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Is Surico Down to His Last Out? : Baseball draft: Loyola Marymount pitcher, who has signed with the Texas Rangers, wasn’t sure if he would get another chance to continue playing.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Steve Surico always knew he’d get a second chance to play professional baseball after passing up a contract offer from the Toronto Blue Jays, but he wasn’t sure about a third opportunity.

Surico started the 1990 season as Loyola Marymount’s left-handed ace. But after his senior season spiraled into a confusing cycle of wildness and long innings, Surico wasn’t sure he had a future in baseball.

The doubt ended Thursday when Surico signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. He was selected in the 51st round of baseball’s amateur draft Wednesday.

This was the third time Surico has been drafted.

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The first time followed Surico’s senior season at Tustin High School in 1986. Surico struck out 159 batters and went 10-2 with a 0.58 earned-run average.

The numbers were good enough that Surico was projected as a low first-round or high second-round draft choice. Surico had already decided to go to college, but Toronto selected him in the 20th round, gambling that he might change his mind.

At Loyola, Surico never fulfilled his potential.

In 1988, he went 12-2 and led the Lions to the NCAA regionals, but had an ERA of 5.55. He was 7-5 the next season and was drafted in the 37th round by the Seattle Mariners.

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Surico was counting on having a big senior season, but it didn’t happen.

He struggled with his control, walking 77 batters in 70 innings. Surico’s final start symbolized his frustration: He lasted only an inning in Loyola’s 11-9 season-ending loss to Arizona State in the NCAA West II Regionals. He walked four and gave up three runs.

He finished with a 3-4 record and a 6.94 ERA.

“I know I developed a mechanical flaw,” Surico said. “All season long, I tried to change things around, and that was the cause of the wildness. My delivery wasn’t as smooth as it used to be.”

Surico passed up a signing bonus from Toronto in the six-figure range in 1986--a contract similar to the one signed earlier this week by El Segundo prep Tate Seefried.

On Thursday, Surico signed for $1,000--but he’ll have the opportunity to continue doing what he loves.

He’ll report Friday to Butte, Mont., a short-season Class-A team in the Pioneer League. The Copper Kings will play their first game Saturday.

“If you look at it as purely a baseball decision, then you could say I made the wrong choice (coming out of high school),” Surico said. “But I had a lot of fun at Loyola and I got my education. So, all things considered, I think I made the right decision.”

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Three other Loyola Marymount players will be negotiating contracts within the next few days.

Catcher Miah Bradbury, who led the Lions in home runs (16) and runs batted in (66), was drafted in the fifth round Monday by the Miami Marlins, a Class-A independent team.

Bradbury, the West Coast Conference’s most valuable player, batted .351 and made only one error. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies twice before, after high school in 1986 and in the sixth round in 1989.

Tony Kounas, a catcher-outfielder, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 21st round. Kounas, a transfer from Oklahoma State, hit .359 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in his only season at Loyola.

Right-hander Darryl Scott, who struck out a conference-high 90 batters, was not selected, but he expects to sign a free-agent contract with the Angels Tuesday.

Scott, who was 12-4 with a team-best 3.86 ERA, would report to the Angels’ mini-camp in Mesa, Ariz., for assignment.

Cal State Dominguez Hills had one player taken in the draft--right handed-hitting catcher Mike Gabbani.

Gabbani was selected in the 18th round by the Chicago Cubs. The strong-armed catcher threw out 51% of the runners attempting to steal against him this season.

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Gabbani hit .285 with 39 RBI and led the Toros with six homers. He was named an All-California Collegiate Athletic Assn. selection.

Harbor College, which won the California community college championship with a 51-5 record, had five players drafted. Seven other Harbor players will be going on to Division I colleges.

Left-handed relief ace John Ingram, who throws over 90 m.p.h., was drafted in the fourth round by Philadelphia.

He went 8-0 with five saves and struck out 80 batters in 67 innings. Ingram, a graduate of Leuzinger High, has signed a letter of intent to pitch at Cal State Fullerton, but is negotiating a contract this weekend.

Marvin Benard, a speedy left-handed hitter, was selected by the Phillies in the 20th round. A good defensive outfielder, Benard hit .322 with six homers and 50 RBI. He will decide this weekend whether to sign with the Phillies or attend Lewis and Clark College on a scholarship.

Three Harbor freshmen were selected in the late rounds.

Right-hander Carey Lundstrom (34 strikeouts in 36 innings) and former San Pedro outfielder Joey Miller (18 stolen bases in 20 attempts) were drafted by the Houston Astros. Catcher Robert Lewis (.305, 24 RBI), a product of Rolling Hills, was picked by the Mariners in the 59th round.

El Camino College right-hander Greg Davis was selected by the Dodgers in the 13th round. Davis was an All-South Coast Conference selection as a sophomore and signed a contract Wednesday.

Davis, a prep standout at North Torrance, made The Times’ South Bay all-star team as a senior in 1988. He was named Bay League’s most valuable player and was drafted by the Blue Jays after that season.

Three South Bay high school standouts were selected this week, headed by the power-hitting Seefried, who set El Segundo season records with 13 homers and 50 RBI.

Seefried was highest draft pick of all area players, going in the third round to the New York Yankees. He signed Tuesday and will report to Tampa (Class A) of the Gulf Coast League by June 20.

Seefried’s personal nemesis--St. Bernard slugger Jeff Richardson--was drafted by the Phillies. Richardson will either sign a contract this weekend or attend Dominguez Hills on a scholarship.

Two of Richardson’s seven homers this year came against Seefried. Richardson hit .468 with 38 RBI. He also stole 23 bases. Although he played third base for St. Bernard, he will probably play outfield in college or the pros.

San Pedro catcher Dale Johnson, who was named to The Times’ South Bay all-star team after hitting .432 in 1989, was selected in the 55th round by the Mariners.

Johnson hit .300 this season, with 14 of his 24 hits going for extra bases. He said he will probably pass up a pro contract to attend Harbor College.


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