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Sports Newsmaker Of The Year:

Serrano Shocks

UC Irvine baseball coach was behind the feel-good story of the year, leading ’Eaters to CWS, but then left for Cal State Fullerton.

December 30, 2007|By Barry Faulkner

What followed was a week of drama that included an opening loss to Arizona State, followed by a 13-inning win over Cal State Fullerton in the longest game in CWS history, and another extra-inning triumph over Arizona State. The ’Eaters fell to eventual champion Oregon State to tie for third.

Serrano, at the time rumored to be among the projected candidates to coach at Tennessee, thanked his players afterward, dismissed the Tennessee rumors, and vowed that the experience would only make the returners better-suited to achieve future success in Omaha.

He was later named National Coach of the Year by Baseball America for guiding the Anteaters to a 47-17-1 record.

Serrano’s departure to Fullerton, was greeted with more than disappointment. Contributors to UCI athletics message boards, as well as some within the athletic department, questioned the timing of the move, particularly in light of Serrano’s aforementioned statement that he had no interest in the job.

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Serrano, stung by the criticism, issued a statement of apology to the Daily Pilot.

The statement read:

“I absolutely do regret and apologize for misleading anyone associated with UCI, first and foremost my players. I stand completely behind my reason to leave for this great opportunity at Cal State Fullerton. Yet I did use bad judgment with my words, when I thought I was doing the right thing, considering the circumstances.”

Serrano said his denial of interest was issued at the time to try to help ensure that longtime assistant Rick Vanderhook would be offered the job to succeed Horton.

Serrano later said that Cal State Fullerton Athletic Director Brian Quinn told him in Omaha that if Horton ever left, Serrano would be the man Quinn would come after to run the program.

UCI went on to hire former USC Coach Mike Gillespie to lead the Anteaters into 2008 and the players have almost universally chosen not to comment on Serrano’s departure.

All-American pitcher Scott Gorgen did comment on Serrano’s departure, expressing disappointment about the way it happened, but also praising his former coach for his leadership and the positive impact Serrano had on him both on and off the field.


BARRY FAULKNER may be reached at (714) 966-4615 or at barry.faulkner@latimes.com.

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