UCI baseball adds seven recruits

Seven high school players have signed national letters of intent to play baseball at UC Irvine, though one was hardly a recruiting coup.

Cole Kreuter, the grandson of UCI Coach Mike Gillespie, is among three infielders set to join the program. The class is rounded out by two pitchers, one outfielder and one catcher.

"This is one of the best recruiting classes we've had in the seven years we've been here," said Gillespie, whose Anteaters are coming off a 33-22 campaign in which they tied for fourth in the Big West Conference and failed to make the 64-team NCAA Tournament field for the second straight season. "We have addressed our primary need for quality, ready-to-perform pitching, and versatile position players who have demonstrated the ability to play anywhere on the field. There is a blend of power and speed among this group, and we have every reason to believe that this group will form the nucleus of outstanding UCI baseball for the next three and four years."

The recruiting class was delivered after Pat Shine, the former associate head coach and recruiting coordinator, was fired following last season. Former UCI All-American shortstop Ben Orloff was hired to replace Shine and join full-time assistant Bob Macaluso and volunteer assistant and pitching coach Danny Bibona, another former UCI All-American.

UCI made the NCAA field six straight seasons from 2006-2011, including a College World Series appearance in 2007 and runs to the Super Regional in 2008 and 2011.

Kreuter, the son of former major league catcher and USC head coach Chad Kreuter, who is married to Gillespie's daughter, will be a senior shortstop at Westminster Christian High in Miami, Fla. It is the same school that produced Alex Rodriguez. Kreuter, who has also played second base, can play third.

"Cole has demonstrated uncommon instincts and I.Q. for the game and will no doubt, adapt well to the UCI style of play, which requires completeness in all facets of play," Gillespie said.

Shaun Vetrovec, a senior at Newport Harbor High, is a 6-foot-2 right-hander, who was a first-team All-Sunset League and All-Newport-Mesa Dream Team performer as a junior. The Sailors ace the previous two seasons, the two-time Dream Team honoree was 5-4 with a 2.20 earned-run average in 2013. He struck out 38 in 47 2/3 innings and he earned all three of his team's wins in league play.

Vetrovec also hit .317 with two home runs, 18 runs batted in and seven doubles.

"He figures prominently into a weekend starting role as a freshman," Gillespie said. "Additionally, he has been an outstanding hitter at Newport Harbor High, and conceivably will fit into the offensive lineup at UCI, as well. Without a doubt, he has an exciting professional future, and his great academic success has him leaning to the field of engineering."

Vetrovec is said to have shown command of three pitches, including a power fastball, an advanced curveball.

The UCI coaching staff terms Cameron Bishop, a 6-4 left-hander from Brea Olinda High, an immediate weekend starter on the mound, as well as a middle-of-the-order bat.

"Cameron has demonstrated power, and throws strikes with a power arm," Gillespie said. "He is a great student committed to academic excellence and his future in baseball is unlimited."

Bishop hit .424 with a .490 on-base percentage and a .670 slugging percentage as a junior in 2013. He hit two home runs, three triples and nine doubles and drove in 27 runs. He has not pitched his last two seasons on the Wildcats' varsity team.

Parker Coss is a 5-11 infielder at Capistrano Valley Christian High, who has put up strong numbers in three varsity seasons. He has batted .391 (with 115 hits in 294 at-bats), with six home runs, 109 RBIs, eight triples and 29 doubles. He has also stolen 31 bases in 36 attempts. A shortstop for the Eagles, he can play anywhere in the infield, Gillespie believes.

He has also had limited pitching duty as a prep. He was 3-1 as a junior with a 2.39 ERA and one save in 14 2/3 innings covering seven appearances.

Keston Hiura, primarily an infielder who has played seven positions at Valencia High of Valencia, has hit .339 in two varsity seasons for the Vikings (56 for 165). He has 25 RBIs, one homer, 10 doubles and three triples.

"Keston has been very impressive with the bat, has shown gap power, and is a potential base stealer," Gillespie said. "And he is an elite student."

Jake Hazard is a 6-2 outfielder at Beckman High who has displayed size, strength and above-average running ability, Gillespie said.

"Jake is an aggressive hitter with power potential," Gillespie said. "His ability to run profiles him to be able to run balls down in spacious center field [at Anteater Ballpark]."

Brody Kato is a 5-11 catcher at Palm Desert High, where he also pitches. He has batted .316 as a junior with 21 RBIs and in two varsity seasons, he has 34 RBIs, five home runs and has stolen 11 bases in 14 attempts.

On the mound, Kato, used primarily in relief, is a combined 5-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 35 2/3 innings over the last two seasons. He has struck out 35 and walked 14.

"Brody has been recognized as an outstanding defender, but his success on the mound has been such that we believe he will be able to contribute there, as well as behind the plate," Gillespie said. "Offensively, he has shown consistent line-drive skills, but with increasing power each year."

— From staff reports; Barry Faulkner contributed to this report

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