Most baseball coaches would say that adversity is as inevitable as it is necessary in the journey of a championship team.
On Saturday, Orange Coast College and sophomore Jake Scott showed they can be appropriately averse to adversity in an 8-6 Orange Empire Conference home victory over Saddleback.
The Pirates (19-2, 6-0 in conference), ranked No. 1 in the state and in the midst of their second nine-game winning streak of the season, found themselves challenged when the No. 7-ranked Gauchos seized a 5-2 lead with a four-run fourth inning.
Scott, a second-team all-conference outfielder last season who was battled a debilitating knee ailment most of the season, showed his ability to rebound by helping the Pirates do the same.
Scott, who was four for 16 in limited duty the first 19 games this season, and is still relegated to DH and pinch-hitting roles due to his inability to run full speed, launched a three-run home run to cap a four-run fourth that put the hosts up, 6-5.
Saddleback tied the game in the fifth, but OCC answered again with an RBI triple by Travis Moniot and an RBI single from Robert Teel in the bottom of the fifth. The Pirates then held on to remain perfect in conference play.
Scott, who went the distance on Friday and Saturday for the first time since Feb. 2, also doubled in the first inning. In his last three appearances, including a two-run, pinch-hit double in a win over Santa Ana on March 11, the Edison High product is five for 10 with three doubles, one homer and five RBIs. He has two dingers and eight RBIs for the season and said he is just about back to full health.
"Timing hasn't been too big a deal, but getting out of the box has been a little bit of a struggle," Scott said. "But I'm feeling pretty good now, so hopefully I can be 100% soon."
Scott can obviously handle the demands of a home-run trot, as he is one of nine Pirates to contribute to the team's 23 homers this season, one behind state leader Skyline. Scott's .346 batting average ranks third on the team.
Moniot, a shortstop who bounced back from Oregon, was two for four and is hitting .411 with four homers, 18 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
Teel, a sophomore catcher who was one for two with a walk and two RBIs on Saturday, raised his average to .353.
Sophomore first baseman Eric Wagaman and sophomore right fielder John Balliet both had two hits to add to OCC's 14-hit attack.
Wagaman is batting .325 with eight dingers and 25 RBIs, while Teel is seven for 16 with seven RBIs in his last five appearances to lift his average to .353.
Sophomore Blair Lewis allowed one run and one hit over 31/3 innings to collect the victory, while sophomore Ryan Randel worked a perfect ninth to record his fourth save.
Sophomore second baseman J.T. Navarro, a first-team All-OEC honoree in 2016, was two for four and is seven for his last 16 to elevate his average to .277.
OCC Coach John Altobelli said his team still has vast room for improvement.
"I still think we're a long way from playing our best baseball," Altobelli said. "We haven't had a complete game in a couple of weeks, we're making too many errors [two more Saturday to make eight in the last three games and 37 for the season], and our clutch hitting still isn't what I'd like. I still think we haven't peaked by any means."
OCC will face a challenge on Tuesday at No. 6-ranked Cypress (16-6, 3-3), for which sophomore pitcher Andrew Quezada is scheduled to start. Quezada is 5-1 with a 0.37 earned-run average and has allowed 27 hits and five walks in 49 innings, while striking out 35. He threw a no-hitter on Tuesday against Santa Ana.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 8, Saddleback 6
SCORE BY INNINGS
Sad 001 410 000 – 6 10 1
OCC 020 420 00x – 8 14 2
Sutorius, Sealey (4), Carr (6), Spooner (8) and Voller; LeFore, Eppenbach (4), Lewis (4), Robeniol (8), Randel (9) and Teel, Ceballos (9). W – Lewis, 2-0. L – Sealey, 1-1. Sv – Randel (4). 2B – Auerbach (S), Scott (OCC), Carrillo (S). 3B – Scott (OCC). HR – Scott (OCC).