• Pulse on the Polls
With the Gauchos going 1-2 last week, they slipped a few spots in the national polls. After earning its first top-10 ranking since 1986, UCSB is as high as No. 13 in this week’s polls (Collegiate Baseball, previously 10). They appeared in all five national polls for the second consecutive week, including a No. 16 ranking in Perfect Game, No. 17 in Baseball America, and 23rd in both the NCBWA and USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
• RPI Report
The official NCAA RPI made its debut this week, placing UCSB at the No. 47 spot, third best among Big West programs. The Gauchos have been ranked as high as No. 11 in unofficial RPI formulations over the 2014 season.
• Sensational Start
At 19-5 overall, the Gauchos are off to their second best 24-game start in program history (1984: 21-3). The team’s .791 winning percentage ranks 10th in the nation and second among West Region teams. Through 24 games, UCSB has still yet to lose consecutive games.
• Shortening the GameThanks to a standout bullpen, UCSB has been extremely successful when establishing an early lead or participating in close games. So far this season, the Gauchos are an undefeated 14-0 when leading after six innings and they are 7-0 in one-run games. Flamethrowing closer Dillon Tate is at the forefront of the relieving corps with an unscathed ERA and 14 strikeouts in 12.1 innings pitched. Junior lefty Greg Mahle has been as reliable as they come, leading the team in wins and appearances and ranking third in innings pitched despite making no starts.
• All-Around Offense
Heading into the second week of conference play, the Gauchos still lead the Big West as a team in batting average (.307, 13th in the country), hit by pitches (48), on-base percentage (.401), and stolen bases (57, third most in the country). They also rank among the top-50 nationwide and second in the conference in runs with 164.
• Winning is What He Does
Making his first Friday start of the year and inching his way back to full health, junior right-hander Austin Pettibone has the chance to make UCSB history this season. After coming into the year with 18 career wins and racking up two more over the last two weeks, he currently sits seventh in program history in career victories. With his next one, he will move to fourth all-time in wins. UCSB’s all-time leader in “W’s” is Dan Yokubaitis with 25 from 1980-83, a figure attainable by Austin this season as he is scheduled to make at least eight more starts in 2014 assuming full health.
• Ball Magnets
The Gauchos set a program record with 97 hit by pitches in 2013, but this year’s team is set to best that mark. With 48 HBPs (2.0 per game) so far, UCSB is on pace to finish the season with 98.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Tonight’s baseball showdown at Fresno State will be broadcasted by both KZSB AM 1290 – Santa Barbara News-Press Radio – and UCSBgauchos.com.
Coverage of the contest will begin with a 6:00 p.m. pregame show, with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m. Links to the live audio can be found on UCSB’s listen live page and the baseball schedule page.
Gerry Fall, the Voice of the Gauchos, will have the call of the radio simulcast as the tenth-ranked Gauchos look to continue their hot start against the 2008 national champion Bulldogs. In a season-opening set last year, UCSB won two of three to take the series from Fresno State.
Shane Bieber will make the start on the mound for UCSB. The freshman is 1-0 on the season with a 3.52 ERA. Head coach Andrew Checketts will look to Big West Field Player of the Week Andrew Calica and senior standout Joey Epperson, who leads all Big West players in seven offensive categories, to key the Gaucho bats.
Off to the best season start since 1986, the Gauchos continue moving up a number of Top 25 Polls:
Baseball America: #19
Perfect Game: #20
Collegiate Baseball: #15
At 13-3 overall, the Gauchos will host Wagner this weekend in a four-game set in Santa Barbara.
LOS ANGELES – Juniors Peter Maris and Tyler Kuresa both clubbed home runs to drive in five runs as part of a 6-4 UC Santa Barbara win over nineteenth-ranked UCLA on Tuesday night, giving the Gauchos their first win at Jackie Robinson Stadium since 2011 and their best five-game start to a season since 2000 at 4-1.
It was also the first time since Apr. 20, 1999 that the Gauchos were able to top a defending College World Series champion (USC). UCLA dropped to 4-4 after the loss.
Maris, UCSB’s shortstop who entered the game hitting .412, established the tone early with his third career roundtripper, also his first of the season. A slow offensive start to the game, evidenced by the two teams combining for just one hit over the first two innings, was instantly turned around by Maris’s three-run shot over the right field fence in the top of the third. The flight of the ball led it to hit UCLA’s 2013 championship banner and wound up putting the Gauchos ahead for good.
Catcher Jackson Morrow and third baseman Joey Epperson both scored on the homer after leading off the inning with back-to-back singles, UCSB’s first hits of the game. Epperson was an offensive force all night for the Gauchos, leading all players with a three hits and a pair of runs scored.
UCLA answered right back with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame, scoring on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly and making the score 3-2.
Epperson and Maris teamed up to re-establish momentum in UCSB’s favor in the fifth inning. The duo led off that frame with consecutive base hits, putting a runner in scoring position with no outs. With Kuresa at the plate, assistant coach Jason Hawkins called for a double steal, and it paid off as UCLA catcher Shane Zeil threw the ball away trying to catch Epperson, who scored easily on the error.
In the same at bat, Kuresa launched a two-run bomb, his second home run of the campaign, to right field.
UCSB’s power display was especially impressive considering nationally-ranked UCLA hasn’t hit a single home run in eight games at Jackie Robinson Stadium this season. The two homers were the only extra base hits by either team in the game.
The Gauchos’ pitching staff, led by sophomore starter Domenic Mazza, did a good job of limiting the potent Bruins offense to four runs.
Mazza turned in the second longest start of his career on Tuesday, surrending two runs in 5.2 innings of work. The Concord, Calif. native retired the side in order on two occasions and did a nice job pitching out of a two-on jam in the fourth inning by coaxing a Cristopher Bono groundout.
In the sixth inning, Mazza’s 99th pitch of the day resulted in the second base on balls issued by the southpaw, influencing head coach Andrew Checketts to bring in sophomore righty Connor Baits from the pen. It turned out to be a good move as Baits ended the inning after one pitch.
After the Bruins pushed across single runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, UCSB closer Dillon Tate was brought in for the most-high leverage save opportunity of his young career. Tate responded with a fastball that was clocked as high as 97 miles per hour, striking out the first two batters of the ninth before completing the 1-2-3 inning with a game-ending lineout.
The outing gave Tate his second save in as many opportunities.
For third-year UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts, last year’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament Regional round – the first for the school in over a decade – was not the summit for the program, but rather a stepping stone towards something greater.
He and the Gauchos went hard at work over the summer and fall months to ensure another postseason appearance would be in the cards for a team whose ultimate goal lies in a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
“We’ve got a good young group here with a lot of returners,” said Checketts. “We’ve got a lot of power arms who are starting to throw strikes, and offensively we’ve got a solid group throughout who know how to execute a team offense.”
That group of returners includes all but two starting position players and nearly the entire pitching staff. Offensively, the Gauchos will be guided by All-Big West talent in Joey Epperson, Woody Woodward, and Cameron Newell, as well as slugging first baseman Tyler Kuresa and conference Freshman of the Year Robby Nesovic. Starters Austin Pettibone, Justin Jacome, Dylan Hecht, and relievers Dillon Tate and Greg Mahle highlight one of the deepest pitching stables in the conference.
UCSB’s standout 2013 season coupled with a roster heavy on returning contributors has the college baseball world expecting big things from the Gauchos. The team was ranked No. 39 in a preseason poll by Collegiate Baseball, the program’s first preseason national ranking in over 25 years. College baseball website Perfect Gamesees UCSB finishing second in the Big West once again, which would likely result in another postseason appearance.
With a strong core in tow, Checketts put together one of the toughest schedules in school history. This season, UCSB is slated to face off against juggernauts such as top-ranked Cal State Fullerton, opening series opponent and fifth-ranked North Carolina State, defending national champion UCLA, 2012 national champion Arizona, and traditional powers such as Wichita State and Mississippi State. Overall, UCSB’s 2014 opponents have combined for 73 appearances in the College World Series and 12 National Championships.
“It’s exciting that we’re able to bring some of these programs to Santa Barbara,” said Checketts. “These programs have long-time traditions, and it’s absolutely necessary that we play these teams if we want to advance and achieve our goal of going to Omaha.”
Season tickets for the 2014 season are now available for just $75, only $2.60 per game. Season ticket holders can also purchase additional season seats for a discounted rate of $25. To purchase your tickets today, call 805-893-UCSB or click here.
Before opening the season against NC State this weekend, join us as we go around the diamond and see how the Gauchos stack up for the 2014 season.
For UCSB, it could be a tale of two infields in 2014. Behind the plate and on the right side, the Gauchos are set three players who were extremely productive last season and will be looked on to be big contributors this season.
Checketts and the rest of his coaching staff were very happy to hear that first baseman Tyler Kuresa decided to return to the Gauchos for his junior season after being drafted in the 14th round of last year’s First Year Player Draft by the Atlanta Braves. The 6-4 lefty was the main power threat for UCSB a season ago, leading the team in extra base hits and slugging percentage while providing top-level defense. He will be a mainstay in the heart of the lineup this year.
Woody Woodward will have a new number this season, No. 2, but his superior on-base skills should remain unchanged. An outfield/infield hybrid last year, Woodward was an All-Big West Second Team selection in 2013 after hitting .389 in conference play. Remarkably, he reached base in each of his first 44 games started.
Senior catcher Jackson Morrow was one of the premier defensive backstops in the conference last year, leading the league in runners picked off (seven) and runners caught stealing (22). A competent bottom-of-the-order bat, he ranked among the conference leaders in sacrifices and hit-by-pitches in his first season at the Division I level. Playing in all but one game last season, Morrow should see a similar workhorse-like load this campaign. Junior Campbell Wear and College of San Mateo transferJarrett Costa will serve as his backups.
The left side of the infield will be more of an “X-factor” for the Gauchos this season, as shortstop Peter Maris and third baseman Joey Epperson will be starting full-time at their respective positions for the first time in their collegiate careers.
Epperson, a redshirt senior, had one of the more memorable seasons in program history last year. After missing the early part of the season with a staph infection, the Lafayette, Calif. native battled back to win the starting left field spot, and ended up being one of the key cogs in the UCSB lineup, finishing in the top-three in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. His walk-off home run over then-No. 19 UC Irvine on May 5 was widely considered to be the turning point of UCSB’s 2013 season. Not coincidentally, his full-time return to the lineup was met by the team with a 23-11 hot-streak to close out the season. Checketts feels good about placing Epperson at third base, as the hands and athleticism he displayed at first base during his time with Santa Barbara City College and in UCSB practice should translate at the hot corner.
Maris, a junior who has seen time at both middle infield positions and third base during his time at UCSB, won the shortstop job outright after a strong performance in fall ball. A strong defender, a steady spot in the lineup should result in a more consistent offensive output. Though slender at 5-8 and 170 pounds, one-third of his hits last year went for extra bases.
Sophomore Ryan Clark, who appeared in 35 games last season, will be in the mix for playing time at short and third base as well. Freshman Brody Weiss will miss the early portion of the season with an injury, but should provide depth in the infield upon his return.
UCSB’s pitching staff will be thankful for the outfield corps, as all three projected starters possess above-average speed and should have no problem tracking down fly balls.
Junior Cameron Newell shifts to right field after playing in center last year. The speedster led the Gauchos in 2013 with 69 hits, leading to an All-Big West honorable mention. His 13-game hit streak and 33-game on-base streaks were both bests on the team.
Redshirt freshman Andrew Calica, a storied recruit who missed most of last year with a back injury, will have the opportunity to lock down the center field job now that he is back at full health. He hit a combined .450 over his junior and senior seasons at Eastlake High School.
Scott Quinlan, a Chabot College transfer who missed 2013 with an ACL injury, will patrol left field for the Gauchos.
Last year’s Big West Freshman of the Year Robby Nesovic will mix in the outfield after having his mobility limited by injuries in his rookie campaign. His team-best .405 on-base percentage makes him an invaluable addition to the lineup. When not in the outfield, he will slot into the DH role alongside Greg Mahle and newcomersDempsey Grover and Josh Adams.
The Gauchos were dealt a blow this past offseason when staff ace Austin Pettibone incurred a shoulder injury, but the team possesses enough depth to survive in his absence. The All-Big West Second Teamer is expected to miss the first month of the new campaign.
Taking his spot in the Friday role will be sophomore flamethrower Dylan Hecht, who thrived as the team’s closer last year on his way to a Freshman All-American Award. Hecht clearly has the stuff to match any ace in the conference, evidenced by his staff-best 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings and .917 WHIP. His mid-90’s fastball and “wipeout” slider will be joined this season by a changeup Coach Checketts qualifies as a “swing-and-miss pitch.” He will need to cut down on his walks in his new role, but if he can come close to replicating his 2013 ERA of 1.83, the Gauchos will be set at the front of the rotation.
Returning as the Saturday starter is sophomore Justin Jacome, who was remarkably solid in his freshman year. Finishing the year with a 5-4 record and a 3.89 ERA, the 6-6 southpaw allowed the fewest hits and fifth-fewest walks among qualified Big West pitchers. Sitting in the mid-80’s as a freshman, he has improved his velocity as a sophomore, as he now can touch the 90 MPH threshold.
Freshman Shane Bieber may have the biggest impact of all newcomers, as he will start the year as the Sunday starter. As a senior at Laguna Hills High, he recorded a 1.40 ERA and struck out 77 batters against 16 walks in 80 innings, leading to a selection as Team MVP. His strong performance continued this fall with the Gauchos.
UCSB has a number of choices for the midweek starting job, and all three have shown the ability to succeed at the Division I level.
Nesovic spent a large portion of last season as the Sunday starter, and delivered a number of electrifying starts, including a 6.2 inning stint of shutout ball against Cal State Fullerton on Apr. 14. Junior Andrew Vasquez struck out more than a batter per inning in 39.2 frames of work last year and had one of the more dominant seasons in recent memory as a freshman (1.93 ERA, 104 strikeouts, named a Freshman All-American). Sophomore Domenic Mazza had a strong first year with the Gauchos while pitching in a long relief/spot start role. He compiled a 3.78 ERA while fanning 7.3 batters per nine innings.
Though it was no slouch last season, the bullpen should be a strong point for the Gauchos this year, as the team sports a number of power arms with upside.
Returning as the bullpen anchor is Greg Mahle, who was third on the squad in innings pitched last season despite starting just four times. Fully healthy after offseason knee surgery, expect to see Mahle often in 2014.
New in the closer role will be sophomore Dillon Tate. He pitched just three innings as a freshman last season, but sports a mid-90’s fastball with tilt and multiple breaking pitches that should cause fits for opposing hitters. Whichever long-man doesn’t start the Tuesday game will also be available out of the bullpen, giving Coach Checketts an even wider set of options.
The following was originally published on ucsbgauchos.com
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Registration is now open for the highly anticipated 2014 UCSB Baseball alumni weekend, which is scheduled for Jan. 24-26.
New this year is the abillity to register online. There is no longer a need to send in registration via mail. The link to register can be found here.
The weekend’s scheduled festivities include a social, golf tournament, and alumni game.
Friday night’s social – to which alumni, Hammerheads, and their significant others are invited – will take place at the Santa Barbara Brewing Company on Lower State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara. The event begins at 8:00 p.m. and will be the first opportunity for attendees to catch up with old teammates.
Saturday will feature a golf tournament at Glen Annie Golf Course. Last year’s tourney featured 122 players, so make sure to reserve your spot before it sells out. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m., with a shotgun start at 11:30 a.m. A chicken and tri-tip dinner will be served at the golf course following the day on the links, with an address from head coach Andrew Checketts and prizes to the winning foursome capping off the event.
The sure-to-be-entertaining alumni game is set for an 11:15 a.m. start on Sunday morning, with breakfast being served at 9 a.m. and batting practice commencing at 9:15 a.m.
The price for the entire weekend is $200. This includes the Friday night social/dinner, your spot in the golf tournament, dinner after golf, the breakfast and game Sunday, and your 2014 alumni weekend t-shirt.
For any questions or concerns about the 2014 alumni weekend, please contact Andy Graham at Andy.Graham@athletics.ucsb.edu or (805) 893-3722.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After putting together a successful 2013 campaign and adding another solid recruiting class, the UC Santa Barbara Baseball team was included in Collegiate Baseball’s 2014 Preseason Poll at the No. 39 spot, it was announced Friday morning.
Reinforcing their schedule as one of the toughest in the nation, the Gauchos will play seven teams who made the cut in the preseason rankings, including both of the top teams.
Over the course of the season, UCSB will play host to top-ranked Cal State Fullerton, No. 10 North Carolina State, defending national champion and fifteenth-ranked UCLA, and No. 34 Wichita State.
On the road, the Gauchos will face off against No. 2 Mississippi State, UCLA, No. 24 Arizona, and No. 27 Cal Poly.
Overall, UCSB’s 2014 opponents have combined for 73 appearances in the College World Series and 12 National Championships, while six of the Gauchos’ upcoming foes were participants in last season’s NCAA tournament.
Last year, Coach Checketts’ squad went on a late-season hot run – going 16-6 to close out the regular season – to clinch a share of second place in the Big West and a trip to the NCAA Regionals. Both were firsts for the program since the 2002 season.
The 2014 roster is set to return the entire rotation from last year, as well as the back end of the bullpen and seven starting position players. Another year of development from 2013 standouts such as Joey Epperson, Woody Woodward, Austin Pettibone, and Dylan Hecht will augment the contributions from promising newcomers like Brody Weiss, Josh Adams, and Brandon Luper.
The following was originally published on ucsbgauchos.com
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Head coach Andrew Checketts and the UC Santa Barbara Baseball program have signed ten outstanding players from the prep and junior college ranks to National Letters of Intent over the week-long early signing period, it was announced by the team today.
The recruiting class currently consists of six pitchers and a quartet of infielders. Nine of UCSB’s incoming players are high school athletes, while one is a junior college transfer.
“This is an outstanding group of student-athletes,” said Checketts. “Coach (Eddie) Cornejo and Coach (Jason) Hawkins worked tirelessly in putting together the foundation for another exceptional class.”
UCSB’s recruiting has been an unmitigated success under Checketts, as both recruiting classes under the new regime have been ranked among the top in the nation by national publications such as Baseball America and Perfect Game. The first recruiting class put together by Checketts and assistant coaches Eddie Cornejo and Jason Hawkins garnered a program record No. 12 ranking by Baseball America.
A right-handed pitcher out of Claremont High School, which also produced UCSB pitchers Kenny Chapman and Dillon Tate, Andrew Bernstein impressed scouts and coaches with a high 80’s fastball and a plus breaking ball despite becoming a full-time pitcher just last year. The 6-1, 180 pound hurler compiled a 2.75 ERA in his junior year, while also making the All-Tournament Team at the Perfect Game World Championships after fanning five batters in just two innings of work. He is also featured in Perfect Game‘s top-200 rankings of players in California for the 2014 class.
“Andrew has a great breaking ball,” said Checketts. “He has an athletic delivery and will continue to add velocity as he develops.”
At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Austin Bush gives the Gauchos a potential power bat at first base. The lefty hit .354 and had 14 extra base hits as a junior at Turlock High School. His standout season with the bat led to a multitude of awards, including First Team All-League, Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention. He also featured in a number of elite showcase events, including the Area Code Games, the North-South Showcase, and the NorCal World Series.
“Austin is physical and athletic,” commented Checketts. “He has power potential from the left side of the plate and is a strong defender at first base.”
The sole junior college player to sign an NLI with the Gauchos, James Carter put together a 7-4 record to go with a 3.51 ERA as a freshman at Chabot College in Danville, Calif. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 MPH.
“James is one of California’s top junior college prospects,” said Checketts. “He commands an electric fastball and pounds the strike zone.”
As a junior at Pacific Grove High School, Chris Clements had a historic year, going a perfect 14-0 with a miniscule 0.71 ERA and 93 strikeouts in just 78 innings pitched. A 2013 North-South Showcase participant and 2013 Mission Trail League Pitcher of the Year, Clements boasts plus command on all of his pitches.
“Chris is a very polished pitcher,” noted Checketts. “He has great fastball command and solid off-speed stuff. He possesses an advanced feel for the strike zone and is a proven winner.”
Clay Fisher batted .404 as a junior at La Quinta High School, and has the glove to go with a solid bat. A sound defender, he has an above average arm and the ability to make tough plays.
“Clay is one of the top defensive shortstops in California,” said Checketts. “He can run, has the arm strength to stick at shortstop after college and is a solid offensive player that will fit into our team’s offensive approach.”
A Bishop Amat High School product, Alex Garcia had a 2.40 ERA as a junior and struck out 53 batters in 49 innings. With a high 80’s fastball and an above average slider, the righty is a fierce competitor and grinder on and off the field. He played for the Angels Elite this past fall.
“Alex is athletic and has tremendous upside,” continued Checketts. “He throws a power slider that – when thrown for a strike – makes him very difficult to hit.”
Shane Mardirosian hit .493 and had a gaudy .596 on-base percentage as a junior at Martin Luther King High School this past year. The left-handed hitting shortstop has a full trophy cabinet going into his senior season, as he picked up All-CIF, All-League, and All-State honors while participating in prestigious events such as the Area Code Games, USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, and playing for the Angels Elite this past fall.
“As one of the most dynamic hitters in California, he can consistently drive the ball to all fields and is a major distraction to his opponents when on base,” said Checketts. “He is an outstanding worker and competitor who has succeeded on big stages in front of a lot of coaches and scouts.”
The only southpaw among the signees, Kyle Nelson struck out just under two batters per inning last season at Galileo High School in San Francisco. He possesses a wiry frame at 5-10, 155 pounds, with a mid-80’s fastball and solid repertoire of offspeed pitches. Voted as the Galileo Player of the Year, he was also an All-City Honorable Mention.
“Kyle is a dual sport athlete and is extremely competitive,” said Checketts. “He attacks the strike zone and has a wipe out breaking ball.”
Rounding out the infielders is two-sport star Kyle Plantier. The nephew of former MLB player and current San Diego Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier, he was the MVP of the Southwestern League and made First Team All-State this past season after hitting .400 and driving in 29 runs with 13 extra base hits. Also the starting quarterback at Temecula High School, Plantier has major upside on the offensive side of the ball with the ability to hit for power and average to all fields.
“Kyle has proven himself to be a prominent offensive player,” noted Checketts. “He will develop his overall game as he devotes himself full-time to baseball. We anticipate he will contribute as a run producer early on in his collegiate career.”
A 6-6 righty out of Barstow High School, Austyn Willis was named the Desert Sky League Player of the Year after going 5-3 with a 1.81 ERA and throwing a no-hitter as a junior. Willis has been clocked as high as 89 MPH and has good tilt on his fastball, and also has a sharp slider.
“Austyn has an impressive, projectable frame,” said Checketts. “He has made tremendous strides this year with his velocity and secondary pitches. He has solid fastball command and his velocity will continue to go up with strength and maturity. We expect big things from him as he develops into a prospect at UCSB.”
The 2013-14 Gauchos recently unveiled their schedule for the upcoming season, including matchups against the last two National Champions and three of the last four finalists in the College World Series. This season is shaping up to be one to remember, as UCSB will return its entire rotation and seven of nine starting position players.