SANTA ANA — Orange Coast College hitters banged the ball all around, even out of the yard at Santa Ana College on Tuesday. But the difference in the Pirates' crucial 5-4 Orange Empire Conference baseball triumph came down to a distance barely beyond a bunt.
The Pirates took a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning when Tommy Bell scored from third on an overthrow back to the pitcher from Dons catcher Cory Bistline with the bases loaded and two outs.
With OCC ahead, 5-4, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Pirates catcher Daniel Delaney chased down a pitch that popped out of his glove and made a 25-foot flip to pitcher Dominic Purpura at the plate. Purpura tagged out Cameron Baranek, who was running from second on the pitch and tried to score on the play.
Delaney was among OCC's bangers, belting a pair of doubles on his way to a three-for-five day that led the Pirates' 13-hit attack. Delaney's double with two outs in the seventh plated Cody Nulph, who had singled to lead off the inning, for what amounted to the game-winning run.
Eight Pirates had hits and three two-out hits drove in runs for the winners (19-6, 7-4 in conference), ranked No. 1 in Southern California. The win lifted OCC into a tie with the No. 6-ranked Dons (16-8, 7-4) for third place, one-half game behind Saddleback and Fullerton (both 7-3 in conference after their game Tuesday was postponed after one inning).
OCC starting pitcher Jacob Hill improved to 7-0, despite battling sub-par stuff and allowing nine hits and three earned runs in six innings. Purpura retired the final four Dons in order to pocket his first save.
"It was a huge win and it's two out of three [against Santa Ana], which is what you have to do down the stretch," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, who noted his team was on the right side of both aforementioned short throws from the two teams' catchers.
"[Bistline's error] is going to happen about once every three years," Altobelli said. "But when it does, you better be ready for it and [Bell] was ready for it.
"On the play at the plate [Delaney's flip to nail Baranek], we all thought it was a foul tip when it first happened. Then, all of a sudden the guy gets thrown out at the plate and we kept our mouths shut [about the perceived foul tip, which would have created a dead ball and nullified the out]. That was huge, obviously."
Also huge was OCC's clutch hitting, as the visitors produced six two-out hits, including a triple by L. Grant Davis in the third inning, a single by Bruder in the fourth, and the aforementioned double in the seventh by Devaney that all drove in runs.
"We call those Pirates," Altobelli said of the two-out RBIs.
Defense and to some degree pitching were also vital for the Pirates. Nulph, who was the designated hitter on Saturday due to a sore throwing shoulder, returned to shortstop and made, arguably, the best defensive play of the game. Nulph ranged deep in the hole in the bottom of the fifth and threw quickly to first to deny Alex Mascarenas an infield hit, which would have added to the Dons' total of four infield singles.
In addition to Delaney's quick retrieval and flip to Purpura to nail what would have been the tying run in the eighth, left fielder Robert Longtree added to the defensive gems by sprinting in and over to make a diving catch of a sinking line drive to end the game. Hill even chipped in, springing off the mound to field a ground ball and firing to Delaney, who tagged out a runner trying to score from third on the play.
"A lot of guys stepped up and Nulph really chiefed it out with his shoulder issue," said Altobelli, who noted that Hill deserves credit for battling on the bump.
Hill, who had given up just two earned runs in 36 innings this season coming in (an 0.50 earned-run average), struck out four and walked one while seeing his ERA climb to 1.07. He stranded two runners at third base and two more at second
"[Hill] didn't bring his best stuff, but he competed for us," Delaney said. "We still got the W and that's what counts."
Chris Iriart, who launched his fifth home run of the season to lead off the second inning and cut into a 2-0 deficit, was two for five, as was Bruder. Designated hitter Ryan Perez was two for four for the Pirates.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 5, Santa Ana 4
SCORE BY INNINGS
OCC 011 110 100 – 5 13 1
SAC 200 100 100 – 4 11 1
J. Hill, Moran (7), Reta (8), Purpura (8) and Delaney; Sloan, Ferrel (4), Roberts (5), Roll (7), Franks (8) and Bistline. W – J. Hill (7-0). L – Roberts, 0-1. Sv – Purpura (1). 2B – Aguilar (SAC), Brown (SAC), Delaney (OCC) 2, Bistline (SAC). 3B – Davis (OCC), Aguilar (SAC) . HR – Iriart (OCC).