Six Orange Empire Conference coaches picked the right baseball team to win the league title this season. Five of them wish they were wrong.
On Saturday, Orange Coast College proved the coaches right with an 11-3 victory over Riverside, clinching the conference title on the last day of the regular season.
OCC (16-4, 31-10) was tied for the conference lead as recently as Tuesday with Rancho Santiago. But Rancho Santiago was upset by Saddleback, 4-1, Thursday and OCC defeated Citrus, 9-2, to take a one-game lead. Rancho Santiago defeated Citrus, 8-4, Saturday to finish a game behind.
"It's just good to win the league again," said Coach Mike Mayne, dripping wet after designated hitter Dave Staton dumped a cooler of water on him.
OCC, which won the South Coast Conference title last season, qualifies for the Southern California Regionals and hosts Oxnard Saturday and Sunday in a best-of-three series for a berth in the state tournament May 23-24 in San Jose.
Riverside scored three runs in the sixth inning to chase starter Jim Foley and take a 3-2 lead, but the Pirates came back with five runs in the sixth to go ahead, 7-3.
OCC left eight runners on in the first five innings, but in the sixth, Rex Peters hit a bases-loaded double to drive in two and give OCC a 4-3 advantage. Joey James, who was 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two doubles, then followed with a two-run double.
The Pirates scored four more in the eighth, including Ralph Ramirez's eighth home run of the season and a two-run single by Brent Mayne. Mayne, a freshman catcher, was 4 for 4 with two doubles.
OCC cruised to the title with the help of the now-healthy arm of David Dawson (3-3). Dawson, who replaced Foley with one out in the sixth, hadn't pitched in a game since April 15 when he was sidelined by a sore right elbow. He retired the first six batters and 10 of the 13 he faced.
Dawson struck out Hal Pigeon to end the game, and Staton, cooler in hand, went into his impression of New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson.
In other Orange Empire Conference play:
Rancho Santiago 8, Citrus 4--The Dons' baseball season came to an end Saturday, but they did everything they could to keep the race alive. Rancho Santiago's title hopes were dependent on an Orange Coast loss, which would have forced a one-game playoff Tuesday.
"This was an absolute nothing game or our most important game," said Rancho Santiago Coach Don Sneddon. "Both Orange Coast and us should go to the playoffs, but it is very unfortunate that only one will go."
Freshman pitcher David Tellers (10-2), from Western High School, threw a six-hitter for the Dons. He limited the Owls (8-12, 22-19) to two earned runs, walking three and striking out three.
With the scored tied, 1-1, in the third inning, the Dons (15-5, 28-9) scored four runs off Owl starter Tom Pavlock (8-4). They scored three more in the fourth to lead, 8-1.
Right fielder Bob Brucato led the seven-hit attack for Rancho Santiago with three hits and five RBIs, including a home run and two doubles. Teammate Todd Lloyd had two RBIs on a pair of singles.
Jim Lazzara had two hits for Citrus, including a home run in the the ninth. It was Citrus' only extra base hit of the day.
Cypress 8, Saddleback 5--Mike Faddoul was 3 for 4 with two RBIs and Paul Bunch was 2 for 4 with four RBIs to lead the Chargers (9-11, 26-18) at home. Rey Hernandez was 3 for 3 with a triple for Cypress, and Bill Lasher hit a three-run home run for Saddleback in the seventh.
In the South Coast Conference:
Golden West 7, Pasadena 0--Chip Damato was 2 for 4 with a triple, an RBI and three runs scored, Gregg Martin was 2 for 3 with a run scored, and Tom Smythe was 1 for 2 with his 11th home run of the year and two RBIs to lead the Rustlers (13-15, 18-17). Three Golden West pitchers combined to shut out Pasadena (6-22, 11-24).
El Camino 5, Fullerton 4--Ruben Jauregui hit a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Warriors (15-13, 24-16) at home.