Bottom of the fifth, one out, bases loaded. One clutch hit could give the Anteaters the momentum to overcome a four-nothing deficit.
Second baseman Casey Stevenson steps up to the plate. The thought of being 10 for 12 with the bases loaded in his three years with the Anteaters does not enter his mind. Instead, he thinks changeup. Stevenson is right. The opposing pitcher throws a changeup and Stevenson smacks a bases clearing double.
“It is a lot easier to hit with a runner on third and less than two outs,” Stevenson said. “You can get out but it is still productive because you get a run across.”
Stevenson’s hit proved to be the catalyst that ignited a 12-inning, four hour and 35 minute extravaganza between UCI and UC Riverside two weekends ago. The senior second baseman helped the Anteaters take the series by recording five RBIs over the three games.
Indeed, Stevenson has finished out his senior season incredibly strong, recording a career best 5 for 5 on Saturday against Long Beach State.
It has been Casey’s ability to deal with change and adapt to any situation that has made him stand out as a second baseman with a bright future.
Casey’s ability to deal with change started early in his high school playing days. During his last three years of high school, Casey played under three different head coaches. Despite not having a consistent coach, Stevenson still had the opportunity to play collegiate baseball.
Although he was not heavily recruited coming out of high school, Stevenson did receive some interest from UC Riverside, as well as UCI. But the fact that UCR wanted him to walk on and UCI did not have a scholarship to offer Stevenson forced him to play baseball at College of Canyons, a junior college in Santa Clarita.
Casey’s decision to play at College of Canyon would change the family legacy. His grandfather, father, and uncle all played college baseball at USC. Moreover, it was USC that led his father and uncle to have futures on the professional level. Casey’s father played in the minors for the Houston Astros’ organization while his uncle played with the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres.
While at College at Canyons, Stevenson was able to show off his talent. He batted .397 with 48 runs batted in. He set the singles recorded by totaling 75 hits in the 2007 season. This success brought national powerhouses Fullerton and UCI to take a look at the 6’3 205 pound infielder.
After one year at College of Canyons, Stevenson denied a scholarship offer from Fullerton and took his game to UCI.
“I committed to UC Irvine because of the coaching staff and the school atmosphere,” Stevenson said. “It just seemed like a better fit for me.”
However, once Casey committed to UCI, then Head Coach Dave Serrano, the same coach that brought him to UCI decided to leave for Fullerton. When Serrano left to Fullerton, UCI hired Mike Gillespie. This was another change that Casey was going to have to deal with in order to excel in baseball.
Although Stevenson played second base while at College of Canyons, Coach Gillespie would move him to the hot corner at third base. However, defensive struggles at third base forced the move back to second, where Casey had a natural feel for the position and has excelled ever since he was a child.
It has been at second base where Casey has stood out. The move back to second helped his offensive numbers explode. His batting average went from .314 to .346, while his RBIs also increased from 14 to 41.
Stevenson has played a major factor in the past Anteater teams that have made runs into the postseason. Stevenson was part of the team that won the Nebraska Regional and in 2009 Stevenson was part of the team that was ranked No. 1 and hosted a regional series.
As the final weekend of college baseball’s regular season comes to a close, so does the end of Stevenson’s collegiate career. It is not the game of baseball that he will remember most — instead it is the camaraderie that he has been able to share with some his past and present teammates.
“Memories from the regionals, not the baseball stuff really, the road trips, going to LSU, lots of stuff like that,” Stevenson said. “The guys on the team, even the guys on the team from two years ago I still remember players like Ollie [Linton] and Ben [Orloff].”
Life after UCI seems bright for Stevenson. After being drafted last year by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 38th round, major league baseball interest still looms on Stevenson’s shoulders. The Brewers, Cubs and Yankees are teams that have shown interest in the second baseman.
It has been Stevenson’s ability to welcome any change that lays ahead him of him or adapt to any new situation that has given him the potential to play major league baseball.
Even if baseball does not pan out, Casey looks at the family for future success.
“My dad [is an air traffic controller] right now and I have always been interested in flying planes,” Stevenson said. “That’s another family thing … baseball and planes.”