SANTA ANA — The good news is, the Orange Coast College baseball team needs a pitching plan for Sunday. The less-encouraging news: the Pirates may have to spin said plan out of whole cloth.
Whoever takes the mound Sunday for what would need to be a pair of wins over host Santa Ana on the final day of the four-team, double-elimination Super Regional, will merely need to emulate the heroics displayed Saturday afternoon by freshman reliever Josh Evans.
Evans, who had compiled 32 2/3 innings in 22 appearances — all in relief — entering Saturday, most coming in the late innings as the team's closer, pitched a lifetime-high 62/3 innings to key an 11-8 come-from-behind win over Cerritos in an elimination game.
The Pirates were placed on the brink of elimination by falling, 8-3, earlier Saturday in the winner's bracket clash with Orange Empire Conference rival Santa Ana.
OCC (32-9) will square off against the Dons (29-12) Sunday at 11 a.m. on the Santa Ana diamond. Should OCC win the first game, a second game would follow 30 minutes later to decide which team will advance to the four-team state tournament that begins Friday in Bakersfield.
Evans, who said he had never thrown more than six innings in a game and who has been used exclusively in relief since Little League, allowed no runs on five hits to help his team to overcome an 8-5, third-inning deficit. It was his second win in the Super Regional after pitching the 10th inning of OCC's 9-8 walk-off victory over Santa Barbara on Friday. Evans is now 5-0 with a team-best seven saves.
"Going into the game, we were short on arms, being that it is deep in the season and everyone is sore and tired," Evans said. "I just had to step up for my team. I knew if I kept my team in the ballgame, we'd pull it out."
OCC starter Mike Smith gave up three runs in one inning, then Jed Vandernaald was touched for four runs (three earned), without recording an out.
Mitch Maltby allowed one run in 11/3, before Evans was summoned with one out and a runner on second base in the third inning.
OCC's offense, limited to eight hits by two Santa Ana hurlers in the first game Saturday, came out blasting against Cerritos (24-16). But despite scoring three runs in the first inning and two more in the second, the Pirates, the designated visitors, found themselves behind, 7-5, after two.
But after Evans established control, allowing no runner to reach third base, OCC scored twice in the fourth to pull within 8-7, then tied it in the sixth when sophomore right fielder Matt Moynihan tripled in sophomore center fielder Kevin Cho, who had singled with one out.
OCC pulled ahead on a squeeze bunt by freshman shortstop Austin Wobrock that plated freshman catcher Trent Woodward in the seventh.
Sophomore first baseman Jordan Beck and Woodward drove in runs in the eighth, though Evans hardly needed the extra cushion.
"Once we got the lead, it was business as usual," said Evans, who struck out three and walked only one. "I'm used to going into the ninth inning with the lead, so I knew what had to be done."
Cho went four for five and scored three times, while Moynihan was three for three and reached base five times to pace the Pirates' 15-hit attack.
Woodward was three for five with two runs batted in, while freshman left fielder Chris Carlson was two for four with two RBIs and two runs.
Freshman designated hitter Bryan Garza was two for four to pace OCC against Santa Ana.
Sophomore Colton Hamill singled in two runs and sophomore second baseman Zach Chavez hit his second home run of the season against the Dons.
Moynihan is now eight for 13 in the Super Regional, 13 for 22 in the postseason and has lifted his season average to .474, which would easily surpass the school single-season record of .443 set by Joey James.
Altobelli said his pitching coaches will sleep on it, before devising a strategy for Sunday's potential doubleheader.