Orange Cove baseball tightens grip on league lead

Titans execute in late innings to pull away from Orosi and build two game lead in East Sequoia League championship chase

Orange Cove High’s Alon Hernandez follows through with a pitch in the seventh inning of the Titans’ 6-2 victory over Orosi High in an East Sequoia League baseball game at OCHS on April 25. The senior struck out the side in his one inning of work to close out the victory for first place Orange Cove (13-7, 5-0). (Jon Earnest)
Orange Cove High’s Alon Hernandez follows through with a pitch in the seventh inning of the Titans’ 6-2 victory over Orosi High in an East Sequoia League baseball game at OCHS on April 25. The senior struck out the side in his one inning of work to close out the victory for first place Orange Cove (13-7, 5-0). (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published April 26, 2024  • 
11:00 am

ORANGE COVE – The Orange Cove High baseball team appears to be playing its best ball of the season, and the result is a stranglehold on first place in the East Sequoia League.

On the evening of April 25, the Titans (13-7 overall) improved to a perfect 5-0 in ESL play with a 6-2 victory over area rival Orosi High at OCHS varsity diamond. The hosts capped off a three-game sweep of ESL opposition this week, having earlier dispatched of Wonderful Collegiate Prep (23-1 on April 22) and Summit Charter Collegiate Academy (14-3 on April 23).

Titans head coach Everardo Alvarez Jr. gave a blunt explanation for the team’s seven-game win streak.

“I think these kids are doing a good job of playing team ball,” said Alvarez, an OCHS alum who reached the 100-victory milestone during his seventh season as coach. “A lot of teams tend to peak early and then kind of fall off, (but) I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

Orange Cove wiped out an early 1-0 deficit, taking the lead in the fifth with two runs before breaking the game open with a three-run sixth inning aided by three Orosi errors. Alvarez credited the Titans’ discipline at the plate with the outburst.

“When we can make the defense play defense, where you have to communicate, there is an opportunity to make mistakes that we can capitalize on,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been preaching all year, make (the opposition) play defense and put them in a position to make an error as opposed to not having good at-bats and striking out.”

The Titans were held hitless the first three innings by Orosi’s Michael Lopez, who drove in his team’s run in the first inning. But Roger Torres beat out an infield single to open the fourth and later scored on Benjamin Garza single to right to tie the game. The Titans took the lead for good in the fifth, as senior Juan Lizaola delivered a two-run single to center.

The Titans put it away in the sixth with aggressive baserunning that led to Orosi errors. Also in the inning, Alex Rosas had a bunt single and Josiah Guerra had a run-scoring infield single. Lefty pitcher Alon Hernandez, the Titans’ other senior on a young roster, worked the final inning and struck out the side to end the game.

Starting pitcher Brandon Gonzalez weathered a rocky first inning, scattering five hits and finishing with eight strikeouts during his six innings of work. Guerra and Lizaola each finished with two hits for Orange Cove.

The Titans erupted for eight runs in the second inning and 10 runs in the third to trounce Wonderful Collegiate Prep, and collected 11 hits and put up an eight-run second innings against Summit Collegiate Charter. Orange Cove will host Strathmore (9-11) in a non-league game on Thursday, May 1.

Orosi (7-12, 2-3 ESL) scored three runs in the seventh to pull away for a 7-3 victory at Summit Collegiate Charter on April 22. The Cardinals host Woodlake (14-7) in a non-league matchup at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 29.

SOFTBALL.

Orange Cove 20, Orosi 0, 5 innings

That same Thursday April 25, on the Orange Cove softball field, the Titans (14-9, 5-0) ran their win streak to eight games with a 4½ innings rout of Orosi (2-20, 0-4). Orange Cove rapped out 17 hits, led by freshman Hazel Ocejo (4-for-4) who drove in four runs including a home run.

Freshmen Kylee Gomez and Allyanah Cano along with senior Star Elizondo all delivered three hits while Alexis Summer collected three RBI. Mia Castillo and sophomore Daisy Regalado combined to no-hit the Cardinals over five innings with eight strikeouts.

Reigning Division 5 section champion Orange Cove hosts Corcoran (9-8-1) in a non-conference matchup at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 29. That same day, Orosi hosts Woodlake in a 6 p.m. non-league contest.

Jon Earnest
Reporter