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Chris Carlson a major force for OCC baseball team

Community College Baseball

Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year has helped propel Pirates to State Final Four.

May 16, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
  • Orange Coast College sophomore Chris Carlson was named the Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year.
Orange Coast College sophomore Chris Carlson was named… (Courtesy of Orange…)

His academic advisor may not approve, but Orange Coast College sophomore Chris Carlson makes no secret of his primary field of study as a Pirate.

"Baseball is my major," Carlson said with a laugh. "That's my No. 1. Everything else is my minor."

So it is that the Orange Empire Conference Player of the Year sometimes fidgets in his classroom chair, counting down the moments until he can trade his pen for the aluminum bat that has always been his mightiest sword.

"Ever since I can remember, I've always just put the bat on the ball," said Carlson, whose hitting prowess has helped OCC (36-5-1) earn the school's first outright OEC crown since 1987, a No. 1 national ranking and the No. 1 seed in the four-team, double-elimination California Community College Athletic Assn. Baseball Championship, Friday through Sunday at Bakersfield College. "That's just always what I've loved to do."

According to OCC Coach John Altobelli, the romance goes two ways.

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"There are some guys who are just born to hit and he's a guy who, his whole life, has been a hitter," Altobelli said. "He has eye-hand coordination and a short stroke. He has simple mechanics and he doesn't try to do too much. He just keeps it simple. He's just a pure, pure hitter."

Carlson, a former Sierra League Athlete of the Year at Chino Hills High who began his collegiate career at UC Irvine, has been a force in the middle of the OCC lineup for two seasons. This year, despite missing five games after fouling a ball off his right instep (the injury is still healing, which relegated the usual left fielder to designated hitter during the Super Regional completed Sunday), he is hitting .438 with seven home runs and 43 runs batted in. His average ranks No. 2 in the state and leads the team. His seven homers are tied for the team lead, and his 11 stolen bases top the squad. His 43 RBIs rank No. 2 among Pirates.

"He is a specimen," OCC pitcher Keegan Yuhl says of his 5-foot-9, 175-pound teammate. "I've been around a lot of very, very good hitters, but I've never seen anyone as clutch as Chris Carlson. He is an absolutely amazing hitter with great plate presence. He goes up there with an approach, which a lot of these hitters still don't do. If you get Chris out, you know you made a good pitch."

Getting Carlson out has been no easier since his return from the injury. In four Super Regional contests, he was seven for 15, including a pair of doubles, despite a noticeable limp.

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