Mike Gillespie, 71 years young, has as a mind as nimble as a leaping Ozzie Smith double-play turn at second base. It is, the UC Irvine baseball coach admits, as much a curse as a blessing.
The former comes into play when attempting to scrub a particularly heart-wrenching defeat from his memory. And one such setback — a two-run rally by host Virginia with two outs and none on in the ninth inning of the deciding game of the Super Regional on June 13 that sent the winner to the College World Series — is a mental and emotional scab that still oozes agony.
"I can't speak for anybody else, but I will never get over it. Ever, ever, ever," Gillespie said of the 3-2 loss to the Cavaliers, then the top national seed, which also eliminated the Anteaters in the 2009 Irvine Regional at Anteater Ballpark.
"In 1974 my [College of the Canyons] team was ahead, 15-2, in a game that put the winner in the state championship game. We lost, 21-15, to San Diego City after they had given up on the game and put all their subs in. There was a guy, whose name I will never forget, named Detroit Bugg, who did not even start the game for them. He came in and hit three three-run home runs. So, between 1974 and today, there have been about a half-dozen games, including that LSU deal [leading, 7-4, going into the ninth inning of Game 2 of a 2008 Super Regional in which a victory would have meant a trip to the College World Series, only to see the host Tigers rally to win, then pound the 'Eaters in Game 3 to advance to Omaha] that you just can't forget.