COSTA MESA — Orange Coast College sophomore Brandon Brennan outdueled Fullerton counterpart Richard Lucas in a combined pitching gem so rare Thursday, both teams elected to seal it with a handshake.
Brennan, who was bettered by Lucas and the Hornets, 5-3, on March 8 to absorb his only loss in eight decisions this season, bested Lucas this time, 1-0, in Orange Empire Conference action at the Pirates' diamond.
Both pitchers allowed just three hits in complete-game efforts. Brennan, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who has committed to play at Houston University, struck out five and failed to walk any en route to his second complete game in 10 starts. He threw 101 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Lucas, a 6-1 sophomore right-hander who fell to 5-2 this season, walked four and struck out three.
One of Lucas' base on balls was issued to sophomore catcher Stefan Sabol with two outs in the sixth inning. Sabol, bound for Oklahoma State, scored from first on a double to right-center field by sophomore right fielder Bijan Rademacher, who is bound for Oral Roberts.
The postgame handshake, almost universally avoided in regular-season competition in order to prevent any adverse interaction between opposing players and coaches, was deemed necessary by veteran Fullerton head man Nick Fuscardo.
"It's probably the first time we've ever done it outside of the playoffs," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, in his 20th season at the helm. "Nick just said, 'Hey, we liked the battle, so let's shake hands.' I was like, 'All right, let's go.'"
The mutual admiration was also a function of three hard-fought conference games between the two teams. OCC (26-3-1, 13-2 in conference and ranked No. 1 in one national poll) edged Fullerton, 8-7, on Tuesday, before closing out the three-game sweep Thursday.
"They've given us the most competition we've had all year," Brennan said of the Hornets (11-18-1, 4-11).
Brennan, however, was the supreme competitor on the diamond on Thursday. He said he benefited from the rest afforded by a recent 11-day break in the schedule.
"It felt great today," Brennan said. "That one little week off we had was perfect. That little time off let the arm rest up and let the body rest up. I went out there today and I had my good stuff. When you're 100% compared to 85% going into a game, its a pretty big difference."
Brennan, whose earned-run average fell to 1.39, retired the first 10, before Jason Nieto singled with one out in the fourth. Brennan promptly induced an inning-ending double play that began a streak of five straight retired until Derreck Garcia doubled with one out in the sixth. Brennan, however, struck out the next two to end the inning.
He stranded runners at third in the eighth and ninth innings. A single, sacrifice and groundout put the tying run 90 feet away in the eighth, but Brennan induced a fly to center to end the threat.
In the ninth, Aaron Delgado was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, the one pitch Brennan said he would like back. A pitch in the dirt allowed Delgado to scamper to second and he reached third on a two-strike sacrifice bunt.
But the final two Hornet hitters grounded out allowing OCC to remain three games ahead of second-place Santa Ana with six conference games remaining.
It's the fourth time OCC has blanked an opponent this season. The Pirates have not been shutout since 2010. The only other time this year they scored fewer than two runs was a 4-1 loss to Canyons on Feb. 25.
Sophomore shortstop Joel Licon and sophomore designated hitter Trent Woodward had singles to round out the OCC attack. Licon was the most dazzling of the defenders for OCC, though he was charged with the team's lone error when a throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.
It was the first time all season Fullerton has been blanked.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 1, Fullerton 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
Full 000 000 000 – 0 3 1
OCC 000 001 00x – 1 3 1
Lucas and Luther; Brennan and Sabol. W – Brennan, 7-1. L – Lucas, 5-2. 2B – Rademacher (OCC), Garcia (F).