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Shaeffer yet another UCI arm

L.A. Regional Notebook

June 02, 2011|By Barry Faulkner, barry.faulkner@latimes.com

UC Irvine junior catcher Ronnie Shaeffer ranks ninth among Anteaters baseball regulars with a .254 batting average and he enters Friday's NCAA Los Angeles Regional having gone two for 28 in his last nine games with nine strikeouts.

But when the Anteaters (39-16) take the field at 2 p.m. against Fresno State (40-14) in the opening round, Shaeffer, a first-team All-Big West Conference performer, may be one of Coach Mike Gillespie's best weapons.

Shaeffer, a former freshman All-American who was utilized as a designated hitter and outfielder his first two seasons, has blossomed into a defensive force behind the plate.

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He has thrown out 33 of 53 runners attempting to steal this season, a 64% success rate that leads the nation.

Schaeffer, who replaced departed senior Francis Larson, a first-team all-conference catcher last season, is also adept at blocking balls in the dirt and his ability to work with pitchers has helped the Anteaters post a 2.97 staff earned-run average.

"People have said I have quick feet and I have a good transfer [from glove to throwing hand]," said Shaeffer, who has one home run and 25 runs batted in.

"Over the summer, I worked a lot on my arm strength and I think that came into play where the carry on the ball down to second was a lot better. I felt like I was always pretty good, but I got my shot this year to show it a little bit."

Shaeffer is one of four Anteaters to start all 55 regular-season games, an unusual feat for a position as physically taxing as catcher.

"My legs are fresh," Shaeffer said. "I went about halfway through the season and our trainer [Jose Sanchez] told me I should starting getting in the ice bath and that's worked miracles. It's crazy, I never thought of it before. Track people do it all the time after they run. It just relieves any soreness I have."

Shaeffer said he typically stands up to his waist in ice water twice a week, usually after games on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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Fresno State Coach Mike Batesole, who guided Cal State Northridge to the Big West Conference title in 2002, has enlisted former Matadors Coach, Steve Rousey as his pitching coach this season. Batesole said he and Rousey know the Big West very well and Batesole was not shy about singing the conference's praises during Thursday's workout day at UCLA.

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