Close, but no World Series cigars for locals

As the College Baseball World Series Regional qualifiers get
into full swing, a couple of college baseball programs with local
ties must be wondering what might have been.
As the College Baseball World Series Regional qualifiers get into full swing, a couple of college baseball programs with local ties must be wondering what might have been. Both the University of San Francisco, with sophomore pitcher and former Live Oak Acorn Ryan Muller, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with redshirt pitcher Andrew Slorp from Morgan Hill, just missed qualifying for the 64-team NCAA Regional field after enjoying outstanding seasons.

USF missed out on a first NCAA postseason berth in program history despite the Dons setting school records for total wins (38) and West Coast Conference wins (20). In addition, Muller was part of a stellar pitching staff that compiled a 2.85 team ERA, good for sixth best in the nation.

But after falling one win short of the WCC title, USF couldn’t get the respect many believed they had earned. The Dons went into a season-ending series at Pepperdine tied for first in conference, but lost two of three and the WCC West Division championship to the Waves. (Pepperdine made the NCAA Regionals.)

It was little consolation for the Dons that Cal also got shut out of the NCAA Regionals, leaving Stanford as the lone Bay Area representative.

So Muller and a stocked Dons team that includes five returning all-conference players and the WCC Coach of the Year in Nino Giarratano will just have to “wait ’til next year” … again.

Muller, a 6-foot-1 right-handed fireballer with a fastball in the high 80’s to low 90’s, is expected to be a big part of the Dons’ future success. Coming off a fine freshman campaign during which he started 11 games, Muller struggled early in his sophomore season before settling down to turn in solid numbers in spot starting and bullpen duty. In six starts and six relief appearances, Muller went 3-1 with a 4.43 ERA overall. He was 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in conference play.

Meanwhile, Slorp’s Cal Poly team just missed a first-ever NCAA Regional berth of its own. The Mustangs were snubbed despite a fine 36-20 overall record and finishing tied for second place in the Big West Conference with Long Beach State behind defending national champion Cal State Fullerton. (Both Fullerton and Long Beach are regional hosts and No. 1 seeds, and this is the first time in five years the Big West has had only two teams in the NCAA postseason.)

Slorp, the 6-foot-5 Bellarmine grad who transferred to Cal Poly SLO for this season after two years at Santa Clara, redshirted this season due to injury. Next season, he could be one of a few key returners to a Mustang squad that will lose a number of seniors and could also lose several juniors to the Major League draft.

That is, if Slorp doesn’t decide to go pro himself.

Another Morgan Hill product, Abilene Christian junior second baseman C.J. Goularte, did get a chance to compete in the NCAA Division II postseason. The No. 5-ranked Wildcats (42-17 overall, 16-4 in conference) won the Lone Star Conference South Division title and advanced to the South Central Regional. But after rallying for a dramatic victory over Central Oklahoma in its opener, Abilene Christian lost two straight and was eliminated.

The 5-foot-9 Goularte, a Live Oak grad, hit .287 with 32 runs scored and 27 RBIs for the Wildcats, and was named to the All-Lone Star Conference academic squad.

• Speaking of the College World Series, how about former Tri-County Athletic League superstar Monica Abbott’s heroics in the College Softball World Series?

Abbott, who starred at North Salinas before eschewing the Pac-10 to play for Tennessee, led the Lady Vols to their first World Series appearance. On Sunday, Abbott out-dueled top-ranked Michigan in an elimination game, tossing 12 innings of six-hit ball as upstart Tennessee won a 2-0 marathon.

• And if the TCAL connection is a predictor of success, watch out for Canisius next season. Both Live Oak’s Juliette Bowers and Hollister’s Rochelle Barrientos are shufflin’ off to Buffalo to play softball next season. They’ll just miss former Gilroy High standout Andrea Bunten – the starting pitcher for the Golden Griffins is graduating. Don’t be surprised if Canisius makes a few more NCAA postseason appearances in the next few years on the heels of a recent string started by Bunten the last two seasons.

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