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Summers pitching in

College Baseball

UC Irvine's former outfielder has embraced his role in center of diamond and produced.

May 26, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com
(Courtesy of UC Irvine )

UC Irvine junior Matt Summers always wanted to be the center of attention on the baseball field. He just always figured he could do so without operating in the middle of the diamond.

But after reluctantly giving up his center-field dreams this season, he has become the Anteaters' ace starting pitcher, an All-American candidate, and the likely Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound right-hander is 9-2 with a 1.90 earned-run average entering his final regular-season start, Friday at 6:30 p.m. against Long Beach State in the first of a three-game series at Anteater Ballpark. Opponents are hitting a paltry .192 against him and he has won seven straight decisions, all against Big West foes. His last loss was March 25 at Gonzaga, when he gave up two earned runs in seven innings and his only no-decision since came after he allowed two runs and three hits in eight innings at Cal State Bakersfield on April 29. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 14 starts and he has allowed two or fewer earned runs 13 times. Only twice has he failed to complete six innings and his two-hit shutout at UC Riverside on Friday was the Anteaters' only complete game of the season. Not bad for someone who had never thrown more than six innings in his life before this season.

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"I didn't want to pitch," said Summers, whose ERA is 1.34 in his last 47 innings and whose fastball has registered 94 mph this season. "In high school, we would get questionnaires from [professional] scouts and I would always list my position as outfielder/pitcher. I always made sure outfielder was first."

Summers estimated he pitched between 30 and 35 innings during a high school career that included two schools in Scottsdale, Ariz. But having thrown 94 mph even then, he was drafted out of high school in the 43rd round by the New York Yankees as a pitcher.

"I wanted $500,000 to sign as a pitcher out of high school," Summers said. "But if they took me as an outfielder, I told them I'd go for $100,000. I suggested they let me try outfield for three years, then if that didn't work out, I could still throw 94 mph and I would become a pitcher."

Summers was recruited as a two-way player, originally committing to Arizona State, then changing his mind and landing at UCI, which is 38-14, 15-6 in conference and ranked No. 24 by Baseball America.

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