COSTA MESA -- Michael Giacone pitched eight innings of shutout ball, while the offense flexed its muscles for the Orange Coast College baseball team as the Pirates routed visiting El Camino, 9-0, on Friday in Game 1 of the Southern California Sectionals, played at Wendell Pickens Field.
With the win, the second-seeded Pirates (32-13) grab a 1-0 lead on the 11th-seeded Warriors (28-18) with Game 2 set for Saturday at 1 p.m. back at Orange Coast College. If a third game is needed, that will take place on Sunday at 12 p.m. at OCC.
OCC picked up five runs in the first inning courtesy of a three-run home run by Ramiro Velasco and a two-run shot by Murphy Stehly, knocking ECC starter Kenneth Haus (10-2) out of the game after just one inning and 33 pitches.
That would be plenty of support for Giacone (6-2), who pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just five hits, two walks and six strikeouts in a 121-pitch performance.
"We took advantage of some early baserunners and put up a big number early," OCC head coach John Altobelli said. "Michael took over from there and did a tremendous job of mixing up his speeds and staying down in the strike zone all afternoon. When runners got on, he managed to make that 'big pitch' and get himself out of trouble. It was a fantastic effort from one of our sophomore leaders."
Velasco finished the afternoon by going 4-for-5 with a single, double and home run, one run scored and four RBI. Chris Ceballos went 2-for-5 with an RBI, while Joey Fregosi added two hits and a run for Coast.
Diego Alarcon went 3-for-4 for the Warriors, while the rest of the team struggled, going just 2-for-28 against Giacone and late-inning reliever Josh Berman.
It was a rough start for Haus, who dominated the opposition for most of the 2018 season. He allowed a walk and a hit batter before Velasco's three-run shot put Coast up, 3-0. After another walk, Stehly made it 5-0 with a two-run shot to left and Haus' afternoon was over.
Reliever Trevor Talpas did a solid job of keeping the Warriors close, allowing just one run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, but the ECC offense could not solve Giacone, who has allowed just four earned runs and 17 strikeouts in his three playoff starts, a span of 21 2/3 innings.
"He's a big-time pitcher and he came up big for us today," Altobelli said. "Our starters have really controlled things once we got to the playoffs and they've carried us this far."
Velasco came through with an RBI-single to center field in the bottom of the third to make it 6-0 and it stayed that way until Coast blew the game open with a three-run eighth. An RBI-triple by Jacob Gentry, an RBI-double by Skylar Limonchi and an RBI-double by Ceballos highlighted OCC's eighth-inning insurance.