Baseball Playoffs: Orange Coast slips by El Camino in Sectional opener, 5-4

Orange Coast baseball
Orange Coast baseball

CCCAA Sectionals (Game 1)
Northern California: Ohlone 5, Sacramento City 4 | Santa Rosa 8, San Joaquin Delta 2
Southern California: Orange Coast 5, El Camino 4 | Grossmont 7, Long Beach 2

COSTA MESA, Calif.Walker Keller came off of the bench and helped give Kyle Robeniol the run support he needed to lead the Orange Coast College baseball team to a 5-4 comeback win over visiting El Camino in Game 1 of the Southern California Sectional playoffs on Friday at Wendell Pickens Field.

Keller came into the game in the bottom of the seventh and went 2-for-2, including a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth to put the top-seeded Pirates (36-10) ahead for good.

Robeniol (8-1) took it from there and capped off an impressive 133-pitch performance a 1-2-3 ninth inning, giving OCC a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three series against the fifth-seeded Warriors (37-9). The sophomore lefty tossed his first complete game of the season, allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Taylor Rashi (11-4) took the hard-luck loss for the Warriors, allowing five runs (four earned) on 11 hits with one walk and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings.

John Balliet went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for Coast, while Keller, Travis MoniotEric Wagaman (one run, one RBI) and Robert Teel each had two hits in OCC's 11-hit attack.

Coast took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third when J.T. Navarro led off with a walk, advanced to second on a single by Moniot and scored on an RBI-single to left by Wagaman.

Robeniol kept the Warriors off of the scoreboard through the first five innings before running into trouble in the top of the sixth. There, Trevor Casanova (3-for-4, one run) singled to left, advanced to third on a double to left by Ty Conrad and scored on an RBI-grounder by Brady Dorn. Connor Underwood followed with a sacrifice fly to center to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead.

After a 1-2-3 frame by Rashi in the sixth, ECC made it 3-1 in the top of the seventh on an RBI-double by Noah Barba, who drove in Darrian Sylvester, who led off with a double.

In the bottom of the seventh, Balliet led off with a single to right and advanced to third on a single to right by Keller. Two batters later, Jacob White's fly ball to left scored Balliet to make it 3-2, but Rashi wiggled out of further damage.

El Camino bounced right back and made it 4-2 in the top of the eighth when Dorn walked, went to second on a single by Underwood, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Eastburn and scored on a sacrifice fly by Cody Wissler.

But the Pirates, winners of 22-of-25 at home, found life in the bottom of the eighth. Wagaman lined a single with one out to start the rally and advanced to second on a bloop-single to center by Teel. A fly out by Ramiro Velasco moved Wagaman to third and Balliet followed with an RBI-single to make it 4-3. 

A botched pickoff throw by Rashi moved pinch-runner Alex Lopez and Balliet up to second and third and Keller made him pay for his mistake, lining a single up the middle to score both runs, making it 5-4, Pirates.

In the ninth, Robeniol allowed a one-out single to Barba, but retired the final two batters of the game to wrap things up.

Game 2 of this best-of-three series takes place on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Wendell Pickens Field.

(Courtesy Orange Coast Athletics)