A unifying motto for the Orange Coast College baseball team this season has been "everyone pulling on the rope."
But with a regular lineup and a strong starting pitching rotation, the number of hands on that rope have typically been limited.
There were a few more fingerprints, however, on the Pirates' 5-4 victory over visiting Southwestern on Friday in the first game of the best-of-three Southern California Sectional series.
Sophomore reliever David Wilson pitched four scoreless innings to earn his first victory of the season and seldom-used infielder Ryan Perez had a pinch-hit, run-producing triple in OCC's four-run seventh inning to key the Pirates' 11th straight win.
It was the fourth come-from-behind triumph in five postseason victories for top-seeded OCC (32-9), which has forced the No. 9-seeded Jaguars (29-13) to win on Saturday and Sunday to deny the Pirates a berth in the four-team state tournament in Fresno.
"Yeah, its nice to get on the rope, that's for sure," said Wilson, a first-team All-Orange Empire Conference honoree last season who had pitched just 16 1/3 innings this season entering Friday. Wilson, in fact, had thrown just 1/3 of an inning since March 28 and had not pitched during the first 10 wins during the current streak.
"I tell these guys all the time to be ready, because you never know when you're going to get your chance," OCC Coach John Altobelli said. "There can always be new heroes. Wilson and Perez came through, so there were a lot of different heroes today, which was neat to see. That's the mark of a good team."
Southwestern, which has upset Rio Hondo and a Santa Ana team that shared the Orange Empire title with OCC to get to this third playoff series, made its mark early against heralded OCC sophomore starter David Hill.
Hill, who shared OEC Pitcher of the Year honors with his twin brother Jacob and came in with a 10-1 record and a 1.41 earned-run average, lasted just four innings for his shortest start of the season. He allowed seven hits and four runs, three earned, while striking out three and walking one.
OCC sophomore first baseman Chris Iriart hit his state-leading ninth home run of the season to cut the Southwestern lead to three runs in the fourth inning and, thanks to Wilson and Jaguars' starter Deandre Simpson, that's how things remained until the OCC seventh.
After a one-out walk to Tommy Bell, Perez drove one into the gap in left-center and motored to third when the center fielder slipped and fell while trying to retrieve the ball. Perez scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Jake Thumm walked and Robert Longtree singled up the middle to put the tying run in scoring position And after third baseman Anthony York misplayed a bounding ball for an error to load the bases, L. Grant Davis lifted a sacrifice fly to right to pull the Pirates even.
Sophomore Auburn-bound shortstop Cody Nulph, the OEC Player of the Year, followed with an RBI single to give OCC the lead.
Nulph, who extended his hitting streak to 26 games, went two for four, as did Iriart, who leads the team with 41 RBIs. They led OCC's seven-hit attack.
Sophomore Joe Reta got the final two outs for his second save, stranding runners at the corners to give Southwestern 10 runners left on base.
Southern California Sectional
Orange Coast 5, Southwestern 4
SC 110 200 000 – 4 12 1
OCC 000 100 40x – 5 7 1
Simpson, McDonald (7) and Sawyer; D. Hill, Wilson (5), Purpura (9), Reta (9) and Delaney. W – Wilson, 1-2. L – Simpson, 5-4. Sv – Reta (2). 3B – Goodrich (SC), Miller (SC), Perez (OCC). HR – Iriart (OCC).