Angels' Reliever Jepsen Still Has Strong Base In Reno

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Seven years ago, he was pitching Bishop Manogue to a state title. Now, Kevin Jepsen is trying lead the Angels over the Yankees for the American League pennant; and he's serving as a role model along the way.

He might be pitching in southern California, but the Bishop Manogue graduate still has plenty of fans left in Reno.

"It's a surreal feeling that he used to toe the mound here at Bishop Manogue high school," said Charles Oppio, Jepsen's former baseball coach at Manogue. "And now he's pitching against Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees. It's an incredible feeling."

He's not only pitching against A-Rod, but he's getting him out. Rodriguez grounded out to third when facing Jepsen in a crucial at-bat in game two of the series. That was Jepsen's American League Championship Series debut, and he was nearly flawless: two innings pitched; no earned runs; and one nasty breaking ball to strikeout future hall-of-famer Derek Jeter.

"It's fabulous," said Tim Jauregito, Bishop Manogue's principal. "Because, you get an opportunity to see somebody you worked with. To see them become successful in life and that's what it's all bout really."

It's impressive, but not surprising. Jepsen led the Miners to three state titles in four years. In 2002, he was named the "Gatorade State Player of the Year." Oppio still remembers pro scouts lining up to clock the senior's 98-mile per hour fastball.

"He was a big, strong, kid," said Oppio. "Kept his mouth shut; worked hard and was a great leader and fierce competitor. He was everything you wanted."

These days, Jepsen has more facial hair and a few more dollars in his pocket, but friends say other not much else has changed.

"Kevin is the same guy he was in high school," said Bill Ballinger who coached Jepsen on Manogue's basketball team. "The fame hasn't affected him one bit. He's Kevin Jepsen. Just a very good man."

And that's what has the staff at Bishop Manogue most excited. Not only is Jepsen succeeding, but he's doing it the right way: staying humble and carving a path that encourages other young athletes who are dreaming of something bigger than the "Biggest Little City."

"It's as good as it gets," said Ballinger. "We're getting to watch a kid fulfill all his dreams. And we can tell kids that they started right here in Reno. And they started at Bishop Manogue. And this is where you can go if you're willing to work as hard as a kid like Kevin Jepsen."

Bishop Manogue will retire Jepsen's jersey sometime this winter.

The Angels trail the Yankees 3-1 in the American League Championship Series. Game five is Thursday at 4pm in Anaheim.