Armed and Still Dangerous
By Abbey Mastracco
IRVINE, Calif. — UC Irvine’s Cinderella year didn’t end when
they fell to eventual champion Oregon State at the 2007 College
World Series in Omaha, Neb. The Anteaters barely had time to
enjoy their immense accomplishment when their head coach, Dave
Serrano, shocked the Anteaters by accepting the head coaching
position with cross-county rival Cal State Fullerton.
the move is merely water under the bridge now, according to UC
Irvine pitcher Scott Gorgen (pictured left). It’s Serrano’s
loss, as he left behind one of the West Coast’s strongest
programs and top pitching staffs, anchored by Gorgen himself.
Gorgen, along with a crop of young up-and-comers, have managed
to shut down nearly every opponent that has dared to cross the
No. 5-ranked Anteaters’ (19-3) path.
think it’s the best in the nation,” sophomore left-hander Danny
Bibona proudly proclaims.
The evidence is good enough to match Bibona’s statement: The
Anteater staff has amassed a 2.12 ERA over 22 games, currently
No. 1 in the NCAA, right in front of North Carolina (2.34) and
Big West Conference rival Long Beach State (2.47).
think we have four or five quality starters that can start at
any time and match up with anybody in the nation,” said
sophomore closer Eric Pettis. “And then we have some great depth
in the bullpen, some great match-ups, and we can bring in four
or five different guys that can get the job done just as well.”
Gorgen, the All-American hurler that tossed four straight
complete games in the postseason last year to lead the Anteaters
to Omaha, has continued his excellence on the mound in his
junior season. The right-hander from Concord, Calif., in the Bay
Area leads the team almost across the board, with a 5-1 record
and a 1.39 ERA over 45.1 innings.
Just barely 5-foot-10 and 190 lbs. soaking wet, Gorgen doesn’t
exactly have the most intimidating stature on the mound. But
that’s just fine with him, as he would rather let his
performances on the hill and his numbers speak for himself. And
speak they do: Gorgen’s 55 strikeouts ranks No. 4 in the NCAA,
and his 3.97 hits per nine innings is the fifth fewest.
“Scottie is as tough as they come,” said UC Irvine pitching
coach Ted Silva. “He wants the ball as long as he can have it,
whenever he can have it, and you’ve got to rip it out of his
Known for going long outings, Gorgen has hurled one complete
game this season, totaling seven in his career. In half of
Gorgen’s outings he has gone eight or more innings, never going
less than six. Gorgen’s best performance came in his second
start, in which he held San Francisco to just one hit and one
walk in his first complete game of 2008. Gorgen blanked a
career-high 12 Dons and faced just two over the minimum in the
Anteaters’ 4-0 win.
“In a way that kind of shows what I’m going to try to do every
week,” Gorgen said. “I get in the zone, I think the adrenaline
is pumping and the excitement is there. If I can keep my pitch
count low with guys grounding out or flying out with the defense
behind me it makes it pretty easy on my part.”
“We’ve been monitoring his pitch count, but at the same time he
throws a lot of strikes which allows him to get deep into the
game,” Silva said. “And he’s conditioned right now to go deep
into the game.”
Since Silva has come aboard, leaving Fresno State and CS
Fullerton, he has implemented and emphasized different elements
into each pitcher’s game. For Gorgen, it was the breaking ball,
which was “a big pitch for him” Silva said.
“I’ve been a fast-change guy, and with Silva coming in he
emphasized the curve ball,” Gorgen said. “It’s been a really
solid third pitch for me.”
With some of the younger pitchers, it wasn’t as much about
adding new pitches as it was perfecting their mechanics on the
ones they already throw, while strongly emphasizing fastball
think the most important aspect when it comes to throwing a
certain pitch is their fastball command,” Silva said. “I’m
emphasizing fastball command, with whatever second or third
pitch they have.”
Fastball command was especially important in the development of
Pettis and Bibona. The two sophomores were both spot-starters in
2007, and because of injuries, were forced to step up into
larger roles sooner than expected this season. Pettis, who was
able to get big-game experience by cutting his teeth pitching in
Omaha, became the Anteaters’ closer, and Bibona earned the role
of Saturday starter.
The two have thrived in their new roles, with Pettis wracking up
the saves and Bibona holding his ERA solidly below 3.00. Immense
confidence in the bullpen allows for an extremely trusting
staff, that above all, have faith who ever relieves them.
just think we mesh together really well,” Pettis said. “We don’t
have any problem handing off to the next guy in an Anteater
uniform. We have just as much confidence in Scottie as we do the
next person that goes.”
Don’t expect anything less than near-perfection from this staff
as Big West play opens; the high level of competition in the
baseball-heavy conference only drives their competitive edge,
the players say.
“It doesn’t matter what team you roll out, you’re going to get
the same thing out of our staff,” Gorgen said.
Serrano need not worry about his old team, which he faces
tonight at Anteater Ballpark in Irvine. The team feels that with
Gorgen reigning supreme over virtually all opponents and
Irvine’s young guns dominant in their roles it paves the way for
an equally-potent offense. They feel the pieces are in place to
possibly duplicate their success last season they had with
The Anteaters have a message for their former coach: They’re
just fine without him.