COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team saw its remarkable 2017 season come to a sudden end on Sunday with a 9-5 loss to visiting El Camino college in the rubber game of the Southern California Sectional playoffs.
The top-seeded Pirates (36-12) jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings, but self-inflicted mistakes proved costly as the fifth-seeded Warriors (39-9) won the final two games of the best-of-three series to advance to next week's State Final Four in Fresno.
It looked good early for the Orange Empire Conference champions as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Ramiro Velasco (3-for-4, two runs, one RBI) tripled to right to lead off the frame and scored on an RBI-single by Walker Keller. After a stolen base and a ground ball moved Keller to third, Nolan Powers lofted a sacrifice fly to left to bring in the second run of the game.
In the third, J.T. Navarro singled and Travis Moniot walked to lead off the frame. Two batters later, Robert Teel (2-for-4, one run, one RBI) hit what appeared to be a two-run double to right-center, but Moniot was called out for running past Navarro on the bases, putting Coast up only 3-0. RBI-hits by Velasco and John Balliet made it 5-0, but ECC reliever Kenneth Haus (4-0) came in and retired Powers on a fly out with two outs and runners on second and third to prevent further damage.
From there, it was all Haus as he silenced the OCC bats for the 6 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits, four walks and four strikeouts the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the ECC bats began to chip away at OCC's five-run lead. Noah Barba drove in a pair of runs in the top of the fourth with a two-run double and added a third RBI with a run-scoring single in the top of the sixth to make it 5-3 in favor of the Pirates.
Haus retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced over that same span and the momentum began to creep towards the Warriors as the game headed into the top of the seventh.
Three straight hits by Hunter Lewis, Darian Sylvester and Trevor Casanova loaded the bases with nobody out. OCC reliever Blair Lewis (4-2) struck out the next batter and had two strikes on Brady Dorn, but on the next pitch, hit bat made contact with OCC catcher Robert Teel, allowing all runners to advance, making it 5-4.
Ryan Eastburn lofted a sacrifice fly to left to tie the game and on the play, Powers' throw to third handcuffed his teammate and rolled up the left-field line, allowing another run to score, putting the Warriors up, 6-5.
Connor Underwood capped off the four-run inning with an RBI-single to make it 7-5.
Coast's best chance to rally came in the bottom of the seventh when a Moniot walk, a Teel single and a hit-by-pitch by Velasco loaded the bases with two outs.
Keller hit a chopper to the ECC shortstop, who threw the ball to second for a force out that was nearly beaten by the OCC baserunner. The close play ended the threat and kept El Camino ahead, 7-5.
Underwood delieverd the knockout blow in the top of the ninth, lining a two-run home run to right-center to make it 9-5.
From there, Haus worked around a pair of walks and celebrated on the Wendell Pickens infield after retiring Velasco on a pop up to short. It is the first trip to the State Final Four for the Warriors since 2010.