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Former NMJC Player is Projected ACE for Devils

Former NMJC Player is Projected ACE for Devils photo
Photo courtesy of The Arizona Republic

Devils have ace in junior college star

2/1/2007 12:43:33 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. Jeff Metcalfe
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 26, 2007 12:00 AM

The following article was taken from the website of The Arizona Republic.* Brian Flores, from Carlsbad, New Mexico, recently played baseball for New Mexico Junior College receiving numerous recognitions.

It's not an oddity for a baseball player to be selected as junior college national Athlete of the Year.

Brian Flores, projected as Arizona State's ace this season, is the second consecutive baseball winner of the National Junior College Athletic Association David Rowlands award and the fourth in its 14-year history.

"I have a couple of rings from high school, then my (junior college) national championship ring, then I got a big ring for Athlete of the Year," Flores said. "I've won a ring at every level, so this is pretty much the last one I've got to get. This is one of the best programs in the country, and I'm real glad to be here."

Flores is integral to ASU's chances for its first College World Series title since 1981. If the junior left-hander can nail down the No. 1 starter's job, then the pitching roles are likely to be much more defined than last year when coach Pat Murphy held more auditions (11 starters) than American Idol.

If Flores' success translates at the Division I level, he could become almost as popular here as he became in Hobbs, N.M. He was 27-3 in two seasons at New Mexico Junior College, which won the 2005 NJCAA World Series, when he was most outstanding pitcher.

"He's a legend here," NMJC coach Ray Birmingham said. "People embraced him. They would come every game to have him sign something, even if they already had an autograph. He's an awesome kid."

They feel the same way in his hometown of Carlsbad, where Flores made the high school team as an eighth-grader and was a sophomore when the Cavemen won the 2002 New Mexico 5A state title.

He's grown some since then to 5 feet 10. That's not the size to suggest a pitcher who averaged 1.3 strikeouts per inning in junior college while throwing 23 complete games, eight shutouts, two no-hitters and one perfect game.

"Everybody has always told me I've been too small or you don't throw it hard enough," Flores said. "I tell myself I don't have to be 6-5, 240 (pounds) to do well in this game. My goal is not to strike out a million people, it's to win ballgames."

Flores is a "very sold pitcher with a ton of guts," Murphy said. "He's going to keep us close in a lot of games. He'll be a tough guy to pull out because of how bad he wants it."

Still Murphy warns that junior college pitchers having an impact in the Pac-10 in their first year are rare. "You can name the (JC) kids who have on one hand," he said. "This kid has a chance to be one of those guys."

Flores signed out of high school with New Mexico, then after being a 21st-round pick by the Chicago White Sox in the 2004 draft, opted not to commit three years to college. But he slipped to the 37th round in the 2005 draft and wasn't chosen at all in 2006.

So he completed his academic work in the fall to become eligible at ASU and is expected to start in the season opener against Southern Utah on Feb. 2.

Flores' fastball tops out at 93 mph, and he's learned to compete with a slider and change-up. "He never melts," Birmingham said. "You punch him, he'll punch you back. A lot of guys play well in the sunshine, but not when it gets dark."

*The full link to the article above at The Arizona Republic

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