As the player featured on the program for the best-of-three Super Regional baseball series between Orange Coast College and visiting Allan Hancock that ended Saturday, OCC sophomore shortstop Cody Nulph took some ribbing from coaches and teammates about his "cover boy" status.
But it was his ability to hit the cover off the ball that was on even more prominent display Saturday, as he helped the top-seeded Pirates post an 8-6 victory to sweep the series.
The win puts OCC (31-9) in the best-of-three Sectional playoff series against a team to be determined, beginning Friday at OCC.
If No. 3-seeded Santa Ana defeats No. 6-seeded Southwestern in the rubber game of their Super Regional on Sunday at Santa Ana, OCC will play host to No. 4-seeded Santa Barbara in the final step toward advancing to the four-team state championship, May 24-26 at Fresno City College.
If Southwestern upsets Santa Ana, Southwestern would be OCC's Sectional opponent next weekend.
Nulph, the Orange Empire Conference MVP, extended his hitting streak to 25 games. The bounce-back from Pepperdine is now nine for 19 in four postseason wins (.474), with six RBIs and four runs in those contests. For the season, he is batting .407 with 29 RBIs and leads the team in hits (66) and runs (37).
"He had four hits, but it wasn't pretty today," OCC Coach John Altobelli said of his No. 3-hitter. "He had his butt out on one of those hits and on his double [that drove in two to key a four-run fifth inning] he just flipped the bat at the ball."
Nulph was the biggest contributor to a 14-hit attack for the Pirates, who have now won 10 straight and have not lost in more than a month. Their last setback was an April 5 conference game against Saddleback.
The winning streak, during which OCC has outscored opponents, 91-24, was in doubt Saturday, as the Bulldogs (24-16-1) rallied with three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth before being eliminated.
Among the heroes for Orange Coast was freshman left-handed pitcher Art Vidro, who for the second straight Saturday earned the start so the Pirates could rest fatigued sophomore star Jacob Hill. Vidro allowed three hits and one earned run in seven strong innings, striking out seven and walking three. He has allowed just one earned run in his last 16 1/3 innings, including a victory in the opening-round Regional series that marked his first start since April 4.
"He was really good," Altobelli said of Vidro. "We needed that and it was an outstanding job on his part stepping in for Hill [the OEC Co-Pitcher of the Year who is 10-0 with a 1.33 earned-run average]. Hopefully, we can get that one more weekend."
Vidro improved to 6-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.55.
Hill, would have started a third game had one been necessary the last two weekends. Instead, he was able to rest after having pitched 61 innings, the most in any season since before high school.
There was little rest for the OCC offense Saturday as eight of nine members of the starting lineup had at least one hit.
Sophomore first baseman Chris Iriart broke out of a recent mini-funk by going two for five with two RBIs. He launched an RBI triple to left-center field to drive in L. Grant Davis and put the designated visitors on the scoreboard in the first inning. Iriart, who entered the weekend tied for the state lead with eight home runs and now has team-best 40 RBIs, followed Nulph's double with one of his own for another RBI in the fifth inning.
Davis, a freshman second baseman who scored twice, was two for four, while freshman third baseman Jake Thumm was two for five for the winners.
Leadoff man Cody Bruder, who had two hits, including a grand slam in Friday's 9-3 win, was one for four with one RBI and two runs scored on Saturday. Bruder's RBI triple in the eighth gave him 11 for his career, matching the OCC record shared by Don Tryon (1975-76) and Mykal Stokes (2009-10). Bruder's eight triples in 2014 are one off the single-season school record set by former major league outfielder Bill Voss in 1963.
Sophomore designated hitter Justin Broussard drove in two runs with a single and a groundout, while freshman right fielder Tommy Bell and sophomore left fielder Robert Longtree added one hit apiece for OCC.
Sophomore Vanguard University transfer Spencer Moran, the third reliever used by the Pirates, got the final two outs to post his team-leading third save of the season.
Dominic Purpura, a freshman left-hander, had his worst outing of the season. Having allowed just two earned runs in 22 innings, spanning 13 previous appearances, he surrendered three runs (one earned) and three hits while recording only one out after starting the eighth inning for OCC.