Top 50 Junior College Teams (updated 3/26)
School Moves to Top of Rankings
schools have never been members of the sprawling National Junior
College Athletic Association, so it’s often difficult to gauge the
relative strength of junior-college baseball in California vs. the
remainder of the country.
talent is talent, no matter where it comes from, and on that count
California’s Orange Coast College may have as much raw talent this
spring as any junior-college team in the country. With seven players
and possibly an eighth earmarked for NCAA Division I college
programs, the Pirates have a plentiful supply of front-line talent.
Coast has also led the state’s charge for national respect by
posting an impressive 22-2-1 record to date that has jumped the team
to the top of the heap in Perfect Game’s latest ranking of the
nation’s top 50 junior-college
teams after starting the season at No. 4.
Pirates have stayed close to home, playing an all-California schedule
in their rise to No. 1, but have knocked off almost all comers. They
are 9-1 in the Orange Empire Conference, possibly the toughest
junior-college league in the country, and have posted three-game
sweeps of traditional California power and Orange Empire rival
Cypress College, the nation’s No. 24 team to start the 2012 season,
and current No. 23 Cuesta College, which has since rebounded to win
won 17 of its last 18 games.
on a California-wide scale is nothing new for Orange Coast, which won
a state title with a school-record 37 wins in 2009 and made another
gallant run at a state championship in 2005, but Pirates coach John
Altobelli believes this year’s club is both the deepest and
most-talented he has had in his 20-year run.
a good group of guys,” Altobelli said. “They like to play hard
and they play well together, but the thing that really separates this
team from 2005 and 2009 is the depth of our pitching staff. We have
some tremendous arms on this year’s team and we’re not afraid to
go deep into our bullpen with a game on the line. We have 3-4 quality
arms we can go to, while in the past we might have had only one or
two we could count on.”
righthander Keegan Yuhl (UC Irvine) and freshman righthander Brandon
Brennan (Oregon), a pair of Division I transfers who have committed
to New Mexico State and Houston, respectively, are the unquestioned
aces of the Pirates starting staff. Yuhl (7-0, 1.27) ranks first in
the state in wins, while Brennan (6-1, 1.43) is in a pack right
behind him, but the staff as a whole has posted a 1.89 ERA and five
different pitchers have contributed saves.
a fastball that routinely touches the mid-90s, along with a mid-80s
slider, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Brennan has the best raw stuff on the
team and is a candidate to be drafted in the first 10 rounds in June.
the Pirates are no less potent as they boast the state’s leading
hitter in freshman center fielder Boog Powell (.459-0-13), along with
sophomore left fielder Chris Carlson (.439-3-32), who ranks No. 2 in
hitting and No. 3 in RBIs, and freshman right fielder Bijan
Rademacher (.297-4-31), who ranks among the state leaders in homers
and RBIs. Like Yuhl, Carlson is a UC Irvine transfer in the process
of re-routing to New Mexico State, while Rademacher, a Cal State
Fullerton transfer, is weighing some significant Division I options.
team’s best overall talent, meanwhile, catcher/third baseman Stefan
Sabol (.290-1-7 in 10 games), has made only a marginal contribution
to OCC’s success as he missed the first 15 games of the season
nursing a broken hamate bone. He attended Oregon as a freshman before
transferring back home, and will end up at Oklahoma State in 2013 if
the draft doesn’t intercede. Like Brennan, he is considered a good
bet to be plucked in the first 10 rounds.
all that talent, could Orange Coast not compete head-to-head with any
junior-college program in the country, especially those that makes a
regular trek to the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction,
Colo.? Altobelli believes it could, though has never given it much
thought because of the reality of the situation.
have a unique situation here in California that might put us at a bit
of a disadvantage in that we don’t offer scholarships and we can’t
recruit players outside of our immediate geographic region,”
Altobelli said. “But we’re fortunate, in our case, because we
have so much talent here in Orange County to pick from.”
the large talent pool locally to pull from, Altobelli also had a
couple of other tricks up his sleeve a year ago when Brennan and
Sabol were contemplating transferring from Oregon. J.J. Altobelli,
John’s son, is a three-year starter for the Ducks and made a
persuasive case for them to join his father’s team this season at
are from right here in our backyard, so we were very familiar with
them in high school,” Altobelli said. “J.J. had a great
relationship with both of them, and he helped talk up OCC when there
were rumblings that they might be looking at a junior college.”
also spent last summer as an assistant at Brewster of the Cape Cod
League (son J.J. was the team’s shortstop), and while there made
his final sales pitch to Sabol, who was playing for Cotuit, to join
him this season at Orange Coast.
recruiting edge could become even more pronounced in the future as
Altobelli has since been named the head coach at Brewster. But he was
quick to discount any potential advantage he might have in possibly
luring other prospective future Orange Coast players with an
opportunity to also play on the Cape, in the nation’s most
prestigious summer college league.
me, it’s 2-1/2 months of paid vacation,” he joked. “But the
biggest advantage I get is it helps me to place my kids at the next
level with all the contact I make with the big Division I schools
while I’m there.”