Vaqueros armed with awards

Cory Popham and KJ Edson came to the Glendale Community College baseball team in hopes of eventually working their way to the NCAA Division I level.

Both pitchers didn't take straight routes to GCC, though. Popham transferred from Occidental College and Edson was originally committed to play for the University of La Verne before switching to GCC about two weeks before the school year.

Popham and Edson realized their Division-I dreams, as Popham signed his national letter of intent to play for the University of Pacific next year and Edson did the same for the University of San Francisco.

While both right-handed pitchers only had a year with the Vaqueros, they left an impression by guiding Glendale to the championship round of the California Community College Assn. Super Regional tournament at Orange Coast College.

"I came to Glendale and my goal was to play on a winning team for a good coach," Popham said. "I wasn't sure how it was going to work out or how good it was going to be, but it was everything I could ask for. It was great and I am kind of bummed I was only there for a year."

Popham and Edson have been hauling in awards as a result of their success and the rest of the Vaqueros, who finished with a 30-12 record. Edson took home the highest honor when he was named an All-American by the CCCAA, which named Popham All-Southern California.

"I was completely shocked [when I heard]," said Edson, GCC's submarine-pitching closer. "I knew I had a great season, but I really didn't care about my stats, I was just happy with how the team performed and concerned with how the team did this year."

Edson, who was named to the Western State Conference's first team, recorded seven saves and posted a 4-2 win-loss record, 1.18 earned-run average and 33 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings pitched.

"The kid was lights out," Glendale college Coach Chris Cicuto said of Edson. "KJ was a stopper in the league and the best relief pitcher in the league."

Popham, who was named the conference's pitcher of the year, went 7-3 with a 3.28 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 13 games and 12 starts as Glendale's ace.

Cicuto credited the success Popham, who has always been a breaking-ball pitcher, found in his sophomore season to him developing and commanding his fastball.

"He didn't realize how good his fastball was, and he started using his fastball more," Cicuto said. "He realized he had to rely on his fastball and when he started using and locating it, it made his breaking ball that much better. His breaking ball was always going to be there and he could use that in tight counts to keep batters guessing."

Popham said it took him a few starts to get acclimated to being the squad's ace.

"I over thought how great I had to be," Popham said. "I had such a great team behind me that it became easy to throw and put my team in a position to win every seven days. I focused more on having fun out there instead of coming out feeling like I had to dominate to win."

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