IRVINE — It was somehow out of place that the deciding act in a 12-inning Orange Empire Conference baseball grudge match between visiting Orange Coast College and Irvine Valley was one of surrender.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the 12th inning Friday, OCC second baseman Slater Davies dutifully turned into the first pitch he faced and let the wayward, slow-tumbling curveball plunk him on the back. The resulting run batted in was the difference in a seesaw battle filled with heroic hits and impressive mound performers.
The victory helped OCC (27-7, 13-6), ranked No. 3 in Southern California, remain two games behind conference-leading Santa Ana with two conference games remaining.
OCC also stayed a game ahead of third-place Riverside, which it meets on April 26 at RCC and April 28 at OCC.
There was no surrender from either team throughout, typified best by OCC starting pitcher Ryan Doran, a sophomore workhorse who earned a save in a crucial win Tuesday over Santa Ana.
On a quest for his sixth win this season, Doran threw 133 pitches in nine innings, during which OCC trailed only two half-innings and took a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth.
The Lasers (17-15, 8-11), ranked No. 17 in Southern California, however, proved as determined as Doran, whom OCC Coach John Altobelli fondly calls a bulldog.
IVC produced a pair of two-out, RBI singles in the ninth to force extra innings. The hosts had earlier rallied from a 2-1 deficit to pull even, then take a lead, before OCC tied it again. OCC then went on top in the top of the ninth.
Back-to-back RBI singles by sophomore right fielder Matt Moynihan and sophomore first baseman Jordan Beck reversed a 1-0 OCC deficit in the sixth inning, only to see IVC score in its sixth to knot things.
After Micah Gorman hit a solo home run for IVC in the seventh, an RBI single by OCC freshman left fielder Chris Carlson in the eighth created a 3-3 deadlock.
After Doran, who gave up 15 hits while striking out six and walking just one, worked a perfect eighth, OCC, which has developed a reputation for late-inning heroics, used some timely hitting and some creativity to score a pair in the ninth.
With one out, freshman shortstop Austin Wobrock, a Newport Harbor High product, singled and moved to second on a bunt by Davies. An infield single by sophomore center fielder Scott Cho put runners on the corners and freshman designated hitter Tristen Metcalf lined a single to left to put the Pirates ahead, 4-3.
After a double steal put runners on second and third, Metcalf broke far off second base on a 2-2 pitch to Steven McMichael. IVC catcher Anthony Almeida sprang from behind the plate and directed a throw to second, in an attempt to nail the wayward Metcalf, who was merely executing a scripted play. The throw sailed into center field, allowing Cho to score to make it 5-3.
Altobelli and pitching coach Dave Bowman elected to send Doran out for the ninth, despite the fact that he had already thrown 116 pitches.
"We probably went too long with him, but he's such a strike thrower and a bulldog and he had left it all out there," Altobelli said. "We kind of wanted him to make it or break it."
Doran mixed two outs between two singles, but consecutive RBI singles by Gorman and Sean Guite allowed the Lasers to tie it.
With 11 days before its next game and still stinging from recent struggles from its relievers, OCC sent No. 3 starter Jed Vandernaald out for the 10th. Vandernaald worked three scoreless and allowed just one hit to collect his seventh win in eight decisions.
Singles by freshman catcher Trent Woodward, sophomore third baseman Cole Hamill and Wobrock loaded the bases with one out, before reliever Austen Zimarik hit Doran to plate the winning run.
Cho and Wobrock had three hits apiece for the winners, for whom Moynihan had two hits and three walks.
The tense, competitive game created some drama afterward, when members of both programs yelled at one another after postgame handshakes. Order was maintained, however, as players were kept separated from one another, preventing a potential incident.
"It was just baseball and the heat of the battle," Altobelli said.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 6, Irvine Valley 5
SCORE BY INNINGS
OCC 000 002 012 001 – 6 14 2
IVC 000 011 102 000 – 5 15 3
Doran, Vandernaald (10) and Woodward; Goodbrand, Levine (9), Castelli (9), Zimarik (11), Fitzgerald (12) and Almeida. W – Vandernaald, 7-1. L – Zimarik, 0-3. 2B – Cho (OCC), Johns (IVC). HR – Gorman (IVC).