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OCC gets historic win

Pirates open state tournament with a victory, No. 400 for Altobelli to tie the school record and move on to face Diablo Valley today at 2 p.m.

May 23, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

FRESNO — The win that put Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli on a landmark pedestal, was his first on the biggest stage.

And the Pirates’ 8-5 triumph over San Joaquin Delta in the opening round of the state championship tournament Saturday night at Fresno City College, put OCC one step closer to Altobelli’s ultimate destination — a championship dog pile.

The victory, the 400th of Altobelli’s 17 seasons, moves him into a tie with Mike Mayne atop the program’s career victories list.

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More importantly, it keeps the Pirates on track to what would be their first state crown since Mayne led the 1980 squad to the ultimate prize.

OCC (35-13), the No. 1 seed from Southern California, will face Diablo Valley (36-16), the No. 6 seed from the north, in a winners-bracket game today at 2 p.m. If victorious, OCC will be one win away from collecting the crown in the four-team, double-elimination event.

A loss to Diablo Valley would force OCC to survive an elimination game at 6 p.m. to advance to Monday, when it would need two wins against Diablo Valley to claim the championship.

Sophomore right-hander Chris Licon outdueled the Northern California Pitcher of the Year, Zach Devalle, and six Pirates drove in runs to give Altobelli his first win in five games at the state tournament.

“This is my third trip [to the state tournament] and I was 0-4 here [0-2 in both 2005 and 1993],” said Altobelli, who is not allowed to be in the dugout due to a season-long suspension for surpassing the maximum ejection standard.

Altobelli was in uniform to participate in pregame introductions, and was quickly on the field after the last out to address the team and the media. He is credited with the win, even though his assistants, led by interim head man Bob Flint, guided the team in competition.

Licon, who entered with a scoreless streak of 22 1/3 innings and had not given up an earned run in his previous five outings, spanning 23 1/3 innings, blanked the Mustangs (32-18) through five innings.

His scoreless streak of 28 2/3 innings came to and end as Delta scored three in the sixth.

Licon got two outs in the seventh, before surrendering the ball to sophomore closer Brett Williams, who finished for his sixth save.

Licon improved to 10-2. He allowed four runs on six hits and struck out four, without issuing a walk.

“It was the last start of my college career, so I wanted to give it all I had,” Licon said.

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