a stolen base and one run scored to pace the offense, for which Iriart had two RBIs.
The aforementioned extra-base hits by Yellich and Bruder plated runs in the fourth and four pitchers worked in relief, capped by sophomore Vanguard University transfer Spencer Moran, who got the final out to record the save.
OCC had two errors, both of which made the Palomar runs unearned. And the Pirates fanned nine times against four Comets pitchers. Both are areas Altobelli hopes to clean up before OCC, coming off a 23-16 season, returns to action on Tuesday at Palomar.
Brian Bass allowed no hits and one unearned run in the sixth inning for OCC, for which David Wilson, a first-team All-Orange Empire Conference performer as a freshman, worked two innings, allowing one hit and one unearned run.
Parker Manahan started the ninth, but was pulled with two outs after giving up a pair of singles. Moran induced the final out on a groundout to shortstop.
Altobelli said freshman left-hander Art Vidro would get the start on Tuesday, and the Pirates would set up their staff for a three-game series to follow at Cuesta.
"We plan to start David Hill, Jacob Hill and Andrew Alvarez against Cuesta," Altobelli said.
"Palomar is a good team that eliminated us last year in the playoffs and they will be a playoff team again," Altobelli said. "Cuesta is a playoff team, too, which is why we schedule them, because the Orange Empire Conference is so tough. So, hopefully, we can keep it going and continue to have good, quality starts from our pitchers."
Orange Coast 6, Palomar 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
Palomar 000 001 010 – 2 6 2
OCC 100 300 20x – 6 11 2
Cornish, Barnett (4), Ells (7), Silberman (8) and Christy; D. Hill, Bass (6), Wilson (7), Manahan (9), Moran (9) and Yelich, Delaney (9). W – D. Hill (1-0). L – Cornish (0-1). Sv – Moran (1). 2B – Iriart (OCC), Perez (OCC), Bruder (OCC), Fernandez (P). 3B – Yellich (OCC). HR – Bell (OCC).