Hedman leads surging Sagehens

By Michelle Gardner

Staff Writer

Pomona-Pitzer senior Drew Hedman sprints to third base, where Frank Pericolosi is watching from the third-base coach’s box. The Sagehens are about to score another run and they’re already comfortably ahead.

“When you’re done, there’s a scout here to see you,” the coach says to the player, then turns his attention back to the matter at hand.

It might not have been the best time to mention such a thing, but Pericolosi knows that his player can handle it. He’s been doing so all season and it hasn’t provided the least bit of distraction.

The Sagehens (31-3, 15-0), winners of 12 straight games, are nearing their second SCIAC title in three years but face a formidable challenge today against Cal Lutheran (27-7, 13-2).

The Sagehens are ranked No. 1 in one national poll and No. 3 in another. The contribution of Hedman has been a huge factor. The Redding native is hitting a whopping .533, but his other numbers are equally impressive.

He leads the SCIAC in runs scored (53), hits (72), home runs (21), RBIs (70) and total bases (152). His slugging percentage is a robust 1.126 and his on-base percentage is .605. He has more than twice as many walks (23) as strikeouts (9). The 21 home runs are a school single-season record.

Hedman knows he is being watched, but he doesn’t let that get in his head.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to get drafted, but it doesn’t change how I approach the game,” he said during a break in a recent practice. “I don’t even think about that when I’m on the field.”

Hedman’s numbers warrant the attention, but getting drafted isn’t a given when you play for a Division III school.

Pericolosi, in his seventh year, has had two players drafted during his tenure — catcher Jose Cortes by the Phillies in 2003 and Jase Turner, Hedman’s predecessor at first base, by the Cubs in 2005.

The University of Redlands and University of La Verne have been among the top of the heap in the SCIAC in recent years, but they haven’t had much luck in the draft department.

Redlands hasn’t had a player drafted in coach Scott Laverty’s 10 years, and the last player drafted out of La Verne was pitcher Scott Lindeen, the SCIAC Player of the Year in 2005. He played just one year in the minor leagues and never made it out of rookie ball.

The most prominent player to come out of the SCIAC in the last decade is pitcher Jason Hirsh, who was drafted out of Cal Lutheran in the second round by the Houston Astros in 2003 and made his major- league debut in August of 2006.

Pericolosi certainly thinks his top player is worthy.

“I have to think someone will give him the chance,” he said. “His hitting numbers speak for themselves, but his fielding is outstanding and his foot speed is above average for a first baseman. He has all the tools.”

Pericolosi added that the Diamondbacks have shown the most interest, although that is hardly an indication of what might happen on draft day.

Other teams have turned out too, and they say the evaluation process isn’t different than it is for a Division I player.

“You’re looking at a lot of things,” said one scout who took in the Sagehens against Chapman last weekend.  “Bat speed, mechanics, how frequently the batter is making solid contact — those things don’t change.
“About the only thing that is different is that these guys aren’t facing as good a pitching game-in, game-out.”

Hedman set the stage for his senior season by competing for the Green Bay entry of the prestigious Northwoods League, a summer wood-bat college league that starts in early May and runs through August.

That gave him the chance to play with the top players throughout the country in all divisions and show that he can play without the aid of the aluminum bat. He responded by hitting a respectable .305 in 59 games.

“That was a great opportunity,” Hedman said.  “I was happy with how I played there, and it gave me a lot of confidence to hold my own against those guys.”

While the draft is a definite goal, Hedman’s priority right now is helping the Sagehens to the postseason. Pitzer won the SCIAC and advanced to the West Region in 2007, his sophomore year, but they went just 1-2 in that tournament. They’re a more seasoned team this time around, though.

“Most of us have been there before and we know what it takes,” he said.
“We’re more experienced and we have more depth. Hopefully that will pay off.”

[