COSTA MESA — With a 21-2-1 record and the No. 1 ranking in the state, it's becoming easier to talk about what the Orange Coast College baseball team hasn't yet accomplished than what it has.
The Pirates crossed another of the former off its list Thursday, getting some late-inning heroics to seal the deal in a 5-3 Orange Empire Conference triumph over visiting Cypress.
Freshman outfielder Bijan Rademacher hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie and propelled OCC, ranked No. 2 in one national poll, to its fifth straight win. It was the first time in any of their victories that the Pirates rallied from behind or tied after the sixth inning.
Rademacher's blast, his fourth homer of the season, capped his two-for-four day that produced three runs batted in. The dinger was a bit reluctant, as the Cal State Fullerton bounce-back entered his game-winning at-bat intent on giving himself up.
"I came in after we got three outs in the [top of the eighth] and I asked Coach [John Altobelli] 'If [Stefan] Sabol gets on [to start the inning], what do you want me to do, bunt or hit and run?'" Rademacher said. "I was just looking to advance the runner, so we could get one run, then go shut [the Chargers] down in the ninth."
After Sabol singled, Rademacher, whose three RBIs tied him with teammate Chris Carlson for the second most in the state this season (31), got the 2-0 green light and swung through a strike.
"I was looking to drive the ball on the 2-0 pitch," he said. "Then, I got the bunt sign."
His sacrifice bunt attempt, however, rolled foul of the first-base line, making the count 2-2 and taking any play off the table.
"It really didn't trouble me that much, because I know I'm a good two-strike hitter and I could put the ball in play and still [advance the runner to second]," Rademacher said. "The next pitch happened to be low and in, where I like it and I made good contact and got it to go out."
OCC fell behind, 2-0, in the first inning, when the Chargers (14-7, 4-5), ranked No. 4 in Southern California, used three hits and a double steal to seize the momentum against freshman ace Brandon Brennan, who entered the game 6-1.
Rademacher singled in Carlson, who was hit by a pitch to open the fourth, and OCC pulled ahead in the fifth when Sabol, using a wood bat, singled in two runs with two outs against Cypress reliever Ricky Schafer.
"Sabol has been struggling [since returning recently from a broken bone in his hand], so he wanted to swing a wood bat," Altobelli said. "I said OK and he got a big hit for us."
It was the first time in Altobelli's 20 seasons at OCC that a player opted to swing a wood bat instead of aluminum.
"If he feels more comfortable with wood, that's fine with me," Altobelli said.
Sabol was one of four Pirates to get two hits, as freshman leadoff man Boog Powell notched his 19th multiple-hit game of the season and sophomore third baseman Ben Agredano went two for four in the No. 8 spot.
Joel Licon, Eilert Meyers and Blake Hugaert added to the Pirates' 11-hit attack, which eventually made a winner out of sophomore reliever Eric Salcido.
Salcido worked two hitless innings to improve to 2-1, after Brennan allowed six hits and two earned runs in seven innings to see his earned-run average increase to 1.43. Brennan retired 12 of the next 13 after the first inning and induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play with two on in the sixth to protect a 3-2 lead.
Brennan's errant pickoff throw to second base and subsequent wild pitch led to an unearned run that made it 3-3 in the seventh.
Meyers, a sophomore first baseman, also stood out defensively, picking several low throws out of the dirt. He also leaped to catch a high throw, then slapped a quick tag on the batter's helmet as he neared the bag for the second out in the ninth.
"Without [Meyers] I think Cypress wins that game today," said Rademacher, who believes the decisive late-inning success should help the Pirates as they move forward.
"Games like this help us out, because you never know what is going to happen in the playoffs," Rademacher said. "We can grow from this."
The win was the third straight by a two-run margin for OCC, which has also won a pair of one-run decisions and played to a 14-inning tie. It also completed a sweep of the three-game season series against Cypress, the first sweep of the Chargers since 2002.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 5, Cypress 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
Cypress 200 000 100 – 3 6 1
OCC 000 120 02x – 5 11 2
Derr, Schafer (5), Gidley (8) and Hartung; Brennan, Salcido (8) and Hugaert. W – Salcido, 2-1. L – Schafer, 3-3. 2B – Razo (C), Meyers (OCC), Licon (OCC). HR – Rademacher (OCC).