Hunter Bishop wasn’t the only Serra graduate to flash 20-home run power in he NCAA Division I baseball ranks this season.
While Bishop still has bragging rights among his Serra brethren with 22 homers at Arizona State this season, his former Padres teammate Scott Ota wasn’t far behind as a senior at University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ota blasted 20 home runs to help lead the Flames to a Horizon League championship, and their third appearance in the NCAA tournament in the past four years.
“It’s special,” said Craig Gianinno, Serra’s former manager, of having two alumni hit 20 home runs in the same collegiate season. “It’s just great to see.”
On Tuesday, the New York Mets made Ota their 10th round pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, making him the second Serra alumnus taken in the three-day draft, concluding Wednesday with rounds 11-40. Bishop, Monday, was drafted in the first round by his hometown San Francisco Giants out of Arizona State.
“I’m so proud for Scott,” Gianinno said. “I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”
Joining the 20-homer club isn’t the only thing Ota and Bishop have in common. They are both left-handed power hitters. And, coincidentally, they both have brothers who are baseball players, each of whom is a right-handed hitting more known for his speed-and-defense tools.
Until Monday, Braden was the more famous of the Bishop brothers, having broken into the major leagues this season with the Seattle Mariners. Ota’s younger brother, JJ, was a freshman at College of San Mateo this season where he logged a .990 fielding percentage while leading all Bulldogs with 200 infield chances.
While at Serra, Ota opened his varsity career with a frustrating junior season in 2014. Due to injury, he totaled just 13 at-bats and, thanks mostly to a three-hit game in 17-2 non-league blowout of Wilson-Oregon, posted a .385 batting average (5 for 13).
Ota’s senior year was markedly better as he hit .489, tying him for fourth in Serra history for a single-season batting average. Only Geoff Comfort (.568 in 1998); Matt Bazzani (.528 in 1991); and Bill Peavey (.507 in 1997) have done better. David Figoni also hit .489 in 2000.
“His junior year at Serra, he was battling an injury but he had the ability to bring the right attitude to the situation,” Gianinno said. “… Then he was a monster his senior year.”
In four years at UIC, Ota enjoyed a steady ascent to hitting prominence. Through his first three seasons, he hit a cumulative .278 with 12 home runs. This season, he finished off his career with a .357 average while leading the Horizon League with 20 homers.