COSTA MESA -- It's been a LONG time coming for the Orange Coast College softball team, but the 2019 Pirates have earned a spot in this year's playoffs and will host Cerritos College on Tuesday in a play-in game at 2 p.m.
"I'm extremely excited for this group to make the postseason," OCC head coach Jodie Kiaha said. "The building phase of the program and the growth that is now evident has been a process. To have our first playoff game since 1994 is well deserved for this team."
After decades of struggle, the OCC softball program is now on solid ground and coaches like Kiaha and assistant coaches Tara Allis and Coby Kauhaahaa, the talent has improved on the field and year by year, the Pirates have begun to earn the respect of the rest of the softball community.
The seeds of success began last year, when the Pirates racked up 17 wins (the most since 1994) and competed hard against some of the top teams in the state.
This season, with a strong group of returners from last year and some key first-year acquisitions, the Pirates kicked off 2019 with an 11-1 record, including a pair of solid wins against OEC standouts Riverside City College (4-3 on Feb. 22) and Santiago Canyon (2-1 on Feb. 27). That strong start brought the attention of the pollsters, who had the Pirates in the state top-20 for the first time in a LONG time.
Even when Coast struggled with a nine-game losing streak, the Pirates showed they weren't afraid to take on the best of the best. Included in that nine-game stretch were matchups against Mt. San Antonio (state ranked No. 2), Cypress (No. 3), Santa Ana College (No. 5, two games), El Camino (No. 8), Fullerton (No. 9), Palomar (No. 13), Santiago Canyon (No. 15) and Riverside (No. 16). While the win-loss record suffered a bit, OCC's strength of schedule and overall level of play have increased, keeping the Pirates in playoff contention.
The Pirates are this year's 16th-seeded team after finishing the regular season 20-20 and enter today's play-in game with a .283 team batting average. the OCC offense has been freshman Madison LeClaire (.340, 32 hits, 2 HR, 20 RBI), sophomore Madison Taylor (.326, 31 hits, 19 runs, 10 RBI) and freshman Janae Gomez (.320, 32 hits, 21 runs, 12 RBI). Anchoring the heart of the OCC lineup is sophomore first baseman Liana Castro, who is batting .284 with 24 hits, 27 runs, six HR and 22 RBI).
The pitching trio of Bronwyn Jarvis, Jordyn East and Sarah Ramirez gives the Pirates depth and variety against whatever type of offense comes their way. Jarvis started 15 games for Coast and went 7-6 with five complete games and a 3.23 ERA. East started a team-best 19 games and went 6-9 with four complete games and a 3.56 ERA and Ramirez, a starter/reliever for the Pirates, picked up a 7-3 record in 23 appearances (five starts).
For the 17th-seeded Falcons (20-19), they come into the postseason winners of seven of their last 10 games and are looking for a bit of revenge after falling to the Pirates, 6-5, on April 6 at OCC.
Cerritos is led by the hitting foursome of sophomore Tena Spoolstra (.431, 53 hits, 42 runs, 41 stolen bases), freshman Itzel Soto (.393, 42 hits 22 RBI), sophomore Keira Bolinas (.404, 46 hits, 30 runs, three HR, 37 RBI) and sophomore Kayla Hernandez (.306, 34 hits, 4 HR, 42 RBI).
The Falcons also have a trio of pitchers in their arsenal, including sophomore Sierra Gerdts (9-3, five complete games, 2.59 ERA), freshman Skyler Swearingen (8-12, 4.33 ERA) and sophomore Ally Udell (2-4, 5.04 ERA).
The winner of Tuesday's play-in match will take on either top-seeded Mt. San Antonio (36-4) or No. 2 Cypress (34-6) in a best-of-three series, beginning on Friday.
REMINDER -- Ticket prices for Tuesday's games are ...
- $12 for Adults
- $8 for seniors 65 and older, OCC Students/Staff, and children under the age of 12.