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Wednesday, Jun 06 2012 09:12 PM

Centennial's Russell taken in 36th round of baseball draft

BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

The Pittsburgh Pirates selected Centennial shortstop Brody Russell on Wednesday in the 36th round of the Major League Baseball draft.

Russell very nearly went Tuesday 30 rounds earlier, but he and the St. Louis Cardinals couldn't come to an agreement on a signing bonus. Russell had asked for at least $300,000 as incentive to sign him away from Fresno State, where he has committed to play in college.

"They offered $200,000, $225,000," Russell said. "I was trying to get them to bring it up a little, and they wouldn't. I was sticking to my number, told them no."

After that, Russell figured he would head to Fresno State and worry about the draft after his junior season, when he'd be eligible again.

"Then (Wednesday), I just got a call out of nowhere saying I was drafted by the Pirates," Russell said. "That's exciting, being drafted wherever. It made me feel special, getting the calls and the attention."

Russell likely will end up at Fresno State anyway, considering Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement limits signing bonuses for late-round picks to $100,000. There is one exception to that rule, though -- if teams save money from the limit they're given for their first 10 picks, they can use it on a lower pick.

"As of right now, I'm still going to Fresno State, but you never know what can happen," Russell said. "Maybe one of their guys doesn't sign and I can get that money. I'm just going to see where it goes from here. It's a win-win either way."

Russell hit .358 as a senior for Centennial with an area-leading 12 home runs and 25 RBIs.

Former Stockdale softball pitcher Justine Vela, a three-time Californian Player of the Year, took her show on the road this season and didn't slow down.

Vela, a freshman at UC Davis, was named the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year and Big West Freshman Pitcher of the year after leading the league in strikeouts with 272, the fifth-highest total in Big West history and No. 15 in the country this season.

Vela also was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Pacific All-Region second team.

She finished the year 20-13 with a 2.10 ERA, helping the Aggies finish 14-7 in conference play a year after they were 7-14.

Dickens to Harvard

Another Californian Player of the Year from Stockdale, this one girls soccer honoree Brooke Dickens, has found her college home.

Dickens was accepted to Harvard last week and will play next fall as a freshman for the Crimson.

She led Stockdale to the Central Section Division I championship game and scored 22 goals with 13 assists as a senior.

Smith shines at SCSU

Former Liberty soccer player Darci Smith, who won the Mayor's Trophy in 2009, has enjoyed a successful three years at South Carolina State both on the field and in the classroom.

Smith has started as a defender in all three years, and the Bulldogs enjoyed the best two seasons in school history, including a 13-6-3 campaign during her sophomore year. Smith served as captain as a sophomore and junior.

She also helped SCSU rank in the top 10 nationally among Division I women's soccer programs with a 3.59 team grade-point average. Smith has a 4.0 GPA through three years.

Smith is playing club soccer in Washington this summer and will return to South Carolina State for her senior year in August.

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