Apparently, one way to slow down the state's most productive hitting team is to, well, throw slower pitches.
Fullerton College sophomore left-hander Nick Morton used that approach to help the visiting Hornets edge Orange Coast, 3-1, in an Orange Empire Conference baseball battle on Tuesday.
OCC, ranked No. 1 in Southern California, entered the game leading the state in hits (219), doubles (40) home runs (nine), batting average (.317) and slugging percentage (.443).
But Morton, with his repertoire of slow, slower and slowest, kept the Pirates off balance to earn his fourth win in five decisions and his third complete game.
"He was throwing 80 mph, maybe 82 and then he had a 60-mph changeup," OCC Coach John Altobelli said of Morton, who allowed eight hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk. OCC's lone run was unearned, set up by Morton's throwing error in the eighth.
Morton allowed only two runners to reach second base through seven innings, but worked out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings to drop the Pirates (15-5, 3-3 in conference) out of what had been a first-place tie with Fullerton, Santa Ana and Riverside.
Fullerton (14-5, 4-2 in conference), ranked No. 4 in Southern California, had 11 hits off three OCC pitchers to remain tied for first with Santa Ana and Riverside. OCC falls to fourth place with one game left in the opening round of OEC play.
"I thought we didn't make very good adjustments during the game," Alotbelli said. "Then, we finally said, 'Hey, get up in the box and try to work the other way a little bit more.' We had some [productive] guys up at the right time late in the game. But [Morton] did a good job."
Pinch-hitter Robert Longtree opened the eighth by reaching on Morton's errant throw to first after a comebacker. Longtree then stole second.
Outfielder Cody Bruder singled to bring the tying run to the plate, but failed to read a rainbow throw from right field to the plate that should have enabled him to reach second base. Instead, runners were on the corners.
Shortstop Cody Nulph was then retired on a foul pop and first baseman Chris Iriart, who entered the game hitting .364 with a team-best four homers and 23 runs batted in, flied to left, too shallow to allow Longtree to tag up and score from third.
Right fielder Tommy Bell, who entered hitting a team-leading .452, laced a single to drive in Longtree for his 17th RBI of the season, but catcher Daniel Delaney popped out to end the threat.
OCC, which has now scored just two runs (one earned) in its last two home games, left seven runners on base and failed to produce at least nine hits for only the third time all season.
Fullerton, the defending conference champion and the 2013 state runner-up, used four hits to score twice in the fourth and added a run in the fifth against OCC starter Art Vidro.
Vidro, who lost for the first time in five decisions, allowed eight hits and three runs in five innings to fall to 4-1.
Vidro's outing elevated his earned-run average from 0.98 to 1.65 and upped OCC's team ERA to 1.55.
"I don't think Vidro was bad," Altobelli said of his freshman lefty, who struck out four and walked one. "[The Hornets] had some swings that went their way and they had some breaks. Good for them, they took advantage."
Bell and second baseman Justin Broussard both went two for four for the Pirates, who visit Golden West on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Orange Empire Conference
Fullerton 3, Orange Coast 1
SCORE BY INNING
FCC 000 210 000 – 3 11 1
OCC 000 000 010 – 1 8 0
Morton and Prasertsit; Vidro, Wilson (6), Purpura (7) and Delaney. W – Morton, 4-1. Vidro, 4-1. 2B – Rojas (F), Broussard (OCC).