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College Weekend Recap: 5/6-5/8

by Will Kimmey
May 9, 2005

When Chris Malec read Lance Armstrong’s biography two years ago, he never envisioned it would become his instruction manual.

The UC Santa Barbara senior has re-read chapters of “It’s Not About My Bike: My Journey Back To Life” since learning he had testicular cancer April 12. Armstrong’s account of his battle with cancer helped Malec prepare for his April 14 surgery and the first of his four chemotherapy cycles on April 26-30.

Armstrong’s return to cycling gave Malec the hope that he, too, could return to action, which he did Friday night against Long Beach State. Malec entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning of UCSB’s 8-6 win, one that stopped a seven-game losing streak. “Just putting on the uniform Friday was truly a blessing,” Malec said.

“Malec provided us with inspiration we were lacking and looking for . . . it was an incredibly special day,” coach Bob Brontsema said.

Malec enhanced his feel-good story the next day, connecting on a first-inning grand slam Saturday in a game his team won 7-6. Interestingly, Malec launched a game-tying grand slam on April 30, 2004, against Long Beach State’s Jered Weaver. It ended the righthander’s string of consecutive winning decisions at 12, and the Gauchos went on to win 8-4.

“Last year, in the eighth inning to tie that game off Weaver--the way he was pitching--was big, but this one was pretty special,” Malec said. “Just coming back, I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and lo and behold it just took off.”

Malec rounded the bases and exchanged high-fives with an entire team wearing yellow Livestrong bracelets that matched the one he started wearing last summer. Every member of the UCSB team purchased a bracelet to support Malec after finding out he had cancer. Brontsema has provided plenty of support, offering Malec’s parents a place to stay when they make the 120-mile drive from Laguna Nigel to Santa Barbara for his treatments. Matt Wilkerson, Malec’s best friend and teammate at Santa Margarita High and in college, also has helped Malec and his family keep their thoughts in positive areas. Malec has spoken with Santa Clara junior Michael Thompson, who has played in 43 games for the Broncos this year after being diagnosed with Hodgkins’ disease in April 2004. Every coach and opponent Malec has come across also has offered their best, including Long Beach State’s Mike Weathers, Cal Poly’s Larry Lee and UCLA’s John Savage.

Malec needed all the encouragement three weeks ago, when he felt some discomfort during a series at UC Davis and made a doctor’s appointment to check things out. The news couldn’t have been worse.

“It was a big shock,” Malec said. “I thought that could be a chance because of reading the book, but being young and being an athlete you never expect it. I told my parents and after about an hour I settled down.”

Malec’s cancer was in stage 2, meaning it had started spreading into his lymph nodes, especially in his stomach. That necessitated four chemotherapy cycles of five hours for five consecutive days after doctors removed his testicle and the cancerous tumor. His first chemo treatment began a 12-week process in which he will have four five-day cycles, with two weeks in between each.

Malec’s next treatment is scheduled for May 16-20, meaning he will miss the UC Irvine series that weekend but hopes to return for the final series of the year at Cal State Northridge on May 27-29.

“I’m taking things day by day right now,” Malec said. “Fortunately I healed up pretty quickly (from surgery), and my body dealt with chemo real well. I’ve lost a little appetite and about 10 pounds because I couldn’t really work out for the last three weeks, but I’m staying positive. My mind is telling my body I’m going to get through this.”

Malec said battling cancer has given him and his teammates a new perspective on their 21-26 record. He’s just happy to be able to play baseball again and said he’ll cherish every moment he spends on the field from now on, though that comment came a bit after he expressed regret that he and the Gauchos lost 4-3 on Sunday, missing a chance at a second sweep of Long Beach State in as many years.

Malec’s two hits on the weekend kept his team-leading average at .333, and despite missing 10 games, he still ranks second on the club with five home runs and 31 runs scored after earning first-team all-Big West honors as a junior. His next two goals are to finish his Law and Sports Management degree (taking his final quarter this December) and to start a professional baseball career.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” Malec said. “My chemo ends the first or second week in July, and I really want to get picked up. I don’t know how this affects me, but I still want to do that.”

AROUND THE NATION

• UNC Greensboro junior righthander Chris Mason struck out seven Wofford batters in a complete-game shutout, setting a school record with 119 strikeouts on the year. He’s 5-5, 2.21 with 17 walks and a .204 opponents average in 94 innings. That success, combined with a low-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball, has moved Mason into position to get selected in the draft’s first three rounds. Mason hit two home runs as the DH in the final game of the series to bring his team-leading total to six.

• Texas Christian junior righthander Lance Broadway tied a school record with his 11th win of the year in an 11-0 win Friday at Cincinnati. Broadway matched the feats of Lance Brown (1963) and Frank Johnstone (1972, 1974) by recording 11 strikeouts in seven innings, allowing three hits. Broadway has recorded a 113-29 strikeout-walk ratio in 84 innings, compiling an 11-1, 2.04 record.

Broadway's TCU teammate, sophomore third baseman Shelby Ford, hit for the cycle as the Horned Frogs rallied from 10 runs down for a 15-13 win Sunday against Cincinnati, which led 11-1 after three innings.

• A 25 mph wind at the Air Force Academy allowed Nevada-Las Vegas to set a conference record with 11 doubles while its leadoff man, senior outfielder J.C. Sibley, set a record with seven hits in a 24-15 win. Sibley went 7-for-7 with four doubles and four runs scored on the day and leads the Rebels with a .392 batting average and .494 on-base percentage.

• Illinois center fielder Drew Davidson hit three home runs and just missed a fourth in a 17-3 win that completed a four-game sweep of Northwestern. The weekend kept Illinois in first place in the Big 10 at 18-6, with a 31-14-1 overall mark.

• Indiana senior outfielder Joe Kemp hit for the cycle in a 15-2 win against Michigan State. He leads the Hoosiers with nine home runs and 58 RBIs.

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