UCI ace tops draftees

UC Irvine junior All-American pitcher Matt Summers has said he would make a motivational target of the first pitcher selected in the major league draft in which he went in the fourth round Tuesday to the Minnesota Twins.

The Anteaters' right-hander, who seized Big West Pitcher of the Year honors by going 8-0 in his eight conference starts, has a few more rivals to try to outperform professionally after being the 78th pitcher selected, the 148th overall pick.

What's more, Summers saw four Big West pitchers chosen ahead of him, a fact that rankled UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, who has marveled at the development of Summers from inconsistent reliever (an 8.36 ERA in 37 2/3 innings coming into this season) to one of the most dominant starters in the nation.

"The fourth round is a good round and he jumped a lot to get to the fourth round," said Gillespie, who has termed Summers' improvement a quantum leap. "I was hoping, if not really expecting that we might see him go a little earlier.

"I'm a little surprised that there are some guys in the conference that went ahead of him that, quite frankly, I would have thought he demonstrated he was the better prospect."

Summers, named second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, is 11-2 with a 1.72 earned-run average this season heading into his start Saturday in the 10 a.m. opener of a super regional at Virginia, the No. 1 national seed. Summers, who was drafted in the 43rd round out of high school in Arizona by the New York Yankees, has won his last nine decisions and his last five starts. He has allowed one earned run and seven hits in his last three starts, spanning 24 innings and including a no-hitter in his final regular-season appearance against Long Beach State.

He has won five straight starts and will match up on Saturday against UVA junior All-American left-hander Danny Hultzen (11-3 with a 1.57 ERA), who was drafted No. 2 overall Monday by the Seattle Mariners, behind UCLA junior Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh Pirates).

Summers was taken after Big West mound rivals Andrew Gagnon, a Long Beach State junior who went in the third round (No. 100 overall) to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Matt Andriese out of UC Riverside (third round, No. 112 overall to the San Diego Padres), and Cal State Fullerton starters Tyler Pill (fourth round, No. 132 overall to the New York Mets) and Noe Ramirez (fourth round, No. 142 overall to the Boston Red Sox) were all chosen before Summers.

Summers, who has fanned 96 in 109 2/3 innings, while allowing just 69 hits and walking 21, outdueled Gagnon and Andriese in head-to-head meetings this season. He did not face Pill or Ramirez. Opponents are batting .180 against Summers.

"The truth is [Summers] was a 43rd-round pick out of high school and he's a fourth-rounder [Tuesday]," Gillespie said. "He's going to get a nice piece of change for it and, hopefully, make a lot more [money] as time goes on. He could be a great pro and he is going to have a great future."

Summers highlights four current area players drafted Tuesday, with two additional UCI recruits also chosen in the annual June first-year player draft.

Drew Hillman, a senior left-fielder for UCI who twice earned All-Big West honors after two All-American seasons as a third baseman at Orange Coast College, was taken in the 18th round (No. 571 overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies.

OCC freshman pitcher Chad Thompson (No. 821overall) and UCI senior third baseman and closer Brian Hernandez (No. 825) were taken in the 27th round by the Brewers and the Angels, respectively.

UCI signees John Alexander (Glendora High) and Taylor Sparks (St. John Bosco High) were chosen in the eighth and 24th rounds, respectively.

Hillman, who was a 38th round pick by Tampa Bay after helping lead OCC to the 2009 state championship, is hitting .336 and leads the Anteaters (42-16) with five home runs and 50 runs batted in. He was an all-regional performer as a UCI junior and hit a home run to help UCI win the Los Angeles Regional this season.

Thompson, a 6-foot-8 right-hander whose career was interrupted by Tommy John surgery in May of 2009, was 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 42 2/3 innings for the Pirates in 2011. He allowed 31 hits, struck out 35 and walked 20.

In three varsity seasons at El Toro High before blowing out his elbow, Thompson was 18-3 with a 1.19 ERA and he struck out 175 in 129 innings, while allowing only 87 hits. He was the CIF Southern Section Division II Player of the Year as a junior in 2008, when El Toro won the section crown.

Despite his injury, he was chosen in the 17th round (No. 525 overall) in the 2009 June draft.

Hernandez, the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year who was named first-team all-conference as a third baseman and a pitcher, was chosen as a third baseman by the Angels. He leads UCI with a .351 average and 85 hits and has 31 RBIs. He has 12 saves and is also 3-2 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings.

Hernandez was chosen in the 39th round (No. 1,175 overall) by the Cleveland Indians after the 2009 season in which he redshirted at UCI. He played at Cal State Los Angeles as a freshman and College of the Canyons as a sophomore.

Hernandez was not selected in the 2010 draft after notifying teams that he would prefer to return to UCI.

Alexander, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior first baseman, hit .386 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs for Glendora this season. He was the 270th overall selection.

Sparks, a 6-4, 200-pound infielder, was the 728th player selected.

The draft concludes today with rounds 31 through 50.

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