By Barry Faulkner
4:48 PM PDT, May 26, 2014
FRESNO — Thanks to Curt Schilling, the bloody sock has its place in championship baseball lore. Now, it's time to make room for the swollen sock.
Orange Coast College sophomore pitcher David Hill, who stepped on a baseball at practice Thursday and suffered a high-ankle sprain on his left, plant foot, took the ball on Monday to help the Pirates earn a 5-3 win over San Joaquin Delta to claim the program's fifth state championship at Fresno City College.
Hill, whom OCC Coach John Altobelli said on Saturday was a long shot to pitch at all this weekend and whom his doctor advised not to walk on the ankle for two weeks, allowed three runs on 11 hits over seven innings to improve to 11-1.
Hill's performance helped OCC (36-9) extend its season-ending winning streak to 15 games, including an unprecedented nine in the postseason.
The Pirates, who last lost on April 5, completed a three-game sweep in Fresno to add a state crown to its previous titles in 2009, 1980, 1960 and 1956. It was the second state title in Altobelli's 22 seasons and OCC's fifth trip to the four-team state tournament under Altobelli.
Sophomore first baseman Chris Iriart, who had half of OCC's four hits Monday, had a two-run single in the fifth inning to erase a 3-2 deficit, one at-bat after Delta Coach Reed Peters requested the umpire check the legality of Iriart's bat.
"I think it was more of a strategy to get in my head," said Iriart, whose two-run homer against Delta on Sunday erased a 1-0 deficit in a 4-1 winner's bracket semifinal win. "But the next at-bat, I didn't let that affect me. As long as we came out on top, they can check anything they want."
Altobelli had a more adverse reaction to the bat check, on the heels of what Altobelli and OCC players said was some inappropriate "chirping" directed at his players by Delta players in Sunday's game.
"They kind of jumped on us early [with a run in the first and two more in the second for a 3-0 cushion], but I think what fired us up was when they challenged the bat," Altobelli said. "I was pretty ticked off on that one. I kind of lost a little respect [for Peters] there. I just thought that was bush league baseball. And the game knows, because [Iriart] came around and got a big knock."
OCC scored two unearned runs in the third inning, without the benefit of a hit, as Delta made the second of its two errors. In three games, OCC opponents totaled 10 errors, while the Pirates made their only error of the tournament Monday.
A run-producing single by CJ Owens and a solo home run by Collin Thoreaux helped Delta (35-11) build its early lead. But the designated home team had just two runners reach second base, one of which advanced to third, in the final seven innings against Hill and sophomore reliever Dominic Purpura.
Purpura retired all six hitters he faced to record his second save.
OCC sophomore shortstop Cody Nulph singled and scored in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to 30 games. The Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year, also led the Pirates in Fresno, going five for 10 with two runs scored.
Iriart had three hits in Fresno, while sophomore center fielder Cody Bruder, freshman right fielder Tommy Bell, sophomore catcher Daniel Delaney and sophomore designated hitter Justin Broussard all totaled two hits in the final three wins.
OCC sophomore second baseman L. Grant Davis (three runs) and freshman third baseman Jake Thumm (one run and one run batted in) had one hit apiece in the tournament, while adding strong defense.
Freshman Art Vidro, who won Saturday to improve to 4-0 in the playoffs, was named state tournament MVP, while sophomore left-hander Jacob Hill, who along with his twin brother David shared OEC Pitcher of the Year honors, earned the other pitching win.
Sophomore Spencer Moran recorded the save in the first two wins in Fresno.
Nulph said the sight of David Hill putting on his spikes — actually high-top spikes for added support that he borrowed from reliever Joe Reta — and starting to loosen up Monday morning, was exhilarating to the rest of the roster.
"We were very excited," Nulph said. "[David Hill, who along with his brother will pitch at the University of San Diego next season] is definitely one of the leaders on the team and we definitely rally around him."
Altobelli, who said David Hill came to him after a bullpen session on Sunday and requested the ball in Monday's game, was impressed by what may have been Hill's least-effective win of the season.
"He chiefed it out," Altobelli said. "He finally came to me after the seventh and told me he was done [having thrown 96 pitches, striking out seven and walking none]. "He gave us all he had and his tank was empty."
David Hill said being able to win one final time, which allowed him to match Jacob's 11 victories this season, was both unexpected and special.
"Our trainer did a great job just getting me ready for that," David Hill, who was limping visibly after the game, said. "There was a lot of tape on there. With the adrenaline in the first couple of innings, I didn't really feel it. But after that, I couldn't help but feel it. But I wasn't going to come out until I finished the seventh and told Alto that that was all I had."
Altobelli said this team gave it all it had, which was substantial.
"[These players] really started to believe in themselves, really came along great and jelled together," Altobelli said. "We never lost more than two games in a row and shute, nine losses in a season, that's really impressive."
In the 66-year history of OCC baseball, only the 2009 state championship unit (37-14) had more wins than the 2014 Pirates. The 2012 team that lost its first two games in the state championship tournament, finished 36-7-1.
Orange Coast 5, San Joaquin Delta 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
OCC 002 020 100 – 5 4 1
SJD 120 000 000 – 3 11 2
D. Hill, Purpura (8) and Delaney; Williams, Held (5) and Thoreaux. W – D. Hill, 11-1. L – Williams, 2-2. Sv – Purpura (2). HR – Thoreaux (SJD).