COSTA MESA, Calif. – With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, No. 5 seed El Camino College trailed No. 1 Orange Coast College by a handful and things looked bleak.
Enter Kenneth Haus.
The 5-foot-10 freshman right hander out of Palos Verdes Peninsula High School stepped up to shut down the Pirates offense and allow the Warriors offense to pick themselves up off the mat and score nine unanswered runs to shock the top-seeded Pirates, 9-5, in game three of the California Community College Baseball Southern California Sectionals Sunday afternoon at Wendell Pickens Field.
Haus entered the game in relief for the Warriors (39-9) with two outs in the third inning and runners on second and third. He proceeded to strike out Nolan Powers to end the inning and would go on to toss six and 1/3 innings of brilliant relief, keeping the Pirates (36-12) off the scoreboard and allowing just two hits the rest of the way.
"I think the turning point was Kenny kept putting up zeroes," said Warriors Head Coach Nathan Fernley. "If a pitcher goes in and does that then you can allow momentum. But if we score two and they score two, that's when heads start going down. So he kept throwing up a zero and getting quick innings and that's really the story of the game."
While Haus was spectacular on the mound in relief, the Warriors offense still had a steep mountain to climb against the No. 1 seed in Southern California. The ECC offense proved to be up to the task.
"We talked about that early on that in a game like this when you've got some bullpens that have been used, runs don't matter," Fernley said. "And so whether you're up five or down five; and we actually used five as the example, you just have to keep playing because these games work out to where runs get put on the board. Last game I thought we put up a bunch of runs and were like, 'okay we've got this one' and we got snuck back into it. This one we were down 5-0 and I really believed we weren't down at all."
Barba got the Warriors on the comeback trail, driving in ECC's first three runs. He got things started in the top of the fourth inning with a double down the left field line that stayed just inside the bag at third to score Underwood from second and Eastburn from first to put a dent into OCC's lead.
In the sixth, Dorn led off the frame with a double and then advanced to third on a fly out. With two away, Barba stepped up and came up clutch again with a single through the right side, bringing in Dorn and cutting the deficit to two.
That set the stage for the seventh when the Warriors completed their climb and took the lead for good. Hunter Lewis led off with a single to put an end to McKinley LeFore's day on the mound for the Pirates. Blair Lewis entered in relief and proceeded to give up an infield single to Darian Sylvester and a single to shallow right to Trevor Casanova to load the bases with no one out. Lewis rebounded to strike out Ty Conrad, but then the wheels came off the train tracks for OCC.
Dorn reached on catcher's interference, forcing in a run and putting the tying run 90 feet away with one out. Eastburn followed with a fly out to left and both Sylvester and Casanova tagged up at third and second base respectively. Left fielder Walker Keller's throw was cut off by Powers and he tried to nail the trail runner Casanova at third. But his throw went into foul territory, allowing Casanova to score with the go-ahead run and put ECC up 6-5.
Underwood then capped off the rally with a single to right to score Dorn from third and put the Warriors up two with nine outs to go.
The Pirates had one last stand in the bottom of the seventh as they loaded the bases with two outs in the inning. But Haus came through again, inducing a fielder's choice groundout to short to end the threat and the Pirates never got another runner to third base.
In the ninth, Underwood provided the insurance as he belted his second home run of the season, a two-run shot to right-center field to make it 9-5.
Haus finished off his gem in the ninth, allowing a two-out walk to Robert Teel before getting Ramiro Velasco, who was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored up to that point, to pop up to short and send the Warriors to their first CCCAA Baseball State Final Four since 2010.
The Pirates finished the season 36-12 on the season.
"They've been the gold standard of junior college baseball the last few years," Fernley said of OCC. "Everybody wants to be like them and so this win is special."
The Warriors advance and will take on defending CCCAA State Champions Santa Rosa on Saturday after the Bear Cubs defeated San Joaquin Delta in three games. In the other state final four matchup, Grossmont will face Ohlone after the Griffins swept past Long Beach City while the Renegades edged Sacramento City in three games.
Notes: Haus was the only pitcher in the three game series to not allow a run in an inning or more work in a single game. Jake Carr combined to throw an inning on Friday and Saturday without allowing a run… Underwood led the Warriors with a .500 batting average (6-for-12) with two runs and seven RBIs in the series against the Pirates… As a team, the Warriors batted .350 (36-for-103) and outscored the Pirates 23-18… Both teams tallied 36 hits in the series… Barba recorded his 12th multi-RBI game of the season while Underwood tallied his fourth… Underwood extended his hitting streak to 12 games on Sunday while Casanova has hit safely in nine straight games and Conrad is running a seven-game hitting streak… Barba reached base safely for the 19th straight game on Sunday… In eight postseason games, Casanova is batting .500 (17-for-34) with three doubles, a home run, four RBIs and a team-high 14 runs scored. Underwood is batting 14-for-30 (.467) with a team-high 11 RBIs and six runs scored… As a team, the Warriors are batting .337 and have outscored opponents 65-36 in the postseason and outhit the opposition 95-71 with a 26-11 edge in extra-base hits.