COSTA MESA — A 31-4-1 regular season that included the Orange Coast College baseball team's first outright Orange Empire Conference title since 1987, a No. 1 national ranking and a school-record winning percentage (.875), might be considered a tough act to follow.
But all the Pirates have done in four postseason games, including Saturday's 5-0 triumph over visiting Mt. San Antonio in the winner's bracket semifinal of the Southern California Super Regional, is step up their game.
Freshmen pitchers Brandon Brennan and Bijan Rademacher combined on an eight-hit shutout and the offense and defense also did their share to put OCC (35-4-1) one victory away from a trip to the four-team state championship tournament next weekend at Bakersfield Community College.
The Pirates, 4-0 in the postseason with two straight shutouts and no earned runs allowed in the last 27 innings, need only win one of two potential contests against Glendale in Sunday's super regional championship game(s).
Glendale (29-11 and ranked No. 5 in Southern California), which won two elimination games Saturday, will need to defeat OCC twice on Sunday to advance in the double-elimination format.
Brennan, who has not allowed a run in 16 postseason innings, surrendered just six hits in eight innings Saturday. The University of Oregon bounce-back, who has committed to play next season at the University of Houston, improved to 11-1 and lowered his earned-run average from 1.30 to 1.19. He struck out five Sunday, including the side in the opening inning, while walking one. He has now fanned nine with one walk in the postseason.
Rademacher, who started in right field and drove in a run, pitched the ninth for his fifth save, the third in the last three games and the second in as many days. He has yet to allow a run in seven innings on the mound this season.
OCC pitchers, including sophomore starter Keegan Yuhl who is also 11-1 after his part in Friday's 3-0 victory over Cypress, have combined to allow four earned runs in 36 postseason innings (a 1.00 ERA). The staff's season ERA is now 1.82.
"It's exciting when you have two No. 1s who can go in back-to-back games," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, who plans to put the ball in the hands of No. 3 starter Dallas Dravickzi (2-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 29 innings) in the win-and-advance game Sunday at 11 a.m. Should OCC lose the morning game, an elimination game would follow at 3 p.m.
Brennan said he approached Saturday like any other game.
"A game's a game," said Brennan, who stranded five runners in scoring position in the first five innings, but settled down to retire 12 of the last 14 he faced, only one of whom managed a hit. "I wanted to go out there and not change anything I've been doing all year, because, in reality, why change anything that has been working."
The Pirates' hitters have obviously embraced the same philosophy. OCC hit .302 as a team in the regular season, but are batting .326 in the postseason, which included a best-of-three regional series sweep over Los Angeles Valley.
Sophomore third baseman Austin Wobrock went three for four and scored a run to pace the Pirates' eight-hit attack Saturday. Wobrock is now five for seven in the Super Regional.
Sophomore first baseman Bryan Garza hit a two-run home run to cap a four-run sixth inning for OCC. It was the first dinger of the season for Garza, who pushed the team's season total of big flies to 25, tied for the state lead.
Sophomore designated hitter Chris Carlson doubled in a run to open the scoring and further help the Pirates' cause, which included at least one hit from six of nine starters.
OCC handed Mt. SAC starter Ken Kissell his first loss in seven decisions this season.
Perhaps most impressive was an errorless game from the OCC defense, which had eight errors in its first three postseason games.
"We're the team to beat," Brennan said. "We are that team. It's going to be hard to take us out."
A victory Sunday would give OCC its third trip to the state Final Four since 2005. The Pirates won the program's second state title in 2009.
SoCal Super Regional
Winner's bracket semifinal
Orange Coast 5, Mt. San Antonio 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
MSAC 000 000 000 – 0 8 1
OCC 000 004 10x – 5 8 0
Kissell, Huerta (6) and Bailey; Brennan, Rademacher (9) and Woodward, Hugaert (9). W – Brennan, 11-1. L – Kissell, 6-1. Sv – Rademacher (5). 2B – Bailey (MSAC), Wobrock (OCC), Flores (MSAC), Carlson (OCC). HR – Garza (OCC).