COSTA MESA — Sometimes destiny dwells in the other dugout.
Visiting Fullerton College made a case for the favor of the baseball gods on Tuesday, cashing in six unearned runs and several rally-killing defensive plays to come away with an 8-7 Orange Empire Conference triumph over Orange Coast.
The victory solidifies the Hornets' hold on first place in the conference and improves Southern California's No. 1-ranked team to 22-7, 12-2 in conference. It was the 11th straight conference triumph for Fullerton, which has won 13 of its last 14 games and now has a four-game lead with seven conference games remaining in its quest for its first conference crown since 1983. It has been 21 seasons, in fact, since the Hornets, who were 6-15 in conference a year ago, last made the playoffs.
"We lost a ball in the sun [a double that fell near the center fielder that plated two to cap a seven-run second inning] and that happens," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, whose Pirates, ranked No. 2 in SoCal, are 20-9, 8-6. "We stung a couple of balls and [the Hornets] are making diving plays out there to save runs. You've got to give them credit. When teams win championships, sometimes you do things and you get some of that mojo luck on your side. And you can kind of see it hovering over their dugout right now."
The Hornets' good fortune included a dropped foul pop-up for an error by OCC catcher Tucker Chadd that one pitch later turned into a walk to extend the second inning.
A throwing error by OCC third baseman Manny Argomaniz led to the winning run in the eighth inning, after OCC had rallied to pull even, 7-7.
Another indication that fate was smiling on the visitors, was a ground-ball single up the middle that led to the OCC middle infielders colliding with one another as they gave pursuit.
And there were the aforementioned defensive gems, including a diving stab of a line drive by Fullerton second baseman Nick Gotta to end the OCC fourth inning, leaving a runner stranded at third base.
With two on and two out in the OCC fifth, shortstop Jose Rojas ranged to his right to snare a line drive off the bat of designated hitter Cristian Salina, who had already doubled twice.
And Gotta retreated into shallow center to make a difficult over-the-shoulder catch of a bloop off the bat of first baseman Danny Jiminez for the second out in the ninth.
The six unearned runs and three errors were uncharacteristic for the Pirates, whose 38 errors this season are 30 fewer than their opponents and the second-fewest among eight conference teams. OCC has also benefited from 42 unearned runs, 13 more than it has allowed.
But even with everything that went wrong, OCC, which scored twice in the first to claim a short-lived lead, still managed to erase a 7-2 deficit with a 12-hit attack that produced two runs in the fourth and three in the seventh.
Freshman right fielder Jacob Hill and Chadd both drove in runs in the Pirates' fourth. Hill, who came in with two hits in just nine at-bats this season, was two for four with a pair of runs batted in. He was pressed into service when freshman Austin Saenz was injured in practice on Monday.
Jiminez, Cody Bruder and Hill had RBI singles in the seventh, which ended when Bruder was caught in a rundown after rounding second just after Jiminez scored the tying run.
But freshman reliever Jacob Miller blanked OCC over the final two innings, allowing only one hit to post his third save.
OCC sophomore Dallas Draviczki was tagged with the loss, despite allowing only a single unearned run on three hits over 5 2/3 innings.
OCC starter David Wilson, throwing in his third consecutive game, allowed five hits and walked two over 1 2/3 innings. He allowed seven runs, but only two were earned.
"I'm proud of my guys for the comeback that we made," Altobelli said. "It was a valiant effort. And [Draviczki, who lost for the first time in three decisions] did a good job and kept us in the game."
Jiminez (two RBIs) and Argomaniz joined Hill and Salina as Pirates with two hits apiece.
Dakota Wix and Rojas each had three hits for the winners, who play host to Orange Coast on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Fullerton, which defeated OCC, 5-4, in 10 innings at Fullerton on March 7, is looking for a season sweep.
Orange Empire Conference
Fullerton 8, Orange Coast 7
Score by Inning
FCC 070 000 010 – 8 11 2
OCC 200 200 300 – 7 12 3
Berumen, Michael (6), Miller (8) and Frias; Wilson, Draviczki (2), Leary (8), Reta (8) and Chadd. W – Michael, 4-0. L – Draviczki, 2-1. Sv – Miller (4). 2B – Dono (FCC), Frias (FCC), Gotta (FCC), Jiminez (OCC), Salina (OCC) 2. 3B – Chadd (OCC).