FULLERTON — Though he had left a laid-back locale by transferring from the University of Hawaii to Orange Coast College, sophomore pitcher Kyle Dowdy retained his propensity to hang loose.
That, combined with a minor sense of overconfidence fed by having logged some NCAA Division I baseball experience, combined to create some midseason struggles for the hard-throwing right-hander.
But in his second start after a two-week demotion to the bullpen, Dowdy displayed the kind of dominance that was expected of the former four-time all-league performer at San Diego's Francis Parker High.
Dowdy's four-hit shutout helped the Pirates claim a 7-0 Orange Empire Conference victory at first-place Fullerton on Thursday.
The win snapped an 11-game conference win streak for the Hornets (22-8, 12-3 in conference), who are ranked No. 1 in Southern California.
Dowdy's performance helped the No. 2-ranked Pirates (21-9, 9-6) remain in sole possession of second place with six OEC games remaining. It also solidified his return to the prowess that helped him earn a collegiate future at the University of Houston.
"That was the Kyle Dowdy we thought we were getting from a Division I Hawaii program," OCC Coach John Altobelli said. "He struggled earlier [in the season] and was inconsistent, so we put him in the pen to allow him to try to work some kinks out."
Though command was an issue, remedied by taking a little off a fastball that registers in the low 90-mph range to get ahead early in the count, Dowdy said his recent success was attributed just as much to his commitment to an exemplary work ethic.
"I got lackadaisical," said Dowdy, who is 2-0 with an 0.46 earned-run average in his last two starts, allowing just 11 hits over 14 innings with 10 strikeouts and three walks. "That's the best way to put it. I wasn't working as hard as I should have been. I had a couple bad outings in a row. It wasn't working for me, so I needed to change something. The coaches put me in the bullpen to put a fire under my heels and I kind of got back after it."
Including a strong season-opening start, Dowdy, now 5-1, had an 0.45 ERA in 20 innings. In between, he allowed 34 hits and issued 13 walks in 37 2/3 innings. During that time, he was 3-1 with one save and a 3.35 ERA, but he was hardly the ace he had been billed as in the preseason.
"I think he had that D-I mentality of coming into a JC; that he didn't have to work as hard," Altobelli said. "I think he realized what he was doing wasn't getting rewarded. So he worked hard and changed some things. Good for him."
Dowdy was better than good Thursday. He walked the first hitter, then faced the minimum until hitting his only batter with one out in the fifth. He erased one of the hosts' four singles by picking off a runner at first in the third inning. He allowed only two runners to reach second base.
"It felt good," said Dowdy, who walked one and struck out six. "Just everything worked today. It feels good to be back."
Seven Pirates had hits and six OCC players drove in runs to salvage the final game of the season series against the Hornets, who had won the first two games by one-run margins.
Sophomore first baseman Danny Jiminez and freshman left fielder Cody Bruder were two for four with one run batted in for the winners, who visit third-place Riverside on Friday at 2 p.m.
Orange Empire Conference
Orange Coast 7, Fullerton 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
OCC 012 200 200 – 7 9 2
Full 000 000 000 – 0 4 2
Dowdy and Pallakov, Toll-McKillop (8); Romero, Jenkins (5), Sweet (6), Cole (8), Denker (9) and Frias, Cavazos (9). W – Dowdy, 5-1. L – Romero, 2-2. 2B – Saenz (OCC), Salina (OCC), Jiminez (OCC).