IRVINE — At 30-4-1, the Orange Coast College baseball team surely knows how to win. When it comes to celebrating, however, the No. 1 team in the state showed its inexperience on Tuesday after clinching the program's first outright Orange Empire Conference title since 1987.
Following the last out of OCC's 7-2 road triumph over Irvine Valley, there was a brief hesitation before the players in the dugout jogged onto the field and helped form a crowd around relief pitcher Bijan Rademacher in front of the mound.
The players began jumping up and down and it appeared one player threw sunflower seeds over the gathering. The traditional dog pile failed to transpire.
But, anxious to make up for their rookie mistake, the Pirates reenacted a dog pile after their post-game team meeting down the left-field line.
They later executed perfectly the ice-water bath for both Coach John Altobelli and pitching coach Dave Bowman. The players caught both coaches off guard, drenching them and taking their break away with the cold water.
They are hoping for more practice in the postseason, which begins May 5 with the Southern California Regionals.
"I think they were trying to figure out how to learn how to do it," Altobelli said of the dog pile, under which sophomore shortstop Joel Licon, who emerged smiling, appeared to take the brunt of the weight.
Licon was one of eight starters to contribute to the 13-hit attack. And he drove in the last of a three-run second inning that gave the hosts all they would need when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Rademacher, a freshman who started in right field, was three for five with one RBI, while sophomore first baseman Eilert Meyers was two for five with two RBIs and one run.
Freshman second baseman Justin Broussard was two for five with one RBI and one run, while freshman center fielder Boog Powell was two for five with two runs for the winners, who shared the conference crown in 2009 (the year they also won the state title) and 2005 under Altobelli, in his 20th season.
"We wanted to get that W and clinch the No. 1 spot alone for Altobelli and Bowman," said Rademacher, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the win for sophomore Keegan Yuhl.
Yuhl, who is 10-1 and ranks second in the state in victories, entered in relief in the fourth inning. He allowed just one hit and walked one while blanking the Lasers (14-20, 7-13 in conference) in his five innings. He struck out four and did not allow a runner to reach second base.
"He thought he let the team down on Friday [when he allowed two unearned runs in relief that were the difference in a 4-3 setback in 12 innings against Riverside]," Altobelli said. "You could see in [Yuhl's] eyes that he wanted it [Tuesday]," Altobelli said. "He was very business-like and dialed in and he did a great job for us."
Yuhl, who made his fourth relief appearance this season, lowered his earned-run average to 1.80 in 75 innings.
Sophomore Jed Vandernaald, making his first start, went the first three innings, allowing two unearned runs on four hits, while striking out one. He did not walk a batter and stranded runners on third in the second and third innings.
OCC opened the scoring in the third on back-to-back, bases-loaded singles by Meyers and Broussard.
Powell, hitting .424, singled, went to third on a Rademacher single, then scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
OCC (17-3 in conference) added two in the eighth on RBI singles by Licon and Rademacher.
Sophomore left fielder Stefan Sabol doubled to open the ninth and later scored on Meyers' RBI single to finalize the scoring.
OCC sophomore outfielder Chris Carlson, who fouled a ball off his instep Thursday, missed his second straight game. But Altobelli said Carlson could return as soon as Thursday in the regular-season finale at home against IVC.
"We want to make sure nobody gets hurt and maybe give some guys a chance to rest and some other guys a chance to swing the bat," Altobelli said of Thursday's game.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 7, Irvine Valley 2
SCORE BY INNING
OCC 030 000 121 – 7 13 2
IVC 002 000 000 – 2 5 1
Vandernaald, Yuhl (4), Rademacher (9) and Woodward, Hugaert (9); Geiger, Lang (8) and Wagner. W – Yuhl, 10-1. L – Geiger, 2-7. 2B – Wobrock (OCC), Sabol (OCC). 3B – Kaplan (IVC).