COSTA MESA — With an 8-0 start, including a 10-8 nonconference victory over visiting Southwestern College on Tuesday, it would appear things are clicking on all cylinders for the Orange Coast College baseball program.
But things are not quite as rosy as they appear, Pirates Coach John Altobelli said.
"I'm still trying to figure out what nine guys to go with," said Altobelli, who still sees some holes in a lineup that after 12 hits Tuesday is batting .289 as a team.
The OCC pitchers, despite giving up six earned runs to the Jaguars (4-2), have a collective 2.38 earned-run average thus far and freshman left-hander Garrett Hartwell did his best to uphold that reputation in relief.
Hartwell replaced starter Mike Smith in the fifth inning and worked 4 1/3 while giving up three hits and two runs, both earned. Hartwell matched the four strikeouts Smith collected while surrendering six runs, four earned, on six hits through four.
It was the second victory in as many decisions this season for Hartwell, who Altobelli said was pulled from the pitching staff in order to concentrate on outfield play after struggling on the bump during the fall.
"But then when we came back [from semester break], we had some guys who were ineligible, so we needed him [pitching] again," Altobelli said of the staff's lone left-hander. "And he has been great for us."
Hartwell has now allowed just three hits and two earned runs in nine innings this season.
Freshman first baseman Bryan Garza (three for five with two runs batted in), sophomore second baseman Zach Chavez (two for four with one RBI) and freshman outfielder Chris Carlson (two for five with two runs scored) continue to pace the offense, which wasted little time making its mark Tuesday.
After an error led to two first-inning runs by the Chula Vista-based visitors, the first seven OCC hitters reached base and scored against heralded Jaguars sophomore starter James Trebus. Trebus, who came in with a 1.29 ERA and one win in seven innings, and who drew the interest of a handful of professional scouts on hand, did not retire a batter. Trebus walked four, while Carlson, Garza and sophomore designated hitter Matt Moynihan all singled off the hard-throwing right-hander.
"I liked the way our guys were patient, understood the plan and took some pitches in that first inning," Altobelli said. "We had some big at-bats there."
But after the first seven reached base, OCC had only eight reach over the next seven innings. The hosts scored single runs in the third and fifth, before an RBI double by Garza keyed a two-run eighth.
Southwestern scored a run in the ninth, before freshman closer Josh Wells got the final two outs to record his fourth save.
Altobelli said Southwestern was the best competition his team has faced this season.
"It's going to be a playoff team," Altobelli said. "They're very good. "Any win right now, helps you down the road for postseason bids, with RPI and all that stuff."
In addition to the big three offensively, freshman catcher Trent Woodward (two for three) and Moynihan (two for four) had multiple hits for OCC.
Altobelli said there remains competition for many starting spots.
"We're playing hot, so you'd think you would stay with the same lineup," Altobelli said. "But we've got to find guys other than Garza, Carlson and Sanchez who can be productive, especially going into Orange Empire Conference play.
"Our pitchers have done well, but they aren't great, like a Brett Wallach [a star for the 2009 state championship team], who you could rely on for nine innings. As long as they keep us in the game …"
SCORE BY INNINGS
SCC 210 300 011 – 8 10 0
OCC 701 010 02X – 10 12 1
Trebus, Lopez (1), McGrath (8) and Carriedo, San Miguel (7); Smith, Hartwell (5), Evans (9) and Woodward. W – Hartwell, 2-0. L – Trebus, 1-1. Sv – Evans (4). 2B – Chavez (OCC), Garza (OCC). HR – Villa (SCC).