Poreda’s future looking bright

It took a situation Aaron Poreda had never seen before on a baseball field to make him realize he belonged amongst the nation’s elite.

The USF left-hander was working against host and heavily favored Nebraska during the 2006 NCAA regional when he threw a fastball with so much movement the batter swung and missed just before it hit him in the leg. The hitter hobbled hopefully toward first base, but soon realized it was a strike.

“The ump called him back and then I threw him a slider and struck him out,” Poreda said. “And that’s when I kind of realized I could do this.”

Poreda ended up pitchinginto the seventh inning and allowing just one run against Nebraska to lead the Dons to the first NCAA tournament win in program history. This season, he used that start as a springboard for increasing his stock in the eyes of major-league scouts.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound junior is listed as the No. 37 prospect by Baseball America and could become the first player in school history to be chosen in the opening round of the two-day Major League Baseball draft, which begins today. Baseball America speculates he could go as high as No. 26 to the A’s after a season in which he went 7-6 with a 2.89 ERA and was named first-team All-West Coast Conference for the second straight year.

“There was a lot of pressure on him this year,” USF coach Nino Giarratano said. “There were a million questions and he answered all of them.”

Poreda arrived at USF three years ago relatively inexperienced on the mound (he played a lot of football in high school) with a lot to learn about the mechanics and mental side of pitching. He has since gained confidence and 12 mph on a fastball that now consistently hits 94-96 on the radar gun, while also featuring a slider, changeup and a developing cutter.

Should he decide to go pro after this year (he says there’s a “very high percentage I won’t be back”), Poreda will leave USF third in school history in wins (17), sixth in ERA (2.61) and seventh in strikeouts (169). As many as seven other Dons could be plucked by major-league organizations, but Poreda is the only one expected to go in the first 10 rounds.

The draft will be televised beginning at 11 a.m. on ESPN2 and Poreda said he will watch it with family and friends at his parents’ home in Moraga. And the lifelong Giants fan is hoping he won’t have to travel far to pursue his professional dream. The Giants own three of the first 29 picks and six of the first 51 and are listed as a potential landing spot for Poreda by Baseball America.

“I see myself in the first round and it’s a definite dream [to play for the Giants],” Poreda said. “Hopefully I’ll get to stay local. And if not, I’ll have to adapt to it and know everyone is pulling for me, if not in the stands, then on the Internet.”

Baseball draft

WHEN: Today-Friday

GIANTS’ FIRST-ROUND PICKS: No. 10, No. 22, No. 29, No. 32*, No. 43*, No. 51*

A’S FIRST-ROUND PICKS: No. 26, No. 41*, No. 59*

TOP USF PLAYERS DRAFTED: Position player — Tagg Bozied, second round (No. 42; didn’t sign), 2000, Minnesota; pitcher — Jesse Foppert, second round (No. 74), 2001, Giants.

TV: Today, 11 a.m., ESPN2

* supplemental first round

melliser@examiner.com

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