Just one offseason removed from a blissful run to the quarterfinals of the College World Series, and already UC Irvine’s baseball team hardly resembles the team that brought its fans so much joy a year ago.
Never again will the loudspeaker announce the names of Cody Cipriano, Matt Morris, Taylor Holiday, Brian Peterson, Tyler Vaughn, Wes Etheridge, Dylan Axelrod or Blair Erickson.
Nor will this year’s team be led by the highly regarded Dave Serrano, who opted to fill the vacant coaching position at Cal State Fullerton along with his assistants.
The 2008 Anteaters won’t look like the memorable 2007 squad. At the end of the year, however, the results just might.
In fact, they might be better.
While the roster isn’t filled with a multitude of seniors, there is no doubt that every UCI lineup card will feature an extraordinary amount of potential.
And in this case, potential is no euphemism for unrealistic expectations.
Most preseason rankings have the Anteaters projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big West; this of course is in part due to the Big West being one of the best baseball conferences in the country. However, no one projected UCI to finish nearly as well as they did in the regular season last year, and absolutely nobody foresaw their postseason success that was to follow.
It is really no surprise to see the likes of Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach as favorites to top the conference; not merely because UCI is a perennial underdog, but because on paper, the Anteaters are a young group of unproven players.
But dig a little deeper and it’s quite conceivable to foresee the Anteaters becoming a force to be reckoned with in a short period of time.
One obvious reason for concern is how UCI intends to replace Etheridge. Sure the Anteaters will be equipped with frontline starter Scott Gorgen, but if it weren’t for Etheridge’s 12-4 record last year, there’s no way they would have enjoyed the success they did.
Enter Bryce Stowell