College Baseball: Local boys of summer

While former UC Irvine baseball coach John Savage prepares his UCLA team for its College World Series opener today, Anteaters head man Mike Gillespie and his staff are following the development of players who will try to help UCI make a run at Omaha in 2011.

Gillespie said seven of the eight UCI players selected in the Major League draft last week have signed and departed for their minor league assignments, while All-American pitcher Danny Bibona is still negotiating with the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis, which selected Bibona in the 16th round of the 2009 draft, chose the two-time Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year in the eighth round last week (259th overall).

Seniors Francis Larson (Angels), Casey Stevenson (Yankees), Christian Bergman (Rockies) Jeff Cusick (Phillies), Ryan Fisher (Marlins), Eric Pettis (Phillies) and Kyle Necke (Twins) have begun their professional careers.

Gillespie said UCI also lost incoming recruit Travis Garrett, a pitcher from Cypress Community College, who signed with the Blue Jays after being drafted in the 19th round.

Gillespie said recruits Andrew Thurman, Tyler Abbott and Jordan Alexander were also drafted, but are expected to play at UCI rather than sign pro contracts.

"That was a disappointment," Gillespie said of losing Garrett, who was projected to be the Anteaters' closer next season. "He got paid like a ninth-rounder and signed."

Gillespie said Sean Madigan, a redshirt junior outfielder who graduated, has not determined whether he will attend graduate school and play next season.

Those returning to play next season have begun summer assignments, including three Anteaters who are in the prestigious Cape Cod League in Massachusetts.

Matt Summers, who will be a junior next season, is with the Falmouth Commodores as a pitcher and outfielder.

Ronnie Shaeffer, a sophomore catcher-outfielder-designated hitter in 2010, is with the Orleans Firebirds. Gillespie said the plan is for Shaeffer to hone his catching skills and assume the full-time job behind the plate that Larson held the last two seasons.

Jordan Leyland, who had a breakout performance to make the all-regional team at the Los Angeles Regional in which the Anteaters were eliminated on June 6, earned a temporary contract from the Cotuit Ketteleers. Temporary players are given opportunities to fill in the roster spots taken by players competing in the College World Series.

Should Leyland fail to latch on with Cotuit, he would play for the Oregon-based Bend Elks of the West Coast League.

D.J. Crumlich, a starter at shortstop as a sophomore in 2010, is the lone UCI representative in the Alaska Summer League. He is with the Alaska Goldpanners, based in Fairbanks.

Tommy Reyes, an infielder-outfielder who will be a junior next season, is with the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers of the Northwoods League. The team is based in Minnesota.

Also in the Northwoods League is Ruben Orozco, who will be a sophomore left-handed pitcher. He is with the La Crosse (Wis.) Loggers.

Additional Anteaters in the West Coast League include pitchers Evan Brock and Nick Hoover, utility man Jordan Fox, pitchers Kyle Hooper and Matt Whitehouse, infielders Scott Gottschling and Pierce Bily, outfielder Christian Ramirez and catcher Drew Sandler.

Brock and Hoover, expected to fill leading rolls on the pitching staff next season, are both with the Corvallis (Ore.) Knights.

Drew Hillman and Jon Hurst, both of whom emerged to play significant roles down the stretch in 2010, are playing for the Los Angeles-based MLB Urban Youth Academy team in the California Collegiate League.

Pitchers Andrew Bynum and Mitch Merten are playing in Hawaii, Gillespie said.

Brian Hernandez, a first-team All-Big West third baseman as a junior, is not playing in a summer league.

Pitcher Crosby Slaught, who sat out virtually all of 2010 with an arm problem after going 8-0 as a sophomore Sunday starter in 2009, is not pitching competitively as he tries to round back into form.

Pitcher Andy Lines is also sitting out summer competition, Gillespie said.

Vanguard University pitchers Brandon Godfrey, Robert Purpura, Jason Dovel, Corey Kohnke and Lance Abbott are also competing in the California Collegiate League, as is Lions first baseman Billy Hamilton.

Other area players in the same league include Trevor McDonald (Orange Coast College and Estancia High), Patrick Brennan (Corona del Mar High, now at Penn), Cody Shackelford (OCC), Scott Colton (a Newport Coast resident at Stanford), and Sean Williams (a Costa Mesa resident now at UC Santa Barbara).

Locals also vying in the Northwoods League are OCC product Beck Wheeler, now at UCSB, and OCC catcher Brooklyn Foster.

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