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Pirates' backs to wall in Bakersfield

Sierra hands OCC first shutout in 96 games. Pirates must win four in two days to earn state crown.

May 18, 2012|By Barry Faulkner

BAKERSFIELD — The Orange Coast College baseball team has dealt with adversity only in small doses this season. But in the opener of the California Community College Athletic Assn. State Championship on Friday, Sierra College sophomore pitcher Josh Eagle continued to deliver his lesson on how to overcome a sizable obstacle he battles every day.

Eagle, who had five major surgeries after being born without a muscle on the inside of his left foot, including fusing the bones in his ankle that left him with a noticeable limp, blanked the Pirates, 4-0, on six hits.

It was the first time OCC (36-6-1) had been shut out all season and ended a streak of 95 games in which they had scored at least one run, dating back to the latter part of the 2010 season.

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The loss means the Pirates, ranked No. 1 in one national poll for most of the season, now must win four games in two days to claim the school's fifth state crown, its second in four years.

OCC meets Rio Hondo (38-4) Saturday at 10 a.m. in an elimination game for the right to play again at approximately 5 p.m. against the loser of Saturday's winner's bracket semifinal between Sierra (26-15-1) and Cosumnes River (26-16). Cosumnes River defeated Rio Hondo, 3-1, Friday night, ending Rio Hondo's 33-game winning streak.

If OCC can win twice on Saturday, it must win two straight against Saturday's winner's bracket semifinal winner to prevail in the double-elimination format.

"If anybody is going to do it, it's going to be this team," OCC Coach John Altobelli said of the improbable road back from the loser's bracket. We've got some pitching depth, so if we get into Games 3 and 4, I like our pitchers. I think our offense will get going. I like our chances of coming out of it as much as anyone else's. It's a great group of guys."

Strong starting pitching, a staple all year, was one of the Pirates' pillars that crumbled Friday. Sophomore Keegan Yuhl, the Orange Empire Conference Pitcher of the Year who came in 11-1 with a 1.88 earned-run average, allowed six hits and four runs, three earned, in four innings, before being lifted with the idea of him coming back on Sunday.

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