COSTA MESA -- The Orange Coast College baseball team will host El Camino College in the 2018 Southern California Sectional playoffs this weekend at Wendell Pickens Field, with a berth in the State Final Four on the line for both teams.
Game 1 of this best-of-three series begins on Friday at 2 p.m. Game 2 will be set for Saturday at 1 p.m. and if a third game is needed, that will take place on Sunday at 12 p.m.
This weekend's matchup will be a rematch of last year's Southern California Sectional playoff and the No. 2-seeded Pirates (31-13) will look for a brighter finish to this year's matchup with the 11th-seeded Warriors (28-17).
"Last year was painful ... no doubt about it," OCC head coach John Altobelli said. "But this is a new year and both teams have a bunch of new guys on their rosters, so it should be another exciting weekend of baseball. Our guys are looking forward to seeing El Camino again and we know they will be a huge test for us."
Both teams are coming off of solid two-game sweeps in last weekend's Super Regional playoffs, with the Pirates eliminating Orange Empire Conference rival Riverside City College (2-1, 11-6) and El Camino upsetting top-seeded Cerritos (6-2, 7-5).
For the Pirates, their offensive strengths come from depth and tough outs up and down the lineup. While you won't see many state leaders in any category, the Coast offense finds ways to get on base and score runs throughout the batting order. With seven of its regulars batting .290 or better, the OCC lineup has a +74 run differential heading into this weekend's Sectional playoff.
Sophomore infielder Coby Kauhaahaa has been a steady force for the Pirates, leading the team with a .331 batting average with 41 hits and 21 runs scored. Right behind Kauhaahaa is the freshmen duo of Murphy Stehly and Skylar Limonchi. Stehly is batting .330 with 37 hits, 23 runs and 23 RBI, while Limonchi leads the team with 43 hits and 38 runs to go along with a .314 batting average.
In the middle of the order, look for the sophomore trio of Domenic Donato (.299, 46 hits, 29 RBI), Chris Ceballos (.299, 43 hits, 26 RBI) and Ramiro Velasco (.292, 40 hits, five HR, 32 RBI) to provide the muscle in the Pirate lineup.
On the mound, Coast has been at its best at the right time, holding the opposition to just 13 runs over its four playoff games. Starters Michael Giacone (5-2, 2.24 ERA, 81 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings) and Cameron Jabara (7-0, 3.65 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings) have been the workhorses throughout the playoffs, with relievers Doug Magee (4-1, four saves, 20 appearances, 3.54 ERA), Josh Berman (2-2, five saves, 40 strikeouts in 26 innings) and Gus Culpo (3-0, one save, 3.20 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings) holding down the late-inning workload.
For the Warriors, they have been led offensively by freshman first baseman Spencer Palmer, who enters this weekend's series with a .427 batting average with 67 hits, 44 runs, eight home runs and 39 RBI. Sophomore Cody Wissler is batting .360 with 64 hits, 28 runs and 38 RBI, while freshman Diego Alarcon is batting .320 with 63 hits and 35 RBI.
On the mound, sophomore Kenneth Haus has been the leader of the Warrior pitching staff, posting a 10-1 record with a 2.36 ERA, allowing just 71 hits and 97 strikeouts over 103 innings. Haus came in on relief in last year's series-clinching win for El Camino over the Pirates, holding OCC scoreless over the final 6 1/3 innings.
If the game goes late, look for sophomore closer Tommy Stropky to enter the game. Stropky is 2-0 with four saves and a microscopic 0.76 ERA, allowing just two earned runs over 23 2/3 innings (18 appearances).
The winner of this series advances to the California Community College Athletic Association State Baseball Championships, hosted by Fresno City College, on May 26-28.