Irvine, Calif. – In their first stretch of games since the summer of 2019 the Orange County Riptide, led by first-year head coach Mitch LeVier, have gotten off to a 6-4 start in their last ten games which included a lot of offense, evidence of talent on the mound, and an Alaskan round-robin tournament championship.
The Riptide kicked off the 2021 season at OC Great Park back on June 8th against the San Diego Waves. A combined 14 hits, six walks, and six RBIs resulted in a 13-0 shutout win in the organization’s return to the diamond. But the home momentum the team had just gained would have to go with them to Alaska for a scheduled six-game round-robin tournament coming after a day of travel.
For game one of the tournament that momentum couldn’t be found with Orange County’s offense producing only one run on six hits in a 1-3 loss to the Goldpanners. Alaska’s pitching staff was strong as well combining for eight punchouts while also pitching to contact well. However, the Riptide would fail to score less than ten runs again for the next week, going 3-1 on the remainder of the trip and outscoring opposing teams 37-9 in those four games combined.
Over June 12-14 UNLV Rebels Jack Thomas-Wold, Austin Kryszczuk, Edarian Williams, and Eric Bigani combined to go 20-35 at the plate with 15 RBIs, scored 13 runs, logged three doubles, and got a home and a triple.
Kryszczuk said that the group has translated their success at school to this summer by helping each other out and getting feedback since they have an idea for each other’s tendencies.
“I think we all kind of help each other with little things, it’s nice having them here,” said Kryszczuk.
The Riptide actually won two straight games in Alaska by way of run-rule, outscoring opponents 28 runs to four and logged 24 hits, 19 RBIs, and 15 walks in the blowouts. Ultimately the round-robin was canceled due to COVID-19 issues and by default, the Riptide were awarded with the championship for their performance to celebrate on the plane back to California.
Coach LeVier said that the team bonded a lot on the trip and pointed out that its their only true road trip as a team since they don’t have to stay at hotels for away games during the regular season
“It was a good trip to see all those guys get together,” said LeVier. “They made the best out of it and it was a good trip. We have bus rides but we don’t have overnighters so it was good to do a kind of full week trip.”
The team would return to the field on June 17th against the SoCal Shephards and put together its fifth straight double-digit scoring output in a 12-4 win. The Riptide used an eight-run 7th inning to carry them to the win as Anthony Robie (Texas State), Matthew Magre (Arkansas), and Hunter Ash (Cal Poly Pomona) allowed no runs, six hits, and struck out 12 in 7.2 combined innings.
A day later Orange County came back to win 6-5 on a walk-off to improve the team record to 6-2 before a three-day break in the schedule, the first extended break of the season. The Walnut Creek Crawdads came out fast and stunned the Riptide with five first-inning runs, but were held scoreless for the next eight frames by Shawn Hepler (Xavier), Derek Shaver (Wichita St.), and Nikelle Galatas (Jackson St.). Eric Bigani (UNLV) completed the comeback win in the bottom of the ninth with a bases-loaded whack into left-center to break the 5-5 tie and walk it off for the fifth-straight Riptide win.
Some off days may have proved to damage the Riptide’s energy and momentum unfortunately with back-to-back losses to open California Collegiate League (CCL) competition on June 22 and 23 to the Arroyo Seco Saints 14-4 and the Santa Barbara Foresters 4-1. Arroyo Seco simply jumped on Orange County early on and held them down for the rest of the evening to break the Riptide’s win streak. By contrast, the Foresters pitching staff was impressive in their win because they featured three hurlers limiting the Riptide to only four hits and striking them out ten times.
Coach LeVier said after the losses that they need to be able to compete better on the mound early on so that the defense can play more aggressively instead of playing on their heels.
“We need to be stronger mentally with being able to keep competing and throwing strikes mostly,” said LeVier. “You just try to be positive and move on from it and forget about it.”
Thus far through ten games the Riptide have most definitely displayed their offensive prowess and ability to explode at a moment’s notice by stringing together several base hits or extra-base hits and then getting steals on top of that. The pitching staff can also take over when needed but will have to get more innings in as a group to identify who can fill which roles in the bullpen and starting rotation for LeVier.
Orange County (6-4) will try to bounce back on June 24th from Great Park against the MLB Academy Barons at 6 p.m. PST before wrapping up the homestand on Friday night against the Ventura Pirates. The team will then hit the road for two games this Saturday and Sunday before returning home on June 29th against the San Luis Obispo Blues.