The Orange Coast College baseball team that streaked to 22 straight victories earlier this year limps into the Southern California Community College Regional Playoffs today.
The Pirates, winners of the South Coast Conference, meet San Diego Mesa at San Diego in the best-of-three series, with the winner advancing to the state championship next weekend in Long Beach.
The teams meet today at 1 p.m. and will continue play Sunday at 11 a.m. If a third game is necessary, it will be played Sunday afternoon.
Orange Coast, which won its first 17 conference games, lost four of the last seven. Injuries were part of the reason for the Pirates' trouble.
Center fielder Ralph Garcia hurt his ankle and designated hitter Dave Staton injured his wrist. Both have returned to the lineup and are expected to play.
Sophomore right-hander Longo Garcia (7-1) was bothered by a sore arm that forced him to miss a start. He has been throwing in practice and is expected to start Sunday.
Freshman Sam August (10-2) will pitch today for the Pirates (31-8). He will be opposed by either Dean Wilkins (12-4 with two saves) or Jeff Oswalt (13-1) of the Pacific Coast champion Olympians (31-6).
On offense the Pirates are led by freshman left fielder Joey James, who was voted the SCC's Player of the Year. He set school records with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs.
"We will definitely have to be mentally into what we are doing if we expect to play well," OCC Coach Mike Mayne said. "We had a bit of a lapse at the end of the season, but it's understandable."
In other state regional action:
Rancho Santiago (28-8) at San Bernardino Valley (33-9)--The Dons, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 1952, finished second in the SCC. The teams play today at 1 p.m. and again Sunday at 11 a.m. A third game, if necessary, will be played Sunday afternoon.
Strong pitching from sophomore right-handers Mitch Schwabe (11-1) and Chris Shiflett (6-2) will be needed if Rancho Santiago expects to advance. Reliever Wayne Gilles (3-2 with three saves) should also figure in the Dons' pitching plans. Sophomore Ruben Gonzalez, the top hitter in the county last season, tied for the honor again this season. He hit .450 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs.