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College baseball: Transfers bolster UCI lineup

Hillman, from OCC, and Hurst, from Cypress, will start today against LSU.

June 04, 2010|By Barry Faulkner

Though he had four hits in his first eight at-bats, a three-for-19 stretch later dropped his average to .304 on May 11. Since then, he is 10 for 25 (a .400 clip) with five RBIs, two doubles and a triple.

Entering today's game, the Anteaters' first in the four-team, double-elimination regional, Hurst is hitting .338 in 71 at-bats with 12 RBIs.

Having gone through the same initial struggles before earning a starting spot during his freshman year at Cypress, the former El Modena High star said he knew from experience that he could turn it around.

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"After the fall, I wasn't sure what the future held for me," Hurst said. "The fall was definitely subpar in my eyes.

"I had to grow quickly and understand that I'm not going to be given the same pitches here that I was in the past; and that when I get those pitches, I can't miss them.

"I would say it was just about the same exact experience for me [at Cypress]. I remember thinking [in January] that there is a good chance I could still do this and it was almost like I was looking forward to it, cause it was a challenge."

Gillespie said Hurst's emergence has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the season.

"I think Hurst is a great story," Gillespie said. "He struggled during the fall, but his batting practice and intra-squad stuff just got better. Then, he got in there a couple of times and got a couple of hits. That brought him another chance and he has made the most of it."

Hurst was temporarily derailed by a sprained ankle that limited him to one at-bat over a two-week span in April.

Still, Hurst is not about to take his current good fortune for granted.

"There have been two or three times this year when I've called my dad and told him that I thought I had won a job here," Hurst said. "But things change here so regularly, you can't get too high or too low."

Hillman and Hurst said they will cherish their first Division I postseason experience.

"It should be a lot of fun and there should be a lot of adrenaline going," Hillman said.

Added Hurst, "I've been dreaming about this for a long time. I'm going to get the opportunity to play against LSU in Division I postseason college baseball. It seems a little surreal to me, but, at the same time, I'm nowhere nervous. If anything, I'm anxious to get started."

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