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Juco : : Rankings
Final 2014 Top 50 JUCO teams
Allan Simpson        
Published: Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Orange Coast Overcomes Adversity
To Win State Title, Earn No. 1 Ranking

Pardon John Altobelli if he had an eerie feeling of déjà vu as his club prepared to begin play in this year’s California Final Four, with a state championship on the line—and possibly even a national No. 1 ranking.

Two years ago, his top-ranked Orange Coast College squad, arguably one of the best teams to come out of California in years, had similar championship aspirations, only to be eliminated in two straight games in the Final Four.

Though this year’s club was on a 12-game roll, Altobelli was justifiably concerned that his club’s title hopes could easily go up in smoke as his two ace pitchers, twins David and Jacob Hill, who were 20-1 between them, might not be healthy enough to even participate in the Final Four. Jacob had missed most of the state playoffs to that point with a sore arm, while David severely rolled his ankle, stepping on a baseball, in practice the day before the tournament opened and his participation was considered doubtful.

But the Hill twins, both unavailable for Game One, stepped up in the face of impending doom over the next two days and pitched the Pirates to the state title that eluded them two years ago. In the process, Orange Coast moved from second to first in Perfect Game’s final ranking of the nation’s Top 50 junior colleges, and became the first California team to secure the No. 1 spot.

The Pirates (36-9) won three straight games in the Final Four, with Jacob Hill pitching the first eight innings of a 4-1 win over San Joaquin Delta in Game Two and David Hill closing the deal a day later (May 26), working the first seven innings while gutting out a 5-3 victory against the same San Joaquin Delta club.

The state title was the second in Altobelli’s 22-year run as Orange Coast coach, and provided some redemption for the failings of his 2012 club. His previous championship came in 2009.

This team really came together down the stretch,” Altobelli said. “They really bought into what we were trying to accomplish. Late in the season, we brought the guys in and did a power-point presentation that focused on our 2009 team, and showed them how good that team was. I told them to starting dreaming big, like those guys did. Once we all came together, nothing could stop us.”

The Pirates were 21-9 at the time of Altobelli’s heart-to-heart, and coming off a couple of tough losses in Southern California’s rugged Orange Empire Conference. But from that point on, they went 15-0 to close out the season in style. But in the end, everything pretty much hinged on the return of the Hills.

Quite frankly, we didn’t know if we’d have either one of them for the tournament,” Altobelli said. “But they both really battled through some adversity and gave us two excellent outings. When David went down with his injury, Jacob really responded, just like David had stepped up when we didn’t have Jacob. Twins can be that way sometimes in the way one compensates for the other at a time of need.”

David Hill underwent relentless treatment on his ankle throughout the weekend before toeing the rubber in the championship game, and not knowing what to expect. He fell behind 3-0 after two innings, but responded by walking none and striking out seven in his seven innings of work. The Pirates pulled out a win for him, despite being outhit 11-4.

First Jacob, and now David," said Altobelli, immediately following the championship tilt. “There were plenty of heroes throughout the season, but those two guys were our foundation and they came through time and time again.”

Winning the championship provided instant relief for Altobelli, who remained fearful throughout the Final Four that this club, with all its uncertainties, might suffer the same season-ending fate his powerful 2012 club did.

That team was just as talented,” said Altobelli, who has spent the last several summers coaching Brewster of the Cape Cod League, “but I think this one got the key hits, and made the key outs at the right time. Our 2012 club kind of shot itself in the foot, but this team really responded when it needed to.”

While the Hill twins were indispensible to Orange Coast’s success, freshman lefthander Art Vidro’s might have been just as noteworthy. He made four starts in the California state playoffs, largely as a fill-in for the injured Jacob Hill, and won all four, including an opening-round 3-1 win in the Final Four that netted him tournament MVP honors. He went 8-3, 2.22 in 10 starts on the season.

David Hill finished his season with an 11-1 record and 1.67 ERA, and walked just 16 while striking out 109 in 113 innings. Jacob’s victory in the Final Four pushed his final line to 11-0, 1.27. In 71 innings, he walked 22 while striking out 61.

Both Hills are expected to factor prominently in this week’s baseball draft, with David, a righthander and the harder throw of the two, projected to be selected in the top 5-6 rounds, and Jacob, a lefthander, expected to go a few rounds later.

But both pitchers also have college commitments to the University of San Diego, and are among 11 players on the OCC roster that have commitments to Division I schools.

Orange Coast’s closing rush enabled it jump past previous No. 1 Chattahoochee Valley (Ala.), and it was also able to withstand fast-charging Iowa Western and claim the No. 1 spot in PG’s Top 50.

Iowa Western (56-11) won its third Junior College World Series title in five years, annihilating its competition in winning five straight games, including a decisive 17-5 win in the championship game over Miami-Dade. In its three previous games in the 10-team tournament, the Reivers beat Midland (Texas) 9-0, Miami-Dade 10-0 and Midland 11-1.

Freshman outfielder Alex Krupa earned tournament MVP honors by going 12-for-20 with five extra-base hits, eight RBIs and seven stolen bases. He went 4-for-5 with four RBIs to highlight Iowa Western’s 20-hit attack in its decisive win over Miami-Dade in the final.

The Reivers won 18 of their final 19 games on the season to jump from No. 5 to No. 2 in PG’s final rankings, but couldn’t quite overtake Orange Coast for the top spot.

Two years ago, Orange Coast and Iowa Western also battled each other for national supremacy with the World Series champion Reivers gaining the upper hand when OCC faltered at the end. The Pirates finished at No. 3.

California junior colleges are not members of the National Junior College Athletic Association, so there has never been an opportunity for Orange Coast and Iowa Western to settle things on the field.

Champions, meanwhile, were determined in all other junior-college divisions throughout the country over the final week of May.

Mesa (Ariz.) won the NJCAA Division II World Series to claim its first national title since that school captured three consecutive Junior College World Series championships from 1970-72. The Thunderbirds (52-13) moved up to No. 7 in PG’s final ranking, while Tyler (Texas) nudged its way into the top 50, at No. 49, by capturing their second D-III World Series crown. Edmonds (Wash.) climbed to No. 22 by winning its seventh Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges title.

Previous No. 1-Ranked Teams:

2006—Walters State, Tenn. (61-8)
2007—Chipola, Fla. (41-18)
2008—Grayson, Texas (48-15)
2009—Howard, Texas (63-1)
2010—Iowa Western (50-12)
2011—Navarro, Texas (42-17)
2012—Iowa Western (62-6)
2013—Central Alabama (43-14)

RK Prev. Team ST Record
1 2 Orange Coast (4) CA 36-9
2 5 Iowa Western (1) IA 56-11
3 6 Miami-Dade FL 38-17
4 1 Chattahoochee Valley AL 48-11
5 9 San Joaquin Delta CA 35-11
6 10 Chipola FL 36-12
7 15 Mesa (2) AZ 52-13
8 4 Columbia State TN 46-13
9 3 Oxnard CA 33-13
10 12 Spartanburg Methodist SC 48-18
11 11 Grayson TX 42-14
12 7 Johnson County KS 50-14
13 13 Georgia Perimeter GA 44-14
14 14 Polk State FL 39-14
15 8 Delgado LA 43-13
16 16 Chabot CA 32-10
17 17 Alvin TX 42-16
18 18 Gulf Coast State FL 40-14
19 19 Crowder MO 45-17
20 20 Wabash Valley IL 48-13
21 21 St. Johns River FL 37-14
22 38 Edmonds (5) WA 39-8
23 22 Western Nevada NV 40-18
24 23 Sequoias CA 34-13
25 24 Mercer County NJ 40-8
26 25 Central Arizona AZ 42-16
27 26 Walters State TN 43-18
28 27 Galveston TX 40-19
29 28 Darton State GA 44-19
30 29 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M OK 39-17
31 30 Connors State OK 46-13
32 31 USC Sumter SC 41-15
33 32 Salt Lake UT 34-18
34 NR  Hinds MS 40-21
35 33 Hutchinson KS 43-17
36 34 Central Florida FL 35-19
37 35 Santa Rosa CA 29-14
38 36 South Mountain AZ 40-25
39 37 Midland TX 42-25
40 39 Blinn TX 36-28
41 40 Cochise AZ 41-31
42 41 Jones County MS 46-10
43 42 LSU-Eunice LA 42-13
44 43 Santa Ana CA 28-13
45 44 Indian Hills IA 38-17
46 45 Middle Georgia GA 38-15
47 46 Cowley County KS 38-17
48 47 Seminole State OK 41-18
49 NR  Tyler (3) TX 42-17
50 50 Madison College WI 45-17

1-Won NJCAA Division I World Series
2-Won NJCAA Division II World Series
3-Won NJCAA Division III World Series
4-Won California Final Four
5-Won Northwest Championship
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