COSTA MESA -- After an opening-game scare, the Orange Coast College baseball team dusted itself off and returned to the business of winning and on Sunday, the Pirates eliminated rival Santa Ana College with a 9-4 win in the rubber game of the Southern California Super Regional playoffs at Wendell Pickens Field.
With the series win, Coast returns to Wendell Pickens Field on Friday to host No. 5 El Camino (37-8) in a best-of-three Southern California Sectionals matchup. Game 2 will take place on Saturday at 1 p.m. and if a third game is necessary, it'll be on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The top-seeded Pirates (35-10), 3-1 losers to the 14th-seeded Dons on Friday, evened things with a 5-1 win on Saturday before bringing out big bats on Sunday.
Nolan Powers went 4-for-4 with a run and an RBI for Coast (35-10), while Eric Wagaman and Ramiro Velasco each added two hits and two RBI. Travis Moniot reached base five times with two hits and three walks with a run scored and an RBI.
In all, OCC pounded out 14 hits and took advantage of eight walks against the Dons (29-17), who lost 5-of-6 to the Pirates this season.
Both teams had ample opportunities to score in the first two innings but neither one was able to do so. Finally, in the bottom of the third, the "big hits" were found on the side of the Pirates.
Coast loaded the bases with walks courtesy of SAC starter Gabe Armstrong (5-3) and Velasco made him pay with a two-run double down the left-field line.
Another walk reloaded the bases and ended the afternoon for Armstrong, who allowed four runs on three hits with six walks over just two-plus innings. Luke Hussung managed to drive in the third run of the frame with a grounder to first and Powers made it 4-0 on an RBI-bunt single.
In the bottom of the fourth, Robert Teel stepped up with a runner on first and doubled off the third-base bag that scored the runner and put the Pirates up, 5-0.
The Dons refused to quit and in the top of the fifth, they got right back into the ballgame. Derek Reilly led off with a single and advanced to third on a double by Erick Leef. Julio Rivera followed with a two-run single to left-center, cutting OCC's lead to 5-2.
Santa Ana loaded the bases in the fifth with nobody out. Blair Lewis (4-1) came into the game and allowed a pair of sacrifice fly balls to make it 5-4, but the Dons would run themselves out of the inning with a caught stealing at third to end the threat.
From there, Lewis silenced the Dons' bats, allowing just one hits, no walks and three strikeouts over five scoreless innings.
Wobbly but not fallen, Coast regrouped and tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth, thanks to an RBI-single off the bat of Moniot, putting Coast ahead, 6-4.
Powers and White reached with base hits to start the bottom of the seventh and three batters later, Wagaman drive them both in with a two-run single to left, put the Pirates up, 8-4.
John Balliet ripped a solo home run to dead center field in the bottom of the eighth to cap off the scoring for the Pirates, who are one series victory away from a return trip to the State Final Four, their third such trip in four seasons.
GAME NOTES -- With his three free passes today, Travis Moniot has now collected 47 base on balls this season, setting a new OCC record previously held by Rex Peters, who collected 45 walks in 1986 and again in 1987. El Camino advanced to next week's Sectionals by sweeping past Pasadena City, 8-1, and 9-2. This is the first meeting between the two school since the opening round of the 2014 playoffs, won by the eventual state-champion Pirates, 7-4 and 8-2.