UC Irvine Baseball Hurt and Helped by Draft
OK, add UC Irvine’s Mike Gerakos to the list of college baseball coaches whose rosters have been prematurely depleted by the major league baseball draft. Brady Anderson and Adam Ging were two of Gerakos’ leading hitters last year. Both were juniors, both were drafted, and both have forgone their last year of college eligibility for professional contracts.
So get ready for an angry dissertation from Gerakos on how unfair it is that baseball is the only college sport competing with the professional ranks for players, right?
Wrong. Gerakos’ reaction to losing two of his top players is a little off the left-field wall. Gerakos prefers to consider this a compliment, a sign from professional baseball that UC Irvine produces quality baseball players.
“To Irvine,” he said, “that was an important step forward. We’d like to have Brady and Adam back, but if the time is right for them to move on, we encourage them to take that next step.”
Anderson, who hit .359 with 8 home runs and 49 RBIs for the Anteaters last season, was a 10th-round draft choice of the Boston Red Sox. Ging played shortstop, hit .355 and drove in 39 runs. He signed with the San Diego Padres after being drafted in the 24th round. The departures, combined with the loss of eight seniors, leaves Gerakos with a number of voids to fill.
The Anteaters finished 24-31-1 in 1985, 11-16 in Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. For those marks to be improved upon, Gerakos will need better pitching and some swift contributions from new players in key positions.
“After losing eight seniors and two juniors who signed, we’re going to have a lot of new people playing,” Gerakos said. “Those people will have to make an immediate impact for us to be successful.”
The success of the pitching staff may depend on how well Bo Kent and Doug Linton handle their role reversals. Kent, the Anteaters’ top reliever last season with 5 saves and 45 strikeouts in 66 innings, will be the starter when UCI opens the season at 2:30 today against Cal State Los Angeles at Anteater Field. Linton, a starter in 16 games as a sophomore last season, will become Gerakos’ short-relief specialist.
“Bo should be ready to blossom this year,” Gerakos said. “We expect to get a lot of quality innings out of him.
“Doug’s gonna have to be the one we go to in late innings to close out the ballgame.”
Sophomores Craig Brink and Rob Johnson and junior Gabby Rodriguez will make up the rest of the rotation.
Brink was 6-3 as a sophomore and led the Anteaters with three complete games. Johnson, a product of Santa Ana High School, was 3-4 last season after winning his first two outings. Rodriguez is a junior left-hander who began his college career at Nevada Las Vegas. Gerakos hopes this staff will be able to reduce the 6.76 ERA his pitchers compiled last season.
“We hit .327 as a team last year,” Gerakos said. “The problem was, our opposition hit about .340 (it was .335). We had to make some adjustments and we’ve worked hard to improve in that area.”
Gene Roumimper and Mark Webster, both junior college transfers, may determine how much support the pitching staff gets. Roumimper will play first base and hit fourth. He hit .385 at Orange Coast College last season and hit a school-record 14 home runs. Webster will lead off and play center field. He stole 50 bases in 53 attempts in his two seasons at Saddleback College.
Second baseman Ed Clark, who Gerakos calls his team’s “spark plug,” will hit behind Webster. Last season as a junior, Clark made only four errors in 145 chances and stole 10 bases. Other returners include right fielder Tom Baine, who led the Anteaters in hitting with a .376 average last season, third baseman Mike Sugar (.281, 22 RBIs in 1985) and sophomore utility man Mike Fay (.338, 10 RBIs).
Fay will be the Anteaters’ designated hitter in today’s opener and will split time in left field with senior transfer Devan Shockley. Sophomores Don Nicholson and Doug Kline will alternate at catcher. Chris Gallego, a freshman from Rowland High School, will replace Ging at shortstop. Senior Mike Byrne will see action in a utility role, and Stacy Parker, a freshman from Foothill High School, figures to see a lot of playing time.
Some of that time will come under the lights. Night baseball is coming to UCI with the anticipated addition of lights to Anteater Field. If the project is completed on schedule, the Anteaters will play their first night home game March 21 against Oral Roberts. Let there be light?
“If we don’t have the power yet, I think we’ll talk to Oral and see if he can make some good things happen,” Gerakos said.