COSTA MESA — It had been nearly two years since he'd won a game, and after redshirting at the University of Oregon last season, Friday marked the collegiate debut for Orange Coast College freshman pitcher Brandon Brennan.
As if that weren't enough to accelerate his anxiety, there were about four-dozen professional scouts on hand to gauge his talent, his coach estimated.
But if Brennan was at all knocked off his game in the Pirates' 6-3 nonconference home win over Cuesta, it certainly was difficult to tell. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander struck out the first two hitters he faced, fanned the side in the first inning, and registered five of his first six outs on strikeouts.
Brennan, whose fastball was clocked as high as 94 mph, finished with six strikeouts in six innings. He surrendered seven hits and one run to help get OCC, ranked No. 4 in one national preseason poll, off to the type of start it expected.
"Brandon did a good job with about 40 or 50 scouts here," OCC Coach John Altobelli said. "That adds a lot of nerves to it. When you warm up and there are around 25 scouts sitting around the bullpen, that's not part of your routine. But Brandon is a mature kid and he knows what's going on. It was good for the program to have all those scouts here, because it gives other guys an opportunity to show scouts what they can do."
Among Brennan's teammates who showed plenty were freshman center fielder Boog Powell, freshman shortstop Joel Licon and sophomore second baseman Ben Agredano, who all had a pair of hits.
Powell had a bunt single to start the game for the Pirates and later scored on an error to put the hosts ahead, 1-0, in the first inning. He later doubled in a pair of runs in the eighth, then came around to score his second run.
Licon was two for four with one run batted in and also sparkled defensively, and Agredano was two for two with one RBI and one run.
"Boog did a good job of setting the table," Altobelli said. "He had a nice day."
In addition to Brennan, Altobelli — in his 20th season — was most pleased with his team's defense.
"I thought our defense was phenomenal and I think that saves us in the long run," Altobelli said.
The speedy Powell cut off a would-be double in the gap in left-center field in the first inning. Sophomore catcher Trent Woodward fielded a short-hop throw from right field to keep baserunners planted in the second, and Licon ranged to his right to snag a would-be single, then threw to first for a force out in the third to help negate a Cuesta rally.
Agredano and Licon turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the Cuesta seventh, after a walk and a single put the Cougars' first two hitters on base.
Brennan was responsible for the Pirates' lone error on an errant pickoff throw to first, but he was his own best damage control, keeping the visitors scoreless through five innings. Of the eight baserunners Brennan stranded, five reached scoring position.
Back-to-back doubles pulled Cuesta within 3-1 in the sixth, but a three-run seventh allowed OCC to take a five-run lead.
Cuesta scored twice in the ninth on three singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly. But OCC halted the uprising to secure the victory.
"It was good to see [Brennan] throw strikes," Altobelli said. "That was kind of the knock on him up at Oregon, not being able to consistently throw strikes. But he came in and showed that he can and hopefully that gives him some confidence to build down the road."
Cuesta left 11 runners on base as it outhit the Pirates, 11-8.
The two teams play a doubleheader beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday at OCC.
Orange Coast 6, Cuesta 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
Cuesta 000 001 002 – 3 11 1
OCC 110 100 30x – 6 8 1
Murillo, Haringa (7) and Nieporte; Brennan, Draviczki (7), Evans (8) and Woodward, Hugaert (9). W – Brennan, 1-0. L – Murillo, 0-1. 2B – Woodward (OCC), Powell (OCC), Detz (C), Ruggles (C), Colick (C).