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Community College Baseball: OCC virtually starting from scratch

Pirates had six players drafted and lost all but four returners from conference champion that reached state final four in 2012.

February 01, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

Budget cuts have pared Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli's staff to the point that he is sometimes the only non-player in uniform at a Pirates' practice.

But if he is looking for familiar companionship in his 21st season at the OCC helm, the 2012 Orange Empire Conference Coach of the Year may have only his four remaining veteran assistant coaches with whom to turn.

That is because the wave of success that included the Pirates' first outright OEC title since 1987, a 37-7-1 record that forged the program's best winning percentage since 1957, and a trip to the four-team state championship tournament in 2012, also washed away all but four roster holdovers.

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Five of last year's players went on to the professional ranks, while more than a handful of others are now competing at four-year college programs.

In addition to an appreciative nostalgia about last year, in which OCC held the No. 1 ranking in one national poll for most of the season, the personnel void creates confusion about this year's lineup, let alone the team's overall prospects in a 2013 season that begins Friday at Cuesta College.

"It's a whole new group and it has been interesting, to say the least, trying to get that trust going on," said Altobelli, who was also named the Orange Empire Conference Male Coach of the Year for all sports in 2011-12. "These guys are testing me and I'm testing them. Hopefully, they will figure it out sooner than later."

Altobelli identifies pitching as the key to success this season and while Dallas Draveczki is the only returner from last year's mound corps, Altobelli said he believes the Pirates boast superior pitching depth to a staff that crafted a cumulative 1.87 earned-run average last spring.

"Last year we had four or five really quality guys, then we had a big drop-off," Altobelli said. "This year, we have depth."

Draviczki was 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in 31 2/3 innings as a freshman, when he made six starts and nine appearances. He is slated to be the No. 3 starter this season, as Hawaii bounce-back Kyle Dowdy and Evan Porcella, a freshman out of El Modena High, open the season as Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, Altobelli said.

Draviczki (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and Dowdy (6-2, 220) are typical specimens on a pitching staff that averages nearly 6-3 and has seven players who weigh more than 200 pounds.

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