COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team overcame a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth to win 4-3 over Cuesta College in the opening game of the Southern California Regional playoffs on Friday at Wendell Pickens Field.
With the win, the No. 2 seeded Pirates (28-13) take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three series against the 15th-seeded Cougars (22-18). Game 2 takes place on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Wendell Pickens Field, with a third game immediately to follow, if necessary.
It was a rough day at the yard for the Pirate offense for the first eight innings, thanks to the outstanding effort of Cuesta starter Cole Tucker, who held Coast to one run on six hits over eight innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
Tucker came out for the ninth, but when left-handed pinch-hitter Jacob Gentry was announced, the Cougars went to the bullpen for the lefty-lefty matchup. But Cougar closer Walt Bolle proceeded to walk Gentry and gave up a single to pinch-hitter Javier Rosales. An unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempt kept OCC runners on first and second with one out and the Cougars again went to the bullpen, bringing in Jed Moscot.
Coby Kauhaahaa, among the state leaders in being hit by a pitch, got plunked in the helmet, loading the bases with one out.
Catcher Chris Ceballos stepped up and promptly lined a two-run single into left-center, scoring Limonchi and Rosales to tie the game at 3.
From there, Domenic Donato sent the home crowd home happy with a game-winning, RBI-double off of the right-center field wall, scoring Kauhaahaa for OCC's fourth and final run of the game.
Coast grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Kauhaahaa was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on an RBI-double by Ramiro Velasco.
OCC starter Michael Giacone maintained that lead until the fourth, when the Cougars scored all three of their runs in the game. Tyson Delkener reached on a one-out walk and scored on an RBI-triple down the right-field line off the bat of Alec Smith. Reuben Mercado followed with a bunt up the first-base line, where Donato came up and fired home, but Smith scored under the tag to put Cuesta up, 2-1. Garrett Brown followed with a single to right-center, moving Mercado to third and Chandler Hughes picked up an RBI on a grounder to third, putting the Cougars up, 3-1.
Giacone allowed three runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings and left with the bases full of Cougars in the top of the sixth. But, reliever Doug Magee came in and picked up help from Limonchi in left, where he made a diving snag of an Andrew Navigato fly ball which ended the inning and kept the game within reach at 3-1. It was the second high-caliber catch by Limonchi in the inning and in all, Cuesta left 13 runners on base, a stat that would turn out to be important by game's end.
Josh Berman allowed a leadoff double in the ninth but wiggled his way out of damage and picked up the win, improving to 2-2. Magee got the ball to Berman after throwing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.
Jacob Doty was the only Pirate with any success off of Tucker, going 3-for-4.
Nik Pagan went 2-for-4 for Cuesta's lone multi-hit performer of the game.