A Hill on the hill has been good news for the Orange Coast College baseball team all season. So whether it was Jacob Hill or his identical twin brother David, the Pirates figured to be in good hands against Orange Empire Conference visitor and district rival Golden West on Tuesday.
Jacob (9-0 in nine appearances, including eight starts, with a 1.31 earned-run average) is the usual Tuesday starter for Coach John Altobelli. But, having thrown 55 innings, more than the sophomore left-hander has ever compiled, Altobelli said, the OCC brain trust elected to shift David Hill, the typical Thursday starter, up a couple days.
The result was a two-hitter through eight strong innings for David Hill, who improved to 9-1 with the hosts' 8-1 triumph that put them in position to win at least a share of the conference title.
OCC (26-9, 13-7 in conference), ranked No. 2 in Southern California, remained tied atop the OEC with Santa Ana, which defeated Cypress, 17-5, on Tuesday. An OCC win at Golden West and a Santa Ana loss at Cypress on Thursday would give OCC the outright crown. Should both OCC and Santa Ana win on Thursday, they would share the title. But OCC would be the higher playoff seed, due to having won two of three games against the Dons.
An OCC loss and a Santa Ana win would give the Dons the outright championship.
Cypress (11-9 in conference), fell out of title contention on Tuesday, while the winner of the Saddleback game at Riverside that began Tuesday at 6 p.m., would remain in contention at 12-8. Saddleback and Riverside meet again in Mission Viejo on Thursday.
Should OCC wind up tied with Riverside or Saddleback, it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against Saddleback, but not against Riverside.
Regardless, the Pirates are a cinch to host a best-of-three first-round playoff series in the revised playoff format that now includes three rounds of best-of-three series to produce the four teams that make the double-elimination state tournament, May 24-26, at Fresno City College.
David Hill, a sophomore right-hander who pitched last season at Long Beach State, struck out seven and faced the minimum in seven of his eight innings. A hit batter, a double and a sacrifice fly allowed the Rustlers (15-20, 6-14 in conference) to muster their lone run in the fourth inning, which broke a 0-0 tie.
David Hill's ERA actually increased from 0.8925 to 0.8933 as his win gave the Hill twins nearly 70% of the Pirates' victories this season.
Joe Reta worked a scoreless ninth, which ended on a double play, the second of the day for the Pirates, who excelled on defense, as well as offense.
"Everything was great," Altobelli said after his team collected 14 hits, including back-to-back home runs by Tommy Bell and Daniel Delaney, and did not commit an error.
Delaney, a sophomore catcher, was three for four to lead six Pirates with multiple hits.
Sophomore shortstop Cody Nulph and Bell, a sophomore right fielder, were both two for four with two runs batted in. Bell's homer, a two-run shot in a five-run seventh inning, was his fourth of the season and his 33 RBIs trail only sophomore first baseman Chris Iriart (one for four with one RBI) for the team lead. Iriart leads the state with eight home runs and has 38 RBIs.
Freshman third baseman Jake Thumm was two for four with one RBI, while freshman center fielder Robert Longtree and freshman second baseman L. Grant Davis also went two for four. Davis drove in one run.
OCC tied it in the fourth when Bell singled to start the inning, advanced to second on a groundout and scored on a two-out single by Thumm.
Longtree's perfectly placed drag bunt toward first base produced a single that ignited OCC's big seventh inning. Cody Bruder reached on a fielder's choice and Davis followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Nulph followed with an RBI single that pushed Davis to third and Davis scored in Iriat's sacrifice fly to right.
Bell then launched a dinger to left-center and Delaney yanked a high drive over the fence in left, his second homer of the season, to further break it open.
An RBI groundout by Davis and an RBI single by Nulph plated two insurance runs in the eighth for the hosts, who have now won six of seven conference series. It was the fifth straight win for the Pirates, who have outscored opponents, 51-6, during that streak.
"It would be nice to get it done on Thursday," Altobelli said of the conference title. "A lot of guys never get an opportunity to dog pile in their career. It's up to them and I think the guys are ready for it."
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 8, Golden West 1
SCORE BY INNINGS
GWC 000 100 000 – 1 3 0
OCC 000 100 52x – 8 14 0
Moorer, Gibson (7), Stevens (7) and Yazdanbakhsh; D. Hill, Reta (9) and Delaney. W – D. Hill, 9-1. L – Moorer, 3-7. 2B – Russell (GWC). HR – Bell (OCC). Delaney (OCC).