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INJURY MADE HIS CHOICE AN EASY ONE

Ryan Hancock, until a crisp fall afternoon in Salt Lake City - November 29, 1992, to be exact - was following in the tradition of Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Ty Detmer.

Hancock, in eight starts as the BYU quarterback, led the Cougars to seven victories - the lone setback was against Notre Dame. He ranked third in the nation in passing efficiency, having thrown for 2,635 yards and 17 touchdowns - and he was just a sophomore. Then, in the waning moments of BYU's 31-22 victory over Utah at Rice Stadium, he heard his knee snap. It was his anterior cruciate ligament tearing.Just like that, his football career was over.

But don't feel sorry for Hancock. The 24-year-old no longer has aspirations of being the next Ty Detmer. He's now on the fast-track to being a major league pitcher, like ex-Cougars Jack Morris and Rick Aguilera.

Hancock showed Salt Lake baseball fans Saturday night why the California Angels have high hopes for him in the future - even though one Buzzman had his number and the Buzz went on to beat his Vancouver Canadians 5-4.

Hancock, the 6-foot-2 Canadians right-hander, surrendered just four hits in 52/3 innings against Salt Lake, but two of the hits were home runs by Salt Lake's Todd Walker, who drove in four runs. Hancock struck out four and walked three.

"I had pretty good stuff tonight, but got behind too many hitters and had too many walks," said Hancock, who walked SaltLake's Brian Raabe with two outs in the fifth right before giving up a three-run homer to Walker. "I didn't want to face Walker in that situation. Raabe was the guy I needed to get out."

The game had a 1 hour, 40 minute rain delay with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Buzz leading 4-2. The game resumed at 10:41 p.m. when the Vancouver promptly scored two runs off Buzz reliever Phil Stidham to take Hancock off the hook. Salt Lake regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Chris Latham scored from third on an error by Vancouver catcher Chris Turner.

Hancock, who makes his off-season home in Murray, said he had a cheering section of family and friends in attendance in his first ever game at Franklin Quest Field.

"But I could hear some Ute fans out there as well," he joked.

He's the last BYU quarterback to beat Utah, a fact he gets reminded of on occasion. "I have a lot of people tell me that," Hancock said. "I wish it wasn't the case, though. Maybe this year they'll beat Utah again."

Hancock was always considered more of a pro prospect in baseball, but he says he would have come back to BYU for his junior year of football had it not been for the knee injury.

"The injury made my decision an easy one," said Hancock, who was a second round draft pick by the Angels in June 1993. "I could have come back and played football, but it would have risked my baseball career. For about one year I didn't miss football at all, but now I do miss it. There's just a different intensity in football than there is in baseball."

Hancock has had a steady progression through the Angels farm system. He started in Single-A in '94, but was promoted to Double-A by season's end. Last year he was 12-9 with a 4.56 ERA for Midland in the AA Texas League. He led the league in starts, complete games innings pitched (176) and was tied for third in wins.

Hancock entered Saturday's game eighth in the hitter-friendly PCL with a 3.59 earned run average. His 2-3 record is a bit deceiving, as he hasn't had much run production by his teammates. For example, he threw a complete-game one-hitter against Colorado Springs April 27, but still lost, 1-0.

BUZZ BRIEFS: Today's game is set for 5 p.m. It was originally scheduled to begin three hours earlier, but was moved so that it won't conflict with the Jazz-Sonics Game 4 . . . Hancock isn't the only former college football star on the Canadians' roster. Vancouver center fielder Darin Erstad was the punter and place kicker on Nebraska's 1994 national championship team . . .. Buzz lefty Travis Miller (3-3, 4.34 ERA) is scheduled to start today against Vancouver right-hander Pete Janicki (1-5, 7.26 ERA). Salt Lake's eight-game homestand will conclude with a Memorial Day battle versus Vancouver at 7 p.m. Monday.