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Colleges:

UCI future boosts

June 13, 2009|By Barry Faulkner

In the recesses of their office facility in Newkirk Pavilion, the UC Irvine baseball coaches were quietly high-fiving one another Thursday, when the last of the three-day Major League draft had concluded without ravaging the Anteaters’ projected 2010 depth chart.

For while the reigning Big West Conference champions will face large holes left by the matriculation to the professional ranks of Big West Player of the Year Ben Orloff and Big West Pitcher of the Year Danny Bibona, there is a chance that the rest of the personnel cupboard that, a week ago looked to be significantly raided, will be wearing Eaters across their chest next season.

Seldom-used junior pitcher Cory Hamilton, drafted in the 23rd round by the Seattle Mariners, figures to join Orloff and Bibona among those signing pro contracts.

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But, UCI Coach Mike Gillespie believes that barring unusual and unforeseen events, the three incoming freshmen pitchers and infielders Casey Stevenson and Brian Hernandez, all of whom were drafted, will likely forego modest contract offers to help UCI make another run at reaching the College World Series.

In addition, talented, largely proven, even decorated veterans such as Francis Larson, Christian Bergman, Eric Pettis, Jeff Cusick, Cory Olson, Ryan Fisher, Kyle Necke and Dillon Bell, will be among those vying for places on Gillespie’s lineup card.

“I’m excited about it,” said Gillespie, who was empathetic toward those expected to be drafted who were not, or those chosen who had hoped to go higher. “As coaches, we think it’s an amazing thing that there is the genuine possibility that we could have all these guys back. It’s really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it. I wish we could start [practicing right now].”

 The giddy feeling could still change, however. And those unwilling to concede as much need only a two-word reminder: Bryce Stowell.

Stowell was a 22nd-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians after his redshirt junior season in 2008. But, after impressing scouts with a dominant performance in the Cape Cod League last summer, Stowell was offered a reported $725,000 bonus (comparable to bonuses earned by those drafted in the first three rounds). And, it was suddenly bye-bye college baseball.

Similar summer success and even the potential of free-agent contract offers could threaten the return of those not currently headed elsewhere.

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