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College World Series Notes - June 18, 2002

Body Saved, Not Slammed, Puts Gagne In Baseball

By TOM VINT
AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. – Notre Dame pitcher J.P. Gagne might be starting a new family tradition, breaking from one that dealt with body slams, not grand slams.

Coming from a family known for playing football and wrestling professionally, he is playing baseball at a school synonymous with college football.

Gagne’s grandfather, Verne, played football and wrestled at the University of Minnesota before beginning a pro wrestling career. His other grandfather, Bob Graiziger, also played football, hockey and baseball at Minnesota.

J.P.’s father, Greg Gagne, played football at Minnesota and Wyoming before his pro wrestling career.

J.P. played several sports in high school but ended up in baseball almost by accident.

“It just turned out that baseball ended up being the best sport for me, and the easiest on my body,” he said.

The Notre Dame closer said he thought about playing football but felt a 6-foot quarterback wouldn’t have much of a chance at Notre Dame with the recruits the Irish had.

“Had baseball not worked out for me, yes, I would definitely have considered it,” he said.

He’s less likely to follow the family in its professional wrestling footsteps, however.

“I was a fan of my dad’s when I was growing up, but other than that, I wasn’t into it,” he said. “I really think the business has changed a lot. In my opinion, it’s just like watching a soap opera.

“My focus has always been on baseball and something a little bit easier on my body,” he said.

DIMENSIONAL STAT: Moving the Rosenblatt Stadium fences back in the power alleys of the outfield apparently has made a difference in the home run totals at the College World Series this year.

A crossing wind blowing in from left field also has helped knock down high fly balls, several times denying players possible homers.

Through eight games this year there were 18 homers, compared with 33 at the same point in the 2001 tournament. Nebraska had a tourney-leading four homers in its two games.

Teams are still hitting well, however, averaging .284 and scoring runs at a combined 12.4 per game.

MOTIVATED GAMECOCK: Forgive South Carolina All-American first baseman Yaron Peters if he takes extra glee in each of his hits, homers or RBIs at the College World Series. He is just offering a little “told-you-so” emphasis for all those West Coast teams that failed to give him a look.

Peters came out of junior college in California with a .350 batting average, 18 home runs and 70 RBIs. But he said none of the West Coast schools even wanted him to walk on to their programs.

South Carolina, however, is very happy Peters was snubbed. The 6-foot-2, 224-pounder set school records for home runs (29), RBIs (94) and total bases (213) this season.

His two-run homer in the ninth ousted Nebraska 10-8 in Sunday’s first CWS elimination game this year.

“None of the schools on the West Coast gave me any respect,” he said. “I was willing to go to any Pac-10 team. I took it personally that I wasn’t recruited by any of those teams.”

YOUTHFUL TECH: Georgia Tech won one of its three games at the College World Series but few people really believed coach Danny Hall would bring this team to Omaha.

The Yellow Jackets had 17 new players and three new assistant coaches. But Hall said his senior leaders led that bunch of youngsters to a school-record 52 wins. Tech’s 1987 team under coach Jim Morris had 51 wins.

CLEMSON-SOUTH CAROLINA: Clemson and South Carolina will meet for a fifth time this season when they face off in Wednesday’s College World Series semifinal.

Clemson won three of the regular-season meetings by scores of 9-7, 11-10 and 4-1. The one South Carolina victory was 8-6 in mid-April with Gamecock freshman Aaron Rawl getting the win.

Rawl also pitched a complete game Tuesday to get South Carolina past Georgia Tech 9-5.

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