Three years ago, Scott Gorgen had just committed to becoming a pitcher. He was a catcher his first three seasons of high school baseball. The lack of experience on the mound shunned interest from most division-one college programs—all of them in fact, except UC Irvine.
No matter how bitter Anteater fans remain over Coach Dave Serrano’s shady departure, we will always be indebted to his finest gift to us: the right-handed, 5-foot-9 catcher-turned-pitcher from Stockton, Calif.
Few could have guessed it would have taken Gorgen two full seasons to establish himself as arguably the best pitcher in college baseball. To negate any biases, Aaron Fitt of Baseball America (a college baseball expert) deemed Gorgen “The best pitcher in college baseball”—straight up. He raved that he has “an other-wordly changeup and an effective fastball,” but emphasized “his aggressiveness is really what sets him apart.”
And isn’t that the truth.
How else do you explain a pitcher, who hardly has the prototypical physique of a respectable pitcher, who could count the number of division-one schools that wanted him with one finger, that could develop every ounce of his potential?
There was nothing passive about the way Gorgen ascended to stardom. He worked endlessly to bring his endurance to an unfathomable level (his teammates joke Gorgen’s not himself until he’s thrown 100 pitches). He worked tirelessly with Serrano to create a nationally acclaimed changeup (Minor League Baseball calls it, “a plus, plus pitch, one of the best in the draft class”) and on June 5, he will be drafted by a Major League team—all thanks to his admirable aggressiveness.
Gorgen had no plans of merely enjoying life on a division-one program playing college ball, he was out to prove everyone wrong, to prove to the nation he was a commodity that elicits dominance every Friday night.
This past week, Gorgen eclipsed the mark for the most strikeouts ever by a UCI pitcher—of course, it took him just three seasons. It’s not every week he’s pitching to break an all-time record, but it’s nothing new for the UCI ace to be pitching for something other than the victory. Whether it’s to improve his draft status, prove his durability, or prove his height doesn’t diminish his changeup, Gorgen’s grown accustomed to the routine.
It’d be easy for him to play the “no respect” card, but he’s better than that. Among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched, he ranks very near the top in ERA (1.79), opponent batting average (.159) and strikeouts (101)—not just in the Big West, but also in the nation. There are no two ways about it—the guy’s a stud. Even with all of these accomplishments, he stays hungry and humble.
“That’s what I thrive on every week, there’s something I have to build on to get better to prove somebody wrong. But in all honesty I think the success has come from being consistent, having a great defense and a great catcher. I can’t give enough credit to Lowey, he’s my heart and soul behind the plate. He’s the main reason I’m at where I’m at now,” Gorgen said.
Naturally, Gorgen can’t think too much about the near-approaching draft, but to fans it’s exciting, to say the least. It’s exciting to see who’s going to look at his filthy repertoire of pitches and his jaw-dropping statistics rather than his height. The truth is, if he were 6-foot-2, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he was the number one overall pick.
He laughs thinking about it, as he should. If history’s an indicator of anything, he’ll prove critics wrong again, and he knows it.
“I see every performance as a chance to stay consistent. At this point, the team that’s going to draft me already knows it—I’ve thrown enough innings in college baseball. I’m going to have fun with this. I have two guaranteed starts left. I’m enjoying this more than anything because the draft will take care of itself,” Gorgen said.
And his incessant aggressiveness will likely take care of an illustrious professional career—5-foot-9 or not.