Catching Up With a Former Titan Mound Ace

Part I: Lauren Gagnier's evolution from a CSUF project to a pro prospect.

It's not uncommon for most baseball players to have jittery nerves during games. In fact, it's part of the game.

But it is a bit unusual for a player to be nervous during practice, which is how former Cal State Fullerton pitcher Lauren Gagnier felt on June 6.

It was just another day of practice for the Titans, but it was also the first day of the 2006 Major League Baseball draft.

"It was funny because that day at practice was a little bit different," Gagnier said. "People at practice were like, 'Nah, I'm not worried about it,' but I think deep down some guys had it on their mind. Not necessarily worrying about it, but definitely on their mind."

The 6-foot-2-inch pitcher discovered he was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the 10th round when he saw his name on MLB's Web site after practice.

"It was a pretty amazing feeling," he said. "I kind of took a sigh of relief once it happened."

The road that led up to that day was a bumpy one for the Santa Cruz native.

After earning three letters and compiling a 10-4 record with a 1.83 ERA and 122 strikeouts his senior year at Santa Cruz High School, he encountered difficulties and struggled when he entered the Titans' nationally recognized baseball program as a freshman.

"I don't think he was extremely street smart," Titan Baseball Head Coach George Horton said. "He was a little naive. The system came a little difficult for him in his early years here."

Horton said that Gagnier and fellow freshman at the time, Nolan Bruyninckx, earned the nicknames Harry and Lloyd because of Gagnier's tendency to leave expensive items, such as his laptop and cell phone, on the bus.

"They took a lot of ribbing and struggled with a lot of the signs and the system," Horton said. "It got to a point where jokingly we called them Harry and Lloyd from 'Dumb and Dumber.' Lauren was Harry and Nolan was Lloyd."

Despite the ribbing during practices and bus rides, Gagnier was immediately thrown into the fire as he was a starter against Stanford the first weekend of his freshman season in 2004.

"I got that start the first weekend against Stanford, which was pretty amazing for me being a true freshman," Gagnier said. "I was filling in for someone, but I got to start the first three weekends for one of our hurt pitchers."

Gagnier posted a 2-2 record in 26 innings and had a 4.50 ERA as a midweek starter and as a reliever as a freshman.

In his sophomore year, he had a 3.18 ERA and a 3-0 record coming out of the bullpen in 21 appearances.

"I think it would be pretty fair to say that his career up until his junior year was a little inconsistent," Horton said.

Gagnier made major strides during his junior year and pitched a 14-5 record, which tied him for the most wins in the country with Texas Christian University's Jake Arrieta.

Gagnier helped the Titans get into the College World Series and finish with an overall record of 50-15.

"The biggest transformation for him and why he became as consistent as he was as a junior was his mental game," Horton said. "His mental toughness, his dedication - it all came together for him. All the bits and pieces came together."