Pirates unveil an ace

Community College Baseball

Thompson, once a blue-chip prospect, makes first start in two seasons to help OCC aim toward Orange Empire title run.

March 17, 2011|By Barry Faulkner,

COSTA MESA — When Orange Coast College lost three out of four Orange Empire Conference games after opening the baseball season 15-1, there was little panic in the Pirates' dugout.

Part of the justification for such calm was the presence of 6-foot-8 right-hander Chad Thompson, who was just starting to round back into shape after a long recovery from Tommy John surgery on May 1, 2009.

Thompson, who signed with Arizona State as a senior at El Toro High, was expected to be a high draft pick that June. But he was injured early his senior season and dropped to the 17th round, where the Yankees selected him with the 525th overall pick.


Thompson made his first start for the Pirates Thursday and worked into the fourth before reaching a conservative pitch count set for him by pitching coach Dave Bowman. And though he did not record the win in the Pirates' 10-4 triumph over conference visitor Riverside, Thompson displayed some of the ability that allowed him to dominate as a prep.

In three varsity seasons, he went 18-3 with a 1.19 earned-run average. He struck out 175 and allowed 87 hits in 129 innings. As junior, he went 12-3 with a 1.28 ERA and helped the Chargers win the CIF Southern Section Division II title. He won his team's first four playoff games that season and was named CIF Division II MVP.

He began his senior season 4-0, before being sidelined and undergoing elbow ligament replacement.

"I had been kind of rooting for him to start," said OCC Coach John Altobelli, who had seen Thompson make three relief appearances spanning five innings before Thursday. "I thought he was better off [starting] than coming out of the bullpen. So, we thought we'd give him a shot and we thought he did a nice job."

Thompson allowed two hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. He struck out three and did not allow an earned run. His ERA remains 0.00, but his ceiling, and potential impact on the Pirates' conference title hopes, could be astronomical.

Thursday's win, which Altobelli termed "by far our best all-around game," allowed the Pirates (18-4, 4-3 in conference) to pull within one game of second-place Riverside (12-8, 5-2). Santa Ana, which has won 10 straight, tops the conference at 7-0 following the first of three rounds.

Sophomore Ryan Doran finished up for Thompson to earn the win and improve to 4-2. He surrendered three runs on five hits.

But pitching was not the only strong point for the Pirates.

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