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Colleges column: Giving a final tip of the cap

June 10, 2010|By Barry Faulkner

Who better than Francis Larson to wax philosophical about the 2010 UC Irvine baseball season?

UCI Coach Mike Gillespie says the senior catcher is the only player he has ever had who can tell you the difference between Socrates and Plato.

"This is how baseball works," said Larson, a philosophy major who blasted three home runs and drove in eight runs in four games at the NCAA Los Angeles Regional that ended Sunday with a 6-2 loss to UCLA. "Sometimes you lose; sometimes you win. But it has been a lot of fun. It has been a fun group of guys to be with. I had fun the whole time and I'm glad to have been a part of it."

The "it" of which UCI's career home-run leader (25) spoke was not only his swan-song campaign that produced a 39-21 record. His statement included the four-year run for the nine seniors, most of whom were part of an unprecedented run of success that included a trip to the 2007 College World Series.

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These seniors, seven of whom were wide-eyed freshmen in uniform in Omaha, have been to four regionals, two super regionals and the aforementioned World Series, where they also made history and spawned the birth of 'Eater Nation.

Pitchers Danny Bibona and Eric Pettis have earned All-American honors, while pitcher Christian Bergman was a preseason All-American and Sean Madigan, a redshirt junior who may return next season, was a freshman All-American.

Bibona, picked in the eighth round by the St. Louis Cardinals in the MLB draft, has been the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year the last two seasons, while Pettis (picked in the 35th round by the Phillies), Larson (22nd, Los Angeles Angels) and Bergman (24th, Colorado Rockies) have all garnered first-team all-conference laurels.

Jeff Cusick, a second-team all conference pick, led the team in almost every offensive category, including hitting (.379) home runs (eight, tied with Larson) doubles (21 giving him a school-career-record 52), and runs batted in (62 second-most in school history). His senior season was a testament to his talent, work ethic and mentality. He was picked in the 18th round by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Seniors Kyle Necke (who sat out 2007 with an arm injury) and Dillon Bell have also made big contributions, while senior Casey Stevenson (25th, New York Yankees), who played his final three collegiate seasons at UCI, was a three-year starter and a postseason force his entire career. Necke was picked in the 34th round by the Minnesota Twins.

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