COSTA MESA — For the third straight season, the Orange Coast College baseball team is off to a hot start.
But the Pirates, who claimed a 6-3 nonconference home win Wednesday that made them 4-0, and a combined 25-5 in February the last three years, have nothing on their freshman leadoff hitter Boog Powell.
Herschel Mack Powell IV, who said he has been known as Boog since Kindergarten, went four for five against the Vikings (1-1). He is now 10 for 15 in four games, giving him a .667 batting average and, as one might imagine, a smile-inducing surge of confidence.
“Same old baseball,” Powell, a center fielder, said of his transition from Mission Viejo High to the community college level. “My approach [to hitting] is to put the ball on the ground and try to run it out. That’s all I try to do.”
Powell earned All-CIF Southern Section laurels in baseball and was a talented receiver in football at Mission Viejo, where his scrappy play and speed proved catalytic in both sports.
He said academics kept him from pursuing a football opportunity at the University of Redlands, but that baseball has always been his first choice anyway.
OCC Coach John Altobelli is pleased to have convinced Powell to play for the Pirates.
“It’s sure fun watching Boog play out there,” Altobelli said after the Pirates erased a 2-0 deficit with two runs of their own in the first inning, then broke the deadlock with three unearned runs in the seventh. “He’s like a little mini-Matt Moynihan.”
Moynihan, a speedy outfielder now redshirting at the University of Texas, was the Orange Empire Conference Co-Player of the Year and the OCC Male Athlete of the Year after hitting a school-record .479 last season.
Powell grounded a single up the middle to start OCC’s first-inning rally, later scoring on Bijan Rademacher’s sacrifice fly.
Powell dropped a two-out bunt single down the third-base line in the second and beat out ground balls to the first baseman in the seventh and eighth innings. He scored in the seventh when Vikings first baseman Jimmy De La Rosa dropped a two-out pop just inside the line for a two-run error with the bases loaded.
The third run of the inning, also unearned, scored on a bunt single by Rademacher.
OCC starting pitcher Dallas Draviczki allowed two runs and six hits while striking out five with no walks in five innings in his first collegiate start.
Sophomore Jed Vandernaald, who was 7-1 as a freshman, mostly in relief, worked two-plus innings to pick up the victory. Sophomore Josh Evans got the final six outs for his first save of the season, the eighth of his OCC career.
Evans committed two errors on a squibber back to the mound that allowed Long Beach to cut the deficit to 5-3 in the eighth. But he struck out two, surrendered just one hit and was not charged with any runs.
OCC had six of its 10 hits in the final two innings and allowed only five hits after the first inning.
The Pirates, who opened last season 14-0, have now outscored teams, 27-14 in 2012, though Altobelli noted that Wednesday’s victory was anything but clean.
“I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Altobelli said. “I didn’t like the vibe all day today. But there were some nice things.”
Andrew Bynum and Manny Argomaniz both had pinch hits and sophomore third baseman Austin Wobrock, a Newport Harbor High product, drove in a run with a single in the eighth for the winners.
Sophomore first baseman Bryan Garza doubled in a run in the first for the Pirates, who play at Long Beach Thursday at 2 p.m., then play host to the Vikings Friday at 2.
Orange Coast 6, Long Beach 3
LBCC 200 000 010 – 3 8 1
OCC 200 000 31x – 6 10 3
Santiago, Beltran (7), Jimenez (8) and Wood; Draviczki, Vandernaald (6), J. Evans (8) and Woodward, Hugaert (9). W – Vandernaald, 1-0. L – Beltran, 0-1. Sv – J. Evans (1). 2B – De La Rosa (LB), Garza (OCC), Argomaniz (OCC).