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Gillespie Graceful in Defeat

Times Staff Writer

Mike Gillespie refused to take the easy way out.

Presented with a simple excuse after his College of the Canyons baseball team was blown out of the state junior college championship Wednesday, Gillespie had the honest answer.

“The fact of the matter is, Cerritos is the better team--with no argument,” he said after the Cougars took a 14-3 drubbing at Cal State Fullerton.

Cerritos Coach George Horton was the one who gave Gillespie the easy alibi.

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Horton said, as the game wore on, that he felt that Sunday’s rainout and the ensuing three-day delay actually was a disadvantage for Canyons, because it took away the momentum the Cougars had built up winning three games in the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

“We were fired up to play Sunday,” Gillespie admitted, “but despite what happened, the rest had to be good for our pitching.

“We were going to have to play perfect to win. We were outstanding against them last Friday (in a 5-4 defeat). This time they took the wind out of our sails in a hurry. They scored five runs in the first inning and just flattened us.”

The theory that pitcher Frank Halcovich would benefit from three extra days of rest blew up for the Cougars in the first inning. Halcovich, who pitched 7 strong innings Friday against Cerritos, hit two batters and walked one to set the table for the Falcons this time.

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If he could wipe away the score, Gillespie isn’t terribly unhappy with second place. It will go nicely with the two titles and other runner-up trophy that the Cougars have in their trophy case from five straight state tournament appearances.

The sour taste in his mouth should go away soon, too. “I just wish we could have played better,” Gillespie said. “But any year we can play in the final game is a good year. We were just happy to beat Long Beach in the regional and get to the state tournament.

“Over the course of the year, we played the best teams in the state and played them tough.”

Gillespie and assistant coach Len Mohney already are deeply involved in the toughest part of staying competitive on the JC level--recruiting.

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The Cougars have some shoes to fill, but not that many. “We have a good nucleus, more than we had with this team,” Gillespie said. “Frank Halcovich, our best player, will be back, along with shortstop Don Erickson. Mike Neighbors will return at first, and both catchers are back. We think some of our backups will develop into good players.

“Everybody, on every level, is on the hunt for pitching,” he said. “By the time the pros and the universities are through picking, it’s a scramble to get your share of what’s left. One thing we’re going to do is see if Chris Cota (who hit a pinch homer Wednesday) can pitch. He has an absolute major-league arm.

“We just lost, but I’m already excited about starting over.”


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