Community college regional baseball and softball playoffs begin today with five Orange County teams participating.
The only local baseball game will be played at Rancho Santiago, where the Dons (26-12) face Palomar (21-15-1) to open their best-of-three series at 2 p.m. The teams play again Saturday at 11 a.m., to be followed by another game if necessary.
Rancho Santiago's strong suit is its starting pitching--Mike Fontana, J.J. Thobe and David Goldstein. The trio, all sophomore right-handers, combined for 23 victories.
Fontana is 11-0 with a 1.55 earned-run average and 95 strikeouts. He was selected Orange Empire Conference pitcher of the year.
Thobe is 8-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 78 strikeouts. Goldstein is 4-6 with a 4.27 ERA but had 90 strikeouts, including 15 in seven innings in a victory over Mt. San Jacinto in February.
Sophomore catcher Robin Lindsey hit .382 with six home runs and 24 runs batted in. Aaron Butler, a freshman who plays first base and is a designated hitter, hit .383 with 18 RBIs.
In another game at 2 p.m. today, Fullerton (19-17-1) is at Los Angeles Harbor (33-9). The Hornets had only one regular--Ramon Apodaca--who hit more than .300. He batted .352 with 19 RBIs and scored 26 runs.
Aaron Charlton and Tim Carmen will most likely start the first two games for Fullerton. Charlton is 7-5 with a 4.91 ERA. Carman is 4-4 with a 3.64 ERA and topped the staff with 65 strikeouts.
Orange Coast and Cypress play host to four-team softball regional playoffs, which start today. Fullerton is at Long Beach.
Orange Coast (30-9) plays Rio Hondo (8-14) at noon, followed by Chaffey (22-12) against Riverside (15-15) at 2 p.m. in a double-elimination format, which is the same at all sites. The losers meet at 4 p.m. Friday and winners play at 10 a.m. Saturday. The championship game is 2 p.m. Saturday.
Orange Coast, the Orange Empire Conference champion, features the conference's pitcher and player of the year. Alisha Nelson is 20-6 with 13 shutouts and a 0.50 ERA. She has a school-record 42 victories at OCC.
Shannon Ebert, a sophomore first baseman, received player-of-the-year honors. She hit .416 with nine doubles, six triples and 25 RBIs.
She was followed closely in the voting by Sam Lutsch, a freshman designated hitter who hit .384 with 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 33 RBIs.
OCC is looking to advance to the State tournament--May 15-17 in Sacramento--for the second consecutive year under Coach Nick Trani.
Cypress (33-11), the defending State champion, finished second to OCC in the conference and plays host to Cerritos (18-17) at noon. Moorpark (29-10) meets Grossmont (18-12) at 2 p.m. in the second game.
Cypress goes three deep at pitcher with Leigh Sager, Dena Villasenor and Cindy Hover. Sager is 12-7 with a 0.51 ERA, Villasenor is 13-2 with a 1.09 ERA and Hover is 11-5 with a 1.10 ERA. Priscilla Sarmiento hit .325 with nine doubles and 29 RBIs. Teammate Carrie Frederick also had 29 RBIs.
If Cypress reaches the State tournament, it would be the fourth consecutive time under Coach Brad Pickler.
Fullerton (25-16), which finished third in the conference, plays Pasadena (22-16) at 2 p.m. today at Long Beach. Long Beach (35-12) plays College of the Canyons (11-13) in the second game.
Fullerton will depend greatly on pitcher Angie Guerrero, who is 26-17 with a 0.80 ERA and a conference-leading 86 strikeouts.