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Word of Yarrow’s talent spreading

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneUSF junior Stephen Yarrow gets started out of the box after collecting a hit against UC-Davis on Tuesday in Davis.
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DAVIS – And to think, only three years ago Stephen Yarrow was crushing baseballs in relative obscurity with the South Tahoe High Vikings, trying to locate a college baseball home.

Now a junior at the University of San Francisco, Yarrow’s stock has skyrocketed. In fact, the Dons may not be able to hold onto the gem they uncovered in the Sierra for his senior season.

The Dons’ left-handed-hitting third baseman has belted a West Coast Conference-leading 12 home runs and is drawing more and more attention from Major League Baseball scouts.

“I’ve talked to quite a few scouts, getting medical information letters and all the bio stuff, but I’m more worried about this team and getting on a roll right here and winning this conference,” said Yarrow following his career-high four-hit performance against UC-Davis on Tuesday.

San Francisco skipper Nino Giarratano took a chance on Yarrow three years ago, welcoming a player that other programs weren’t considering. Giarratano saw the hidden gem as someone possessing the necessary tools to become special.

“We’re always trying to find a diamond in the rough, and that’s what helped us more than anything because Stephen had the size, the strength and he was a left-handed hitter,” said Giarratano, the Dons’ 12-year manager. “You have to give a lot of credit to Steve. You can take a chance and a risk on him, but nobody knew how hard he was going to work and how he was going to turn himself into a player. We saw what we thought was going to be a wonderful player, and he’s matured into a pro prospect and into a great college player. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Giarratano realizes that Yarrow’s rapid development may make his days in a Dons’ uniform numbered. Yarrow also leads the WCC (prior to Friday’s games) in RBI with 35 and is second in total bases with 85.

“If he continues on this pace on what he’s doing, he has a chance to go in the top five rounds right now,” Giarratano said of the June 7-9 Amateur Baseball Draft in Secaucus, N.J. “There’s not many left-handed hitters out there that can play third base that project like he does because his best days are still ahead of him. He hasn’t hit a wall yet where he is gonna be. He is just gonna get better day by day.”

Cutting down the strikeouts

Yarrow’s prior seasons at San Francisco showed glimpses of his promise, but there were many inconsistencies and disappointments, too. The former South Tahoe Vikings’ shortstop struggled early on to find a position in the field that he could call his. He was a first baseman last year after playing both positions as a true freshman. Yarrow also struck out more than he and Giarratano would have liked, but there has been progress in that area – as his 4-for-5 showing against the UC-Davis Aggies on Tuesday reflects.

“We didn’t focus on that (the strikeouts),” said Giarratano, who has been selected to the U.S. Baseball coaching staff for a second time. “We focused on making better, more solid contact, staying in control of his body. There are times where he will get out of whack and try to overswing.”

Yarrow has also taken a more relaxed approach at the plate to become a better hitter, too.

“I’m having more fun and being more free up at the plate,” said Yarrow, who took a .342 average – 11th in the WCC – into Friday’s game against St. Mary’s. “Last year, I put a little too much pressure on myself, and I was tight up at the plate. This year, I worked more on my mental game on the offseason and just having fun and letting it happen.”

Keys to improved hitting

Part of Yarrow’s offseason work has been to learn as much about hitting as he could from those he was playing with and against.

“I really try to learn as much as possible from everyone, from coaches, from other players, kids you play summer league with,” he said. “You learn about their lives and talk hitting with them. You talk about how they do it. The more people you can talk to and pick their brains, the better you become.”

Steve Yarrow, who coached his son while he was with the South Tahoe program, said that this son is deserving of the success he’s having.

“It is quite gratifying to see Stephen succeed at this level. He has worked harder than most people can imagine,” Steve said.

Early major league dream

Steve and Diane Yarrow were aware nearly a decade ago what their son wanted to do with his life.

“When he was 12, he told Diane and I that he wanted to be a professional baseball player,” Steve said. “He even gave us a note instructing us to never let him quit. We still have that note.”

With each swing, Yarrow has a chance to move up higher on the Dons’ all-time home-run list. Now tied for fourth with 27 career homers, Yarrow has a realistic shot of moving past Arnie Sambel (36) and into the second spot by season’s end.

Those line drives that Yarrow has been coached to hit since he was a Little-Leaguer are now traveling well over college fences along the West Coast.

“When he was younger, I used to tell him not to try and hit home runs, rather hit line drives,” Steve said. “As he got bigger and stronger, the ball would go farther. Today those line drives are going 400 feet.”

The focus that Yarrow has at the plate and for his teammates isn’t waning despite all of the attention he is receiving from the next level.

“If it’s meant to be where I go play after this year, it’s meant to be. We’ll see how it unfolds down the road,” Yarrow said.


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