Yuhl turns tide for OCC

CYPRESS — Moments after his complete-game victory in a crucial Orange Empire Conference baseball contest Tuesday, Orange Coast College sophomore pitcher Keegan Yuhl was finally rendered indecisive.

Yuhl's eyes rolled toward the sky and his head turned away from his inquisitor, who had wondered aloud if Yuhl remembered the last time he had lost on the mound.

"I don't remember my last loss," said Yuhl, who struck out eight and allowed nine hits in a 4-2 triumph for the Pirates (20-2-1, 7-1 in conference), ranked No. 1 in Southern California.

Yuhl, who improved to 7-0, leads the state in victories and has won each of his seven starts this season after transferring from San Diego City, where he spent last season after leaving San Diego State.

"Keegan was spectacular today with his bulldog approach," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, who saw his husky right-hander surrender just three hits in the final six innings, during which he pitched to two more than the minimum and retired the side in order in the fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth innings. "He battled his butt off early and then we started getting the offense going."

Yuhl, who was 29-4 in three varsity seasons at Poway High in San Diego County, allowed only one extra-base hit, a double by Pierce Bily with two outs in the fifth. The right-hander, listed at 6-foot, 220 pounds, needed just 105 pitches to produce his first complete game of the season.

"I had a complete game last year [when he was 4-4 at San Diego City, which finished 15-18]," Yuhl said. "We don't usually need one with our [OCC] offense. We're usually up by 10 runs."

The most potent scoring offense in the state, however, was held scoreless through five innings, during which it managed just two hits and trailed, 1-0, against freshman Daniel Poncedeleon.

But Yuhl was hardly worried about a lineup that eventually posted hits by eight of the nine starters, including two hits apiece by Boog Powell, Joel Licon and Chris Carlson.

Licon, a sophomore shortstop, was two for four with a pair of runs batted in and one run. His sacrifice fly in the seventh put OCC ahead for good, 2-1.

Powell, a freshman center fielder whose .471 batting average ranks second in the state, also scored a run.

Carlson, a sophomore outfielder who is hitting .452 (fourth in the state) and around .800 in conference play, according to Altobelli, tripled and scored on a Stefan Sabol single in the eighth to put the visitors ahead for good.

Freshman shortstop Justin Broussard was one for two and scored in the seventh.

Cypress (14-6, 4-4), ranked No. 4 in Southern California, pulled within 3-2 in the eighth, but could not avoid its second loss to OCC in conference play this season.

"We knew today was a big day and we needed to get this W," said Yuhl, who said his atypical physique continues to fail to wow professional scouts.

"Scouts look at me and they see 6-0 and that I'm a little bigger," Yuhl said. "But I'm a winner. That's my thing. I'm 7-0 this year and every level I go, I prove myself. I'm not 6-5, and I'm not 180 pounds and I'm fine with that. I keep my team close and give my team the utmost confidence in me and we go from there."

Yuhl said he extended the same confidence toward his offense, even though it sputtered early.

"We've never been shut out [this season]" Yuhl said. "We always get at least one or two, so I just try to do my job and get outs."

Yuhl, who has helped OCC produce a state-best 1.89 team earned-run average, saw his ERA fall to 1.29. He has allowed 45 hits and posted 37 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings this season.

"I'm pitching well and we're playing well," he said. "It's a luxury as a pitcher to have a great team like this."

The two teams conclude their season series Thursday at OCC at 2 p.m.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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Orange Empire Conference

Orange Coast 4, Cypress 2

SCORE BY INNINGS

OCC 000 001 111 – 4 11 1

Cypress 001 000 010 2 9 1

Yuhl and Woodward; Poncedeleon, Bushing (8), Schafer (8), Gidley (9) and Hartung. W – Yuhl, 7-0. L – Poncedeleon, 2-1. 2B – Garza (OCC), Bily (C). 3B – Carlson (OCC).

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