• Robert Hollar

Pirates Sail Into Riptide Looking For Season Sweep

The Ventura County Pirates (23-8) travel to Irvine to play the OC Riptide (16-11-1) of the California Collegiate League Friday in a rematch of the Pirates’ walk-off victory against Orange County earlier this year.


The SBL-North-leading Pirates are coming off an 8-3 loss Thursday to the South Bay Sliders. Ventura County has a 6-1 record in games following losses this season.


Ventura County is 18-9 against the CCL all-time and 3-1 against the league this year. A victory over the Conejo Oaks guaranteed the Pirates a winning record against the CCL this summer.


Orange County and Ventura County faced each other July 2 at LA Valley College. The Pirates trailed that game 6-1 after five innings but mounted a furious comeback. Pirates’ first baseman Jason Ajamian launched a three-run walk-off homer to defeat the Riptide, 8-7.


Ajamian, who leads the team with seven home runs, is one of four Pirates players who hit above .400 and display above-average skill defensively. Second baseman Kyle Soberano has great first-step quickness and can throw the ball to first accurately while running in any direction. His .462 batting average leads the team amongst players with at least two at bats per team game played.


Shortstop Frank Garriola has started 22 games and has a fielding percentage of .952. He bats .416 and leads the team with 34 RBIs. Garriola is currently riding a 14 game hitting streak, the longest by any Pirate this season.


Pirates outfielder Cole Kitchen’s .521 batting average leads the squad when dropping the qualifier to 1.5 at bats per team game played. Kitchen plays primarily center and right field and is one of three Pirates outfielders with remarkable speed. His range combined with that of Soberano makes landing base hits to right or center a daunting proposition for opponents.


Curren Larson, who leads the team with four wins, is one of five Pirates available to pitch Friday night. On July 7 he twirled five one-hit shutout innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Larson uses late break to miss barrels and induce weak contact. His ERA is below 1.00 and batters are hitting just .090 against him.


Deandrey Carter leads the team with 27.2 innings pitched, two saves, a 0.65 ERA, and 28 strikeouts. His .082 batting-average-against is the lowest amongst Ventura County pitchers with more than one inning pitched.


Matthew Sox has emerged as a go-to late inning option for the Pirates. The sharp late break on his pitches gives him an advantage in closing situations according to General Manager George Vranau.


The Pirates face the Riptide 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 12 at Great Park Baseball and Softball Complex in Irvine.