2013 Preview – The Big West

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 1st, 2013 in 2013 National Preview, Big West
 

2012 CONFERENCE ISR: 6

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HOW THEY’LL FINISH IN 2013:

1- Cal State Fullerton

2- UC Irvine

3- UC Santa Barbara

4- Cal Poly

5- UC Riverside

6- Long Beach State

7- Hawaii

8- Cal State Northridge

9- UC Davis

10- Pacific

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THE LOWDOWN.

Question: Do we still consider the Big West one of the “Big Six” conferences in college baseball? Don’t hate me Big Westers, it’s more of a rhetorical question. But the conference has sadly sunk down to a one-bid league. Yes, one post-season team in 2012. Plus they finished two rungs below the West Coast Conference in the ISR rankings. Gah! But the good news is that most of the teams in the conference are on the uptick and this could be a three or four-bid conference this season. We’ll see.  That may be a little pie-in-the-sky thinking. The problem is that a lot of the teams in the Big West are real wild cards in trying to figure them out. I mean, Fullerton has some major losses to overcome, but let’s face it. It’s the Titans. They’ll be good again. UCI is a real dark horse because they have so much coming back from injury. UCSB and Cal Poly have the potential to make a run at the conference crown and the post-season as well. UCR and Long Beach are capable of much better and Hawaii joins the loop from the WAC and should have an immediate impact on the standings and in the travel budget department.

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BREAKTHROUGH TEAM:

- UC Santa Barbara.

This might be one of those “matter of time” kind of things. Andrew Checketts had the mindset of the Gauchos program changed immediately. Noted as a keen recruiter and having put together a good staff. The 18th ranked recruiting class that comes to the seaside campus will lead UCSB into new levels of success in the years to come.

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TRENDING DOWN:

- Long Beach State.

The Beach made a bit of a comeback last year, pushing Fullerton for the regular season crown. But once again, the pitching staff took some major hits, including the late news that Ryan Strufing and Kyle Friedrichs both will miss the season with Tommy John surgery. Crap! The Dirtbags must rebuild its entire pitching staff. And if you know your Big West history, that’s never an enviable position to be in.

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BIGGEST CLEATS TO FILL:

- The Long Beach Pitching staff.

With the injuries to Strufing and Friedrich, the Dirtbags now have only three starts back from last year’s 55 starting assignments. There’s a lot coming back in the field, but The Beach is long-known for its stellar pitching to keep it in games. This will be a trying season if the newbies in the arms corps don’t step in and pitch at a high level right away.

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BEST PLAYER:

- Michael Lorenzen, OF/RHP, Cal State Fullerton

This one’s a no-brainer. Could be the best two-way player for the Titans since Mark Kotsay. That’s pretty heady company.

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BEST PITCHER:

- Andrew Vasquez, LHP, UC Santa Barbara.

A freshman All American last season, Vasquez led the Big West with a 1.93 ERA in his 88.2 innings of work. He was also the first UCSB pitcher since Barry Zito to top the 100K count in a season, finishing 2012 with 104. He’ll need to cut down on the 63 free passes though. If he doesn’t, Andrew Thurman of UCI, you’re next for this mention.

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IMPACT NEWCOMER:

- Justin Garza, RHP, Cal State Fullerton

You KNOW the Titans are going to have two or three new flingers come in and set the Big West on fire. It’s what the Titans do every year. For instance, could anyone have foreseen a freshman going into Gainesville and beating No. 1 Florida last year? Yep, it happened (Kenny Mathews got the start and Koby Gauna got the win). Garza is the stud of the newcomers, having been a 26th round draft pick last summer. The bad news for opponents is that there may be one or two other Titan greenhorns to push Garza for this mention.

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STEAL THE LEAR JET FOR…

UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton, May 17-19.

Not much to say here… this one never disappoints. And if the Anteaters are as good as I think they can be, this gets even bigger.

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CAPSULES…

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- CAL POLY (36-20, 16-8)

2012 ISR: 27

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Jimmy Allen (.345-3-44, 10SBs)

OF/DH David Armendariz (.312-4-36)

C Chris Hoo (.259-2-23, only 4Es)

LHP Joey Wagman (9-3, 2.33, .234OBA)

RHP Reed Reilly (5-2, 2.80)

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NOTES:

- I was on the Cal Poly bandwagon from the opening weekend last season after seeing them dominate Oklahoma State in a 3-game sweep. And sure enough, CP ended up finishing with a conference-high 36 wins, a second place finish and with a 27 ISR ranking. Coach Larry Lee and the boys had a solid season.

- The Mustangs went 14-3 down the stretch of last season, making a push to get into the at-large discussion in the NCAA tournament. The RPI – at No. 66 last season – is never kind to the cleats of the ‘Stangs so getting behind the eight-ball just isn’t an option here. It’s not fair, I know, but that’s how it is being in the underrated Big West AND being geographically isolated like you are. Stay on top of the won-loss column guys.

- Two gaping holes in the offense/defense will need to be filled as the top two hitters and top two defenders have moved on to pro ball in SS Mike Miller and CF Mitch Hanigan. Coach Lee admitted to me last year that these were the two keys to the offense and they ended up hitting .354 and .346 respectively. Hanigan’s power will certainly be be missed after he parked 13 yard calls last season and 26 in his three years in San Luis Obispo.

- Two of the three weekend starters return to the toe the rubber in Joey Wagman and RHP Kyle Brueggemann (4-4, 5.49) who both showed flashes of brilliance last season (for instance, they both threw 6-0 wins vs. Oklahoma State in the opening weekend). The part that head coach Larry Lee has to like is that both are seniors, so there’s a huge been-there, done-that factor to their makeup. Most of the bullpen is back as well, led by RHP Chase Johnson (3-4, 3.34, 8svs), and Reed Reilly, who both made 25 appearances last season.

- To put it into perspective, overall, CP used nine pitchers for the bulk of the work last season and seven of them return.

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- CAL STATE FULLERTON (36-21, 17-7)

2012 ISR: 16

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP/OF Michael Lorenzen (2-0, 1.23, 16svs/.297-2-43, 14SBs)

DH Carlos Lopez (.317)

SS Richy Pedroza (.324)

3B Matt Chapman (.286-2-23)

OF Anthony Hutting (.280)

RHP Willie Kuhl (2-4, 3.71)

RHP Grahamm Wiest (5-5, 3.12)

RHP Koby Gauna (5-3, 2.85)

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NOTES:

- I think all I need to put in this space here is that the Titans went 36-21 and finished with a 16 ISR in a “rebuilding” season which saw an all-new coaching staff and a bevy of freshmen in the pitching staff. Yep, 36 wins. That might be as bad as it gets for this Orange County monster. Pretty impressive stuff. And a hearty “hey-ohh!” to coach Rick Vanderhook and his staff for keeping the scrapping persona of the program going.

- The Titans threw a cold pail of water on us, snapping up back to reality right from the get-go in 2012, winning a game at No. 1 Florida and playing a nip-and-tuck weekend with the Gators. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, the Elephants took a series from TCU at home and then, maybe most impressively of all, won a series at No. 5 Texas A&M. But eventually, the 2012 season came to a bummer of an ending as CSUF went just 5-7 down the stretch, losing out in the Regional round at Oregon. That has the Titans and their loyal fan base scratching the dirt like a bull about to charge.

- Another yearly un-written factor you have to keep in mind about Cal State Fullerton is how they always seem to have new blood come to campus and still manage to step right in line and keep the winning pedigree going. For example, last year the Titans had an all-new rotation and mostly new pitching staff to work with, yet there they were beating teams like Florida and A&M and also finishing the season with a 3.18 team ERA. No muss, no fuss, right? So even though only one weekend starting pitcher comes back, CSF will be fine. As for newbies to watch for, look out for RHP Justin Garza (a 26th round draft pick last June) and RHP Thomas Eshelman to be immediate contributors as either starters or relievers. Both are mature beyond their years and look like future stars.

- The Titans could have one of the best 3-thru-5 hitters in the country in Michael Lorenzen, J.D. Davis and Carlos Lopez, if they all perform as expected. Lots of power, ability and most of all, a knack for coming up clutch when needed between those three. Whoever sits at the top of the lineup will have to be typical Titan, getting on base in a variety of ways and using their bats in many different ways. It could come down to some combination of Richy Pedroza, Matt Orloff (.396 in 24 games) and Matt Chapman, all three being scrappy, fiery rascals. And when you throw in names like Anthony Hutting, Austin Kingsolver (.232), Austin Diemer (.370 in part-time duty), Greg Valezquez (.210 in 29 games) and Keegan Dale (.290, and was all California Collegiate League last summer), you can see why this may be the most experienced Titan team in years.

- The incoming class is once again an Orange County gem, being ranked No. 17 in the country by Collegiate Baseball. Beyond the aforementioned hurlers Justin Garza and Thomas Eshelman, also look for immediate impacts from a pair of infield whiz-kids in Jake Jefferies, who was picked in the 34th round by the Nats last June, and David Olmedo-Barrera, a 40th round pick of the A’s.

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- CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE (23-30, 10-14)

2012 ISR: 117

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

LHP Jerry Keel (6-3, 2.07)

RHP Louis Cohen (7-2, 5.86)

OF Cal Vogelsang (.278)

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NOTES:

- The Matador win total didn’t change from 2011 to 2012, both ending with 23 Ws. Last year’s team had some promise with most of the squad returning, but started spinning their tires from early on by going 11-13 in pre-Big West play, despite having a very winnable schedule. The Mats hope to get off to a better start this time around.

- The offense hit a woeful .255 and the top returning hitter is Ryan Raslowsky, who started 38 games last season and hit .278. Although four of the returnees in the field are seniors, so the Matadors have to hope experience counts for something.

- Joshua Goossen-Brown returns after sitting out 2012 and will be a valuable two-way talent for the Matadors. He hit .275 at the dish and went 4-3, 4.74 with five saves while toeing the rubber.

- Coach Matt Curtis made one of the better off-season coaching hires by bringing in Sergio Brown as the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator. Brown has already worked in the Big West Conference for a decade, including being the recruiting guru for UC Irvine from 2004 to 2007 and at Cal State Fullerton from 2007 to 2010. Sam Peraza was hired as the pitching coach, having a successful five-year stint at D-2 Cal State L.A.

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- HAWAI’I (30-25, 10-8 in the WAC)

2012 ISR: 81

Starters Returning: 5

Weekend Starters: 1

Mid-Week Starters: 0

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 2

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All Conference Candidates:

2B Stephen Ventimilia (.293, 15SBs)

SS Pi’kea Kitamura (.311)

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NOTES:

- Coach Mike Trapasso brings his Islanders from the WAC over to the Big West for 2013, which means there’s no more of those painful trips all the way to Ruston, Louisiana to play a conference weekend. Much more concise trips to Southern California will replace treks to Louisiana Tech, Nevada and New Mexico State. Good for their psyche and their pocket book.

- The Rainbows are always up against it with their lengthy road trips, but last year they went just 4-13 on the Mainland, including a poor 0-2 mark at the WAC tournament in Mesa. Had their won-loss mark been tilted just a little in road games we could be talking about UofH coming off a season where it made the Regionals. This year, trips to the mainland will include long back-to-back weekends in Big West play, going to UCI and Cal Poly in early April, and going to Pacific and Long Beach in early May.

- There will be lots of holes to fill for the Warriors this season, especially in the pitching department. Only 240 of the 490 innings pitched last season will return to the roster for 2013. The returnees are lefty-heavy with southpaws, including weekend starter Scott Squier (3-4, 3.50) and Lawrence Chew (2-3, 2.40, 3svs), who made a team-high 22 appearances last season in various roles but could take over as the primary closer this year with the exodus of saves-leader Brent Harrison.

- Just days before the season begins news was floated that LHP Jarrett Arakawa, who went 7-6, 2.88 as a weekend starter, will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. Big time bummer. Was really looking forward to seeing how he’d do in the first go-round in the Big West.

- The Rainbows had a good defensive team last season, sweeping at a .972 pace. And with the double-play combo of Stephen Ventimilia and Pi’kea Kitamura throwing to 1st baseman Max Duval, who hit a boney-armed .186 so that will need to change. Speaking of, UofH batters overall hit just .258 last year. That must change if this team is going to be given a chance at the post-season.

- One player that can help that is San Diego transfer OF Kalei Hanawahine, who hit .310 for the Toreros in 2010 and was the Freshman of the Year for USD that season. Hanawahine had to sit out last season due to transfer rules. Also keep an eye on RHP Connor Little, who went 4-4, 5.16 in 2011 before riding the pine in 2012 due to injuries. Little is a former Florida Marlins draft pick and is expected to be a middle-of-the-order kind of guy this year.

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- LONG BEACH STATE (28-27, 15-9)

2012 ISR: 47

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 0

Mid-Week Starters: 0

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Juan Avila (.288-2-30)

OF Richard Prigatano (.280)

1B/DH Ino Patron (.279)

RHP Jon Maciel (1-3, 1.27, 2svs, .234OBA)

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NOTES:

- Although the Dirtbags made great strides last season, challenging Fullerton for the Big West title down to the last weekend and improving their ISR ranking to No. 47, it has still been since the 2008 season where the Beach has won 30+ games or gone to the Regionals. Aye-yaye-yaye!

- Everything looks like the usual Dirtbag M.O., pitching had a team ERA of 3.08, held opposing batters to .251 and the defense fielded at a .972 mark. Check each box as “typical” for the Black and Gold. Unfortunately, the weak batting average – just .251 – is becoming a burr in the saddle of The Beach again. Some big sticks must step up for them to harbor any breakthrough seasons.

- Year three of the Troy Buckley era could be the next step toward getting back to regularity for the Dirtbags, but once again the schedule is a walk on hot coals. They’ll travel in non-conference play to Vanderbilt and Arizona State for three-day weekends. They’ll also host Wichita State and Cal State Fullerton as part of their non-conference play. The month of May won’t be easy either playing their Big West weekend vs. Fullerton at Goodwin Field and also closing the season at UCI.

- The Dirtbags don’t usually have big-bat hitters that are actual home run threats (although no one hits home runs at cavernous Blair Field, so they’re more of threats in road games) but they will this year in the form of Richard Prigatano, Juan Avila and Ino Patron. They’ve got to lead by example and get the offense cranked up.

- Buckley’s prowess for being a pitching coach guru will need to come up huge this year with the awful news that big studs Ryan Strufing (7-3, 2.99) and saves ace Kyle Friedrichs (1-3, 1.88, 10svs) are both lost for the 2013 season and headed toward Tommy John surgery recovery.. But look for big steps up from Jon Maciel, RHP Josh Frye (2-2, 2.79) and LHP Jake Stassi (1-0, 3.43), who are juniors.

- Long Beach has a good incoming class for 2013. Take note of righty pitchers David Hill (a 17th round draftee of the Phillies last June) and JC transfer Shane Carle. Also, junior RHP Nate Underwood returns after sitting out 2012 with an injury, but has gone 5-1, 3.35 in 32 career appearances.

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- PACIFIC (16-40, 6-18)

2012 ISR: 236

Starters Returning: 6

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 2

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All Conference Candidates:

3B Dustin Torchio (.296)

1B Erik Lockwood (.352)

RHP Michael Benson (3-9, 3.34)

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NOTES:

- The Tigers have slumped from 31 wins in 2010 to 17 wins in 2011 down to 16 wins last season. Although to be fair, 2012 was destined to be a rebuilding season anyway since Coach Ed Sprague and Co. had to go into last year with no returning starters on the mound.

- … which brings me to the good news. The Tigers return all three weekend starters from last year, two of which were freshmen thrown to the wolves right out of the gates in Michael Benson and RHP MIke Hager (6-5, 4.36). They’ll be joined by junior lefty Kyle Crawford (2-7, 6.32). Also, mid-week starter Travis Lumby (1-4, 7.12), a senior lefty, returns.

- But the bad news for the Orange and Black is that last year’s fielding unit was chock-full of seniors, so there will still be some growing pains once again this year. But something has to bust through for the Tigers since they’ve had just two winning seasons in the last 10 years and no winning Big West seasons in that span. They’ve got to get some momentum going in the program before they sojourn over to the West Coast Conference in 2014.

- The incoming freshman class will help those matters. The bullpen needs re-working and lanky LHP Patrick Weigel fits right into this plans with his low-90s screamer. Look for smooth-fielding J.J. Wagner to work his way into the dirtbagger crew early on. But the player the staff is most excited about is OF Giovanni Brusa, a power stick with a strong outfield arm.

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- UC DAVIS (27-30, 12-12)

2012 ISR: 163

Starters Returning: 4

Weekend Starters: 0

Mid-Week Starters: 2

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Barry Stanwyck (3-4, 2.21, 5svs)

3B Paul Politi (.345-3-32

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NOTES:

- The Aggies didn’t improve their ISR ranking much from 2011 (going from 169 to 166) but their win total jumped nine spots and they showed much more competitiveness in Big West play, finishing at .500. The Big Blue went 9-4 down the stretch of last season, including weekend series wins vs. Cal Poly, Long Beach State, CSUN and UCI. Not bad.

- But there were heavy losses to the roster for this season. The entire weekend rotation must be replenished as Anthony Kupbens, Dayne Quist and Tom Briner were all seniors and all of them sported a sub-3.60 ERA. Dangit! Opposite of that, every serviceable arm from the bullpen comes back, so look Barry Stanwyck, Craig Lanza (1-1, 3.94) and Evan Wolf (3-4, 5.82) to get even bigger roles they’ll need to adapt to right away.

- Longtime mainstays like 1B Eric Johnson, catcher Scott Kalush and OF David Popkins all moved on after garnering some kind of All Big West honors during their tenure in Davis.

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- UC IRVINE (31-25, 13-11)

2012 ISR: 88

Starters Returning: 4

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 0

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 5

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Andrew Thurman (8-3, 2.66, 4CGs, .195OBA)

LHP Matt Whitehouse (0-2, 4.15 in 3apps)

RHP Kyle Hooper (3-1, 1.50 in 5apps)

RHP Evan Brock (2-1, 2.12, .186OBA)

DH Connor Spencer (.306)

3B Taylor Sparks (.202-3-12)

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NOTES:

- I had UCI ranked in the Top 10 of last year’s preseason rankings I wrote for Athlon’s Magazine. Yep, I was big-time wrong. From April Fools Day onward the ‘Eaters went just 14-14, dropping them off the ledge for post-season contention and having them finish with an un-Eater-like 31-25 record and middle-of-the-pack in Big West play. There’s GOT to be a rebound in 2013, it’s the Gillespie way.

- Of course, the foolhardy bet to make is to put your money against coach Mike Gillespie when he’s armed to the hilt with a hearty amount of pitching. Seven of last year’s top 10 pitchers return, including weekend starters Andrew Thurman and RHP Phillip Ferragamo (3-5, 3.72), who has also spent plenty of time coming out of the pen.

- Damn injury bug… again. The best part of the 2013 team is the pitchers they’ll have back who missed last year or most of last year. In 2011, LHP Matt Whitehouse went 4-0, 2.12 and ranked 45th in the nation in ERA, but threw in just three games last season. Another southpaw, senior Andy Lines, also comes back after just three appearances last year but went 5-2, 2.57 in 2011, holding batters to just a .218 average. And big strapping righty Kyle Hooper made just five appearances last season, but had 35 previous appearances in 2010 and 2011. All three of these potential dominators will play a huge role for Irvine’s post-season hopes. (Knock on wood here, if you’re so inclined)

- The Anteaters pitching staff held opposing batters to just a .235 average last season. Expect more of the same this season. Add to that the usually reliable defense, which was .975 last year though will have some new faces this time around. So you get the idea here, typical pitching/defense-based team for UCI. Never a bad recipe.

- Here come the Two Taylors. The big key to UCI’s hopes on offense will rest in the emergence of Taylor Sparks, the high-ceiling 3rd baseman who struggled to adjust to college ball last year hitting just .202, and incoming JC transfer Dominique Taylor who will play centerfield and may even bat third in the order if the fall scrimmages are to hold true here. I’ve read a lot about the imposing 6’4″ 215 pound Sparks and his development over the summer after being named the top prospect in the West Coast League. Dominique has impressive speed to shag balls gap to gap and shows an aggressive batting style with a confident, easy swing.

- Coach Gillespie hired former staff ace Daniel Bibona to assist with the Anteater pitching staff. Sure he’s inexperienced, but he was always a great dugout leader during his playing days and was a technically sound hurler as well. He should be able to relate to his students very well.

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- UC RIVERSIDE (22-32, 9-15)

2012 ISR: 154

Starters Returning: 8

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

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All Conference Candidates:

RHP Trevor Frank (2-8, 4.62)

LHP Dylan Stuart (7-7, 4.00)

LHP Ben Doucette (1-1, 1.69, 5svs)

INF Eddie Young (.295)

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NOTES:

- It may not have looked like a very good season for the Highlanders, which it wasn’t, but keep in mind that their 22 wins did include Ws over Arizona State, Sam Houston State, Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton. So they showed some promise that buoys hope for this season, especially with the modicum of returnees headed back to their posts for 2013. But many just befell the sophomore jinx or just had crappy seasons straight up last go-round. Here’s to hoping for a rebound.

- Lots of capable pitching returns, including starters Dylan Stuart and Trevor Frank. Look for Mitch Pepito to stand out in this, his final campaign as a Highlander. He’s had a star-crossed career but has still posted pretty good career numbers: 7-7, 3.61. He’ll figure huge this season after finishing 9th in the Big West in strikeouts a year ago with 61.

- The big achilles heel for the Highlanders was obviously the offense, which limped to a .260 average, hitting just 13 home runs last season. They also had no rabbit’s foot in their pockets either, hitting into 61 double plays, while the Highlanders turned just 38 of their own last season. But leading hitter Vince Gonzalez, who hit .351, is the only bat missing from last season. Eddie Young and Clayton Prestridge (.292, 10SBs) will lead by example. But OF David Andriese in particular needs a bounce-back season. He hit just .233-4-25 last year after hitting .307 in 2011 while garnering some Freshman All American honors.

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- UC SANTA BARBARA (28-28, 10-14)

2012 ISR: 132

Starters Returning: 4

Weekend Starters: 2

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 3

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All Conference Candidates:

SS Brandon Trinkwon (.347-2-32)

LHP Andrew Vasquez (6-3, 1.93, 104Ks)

1B Tyler Kuresa (redshirted 2012)

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NOTES:

- In the first go-round of the Andrew Checketts era I actually thought the Gauchos did a pretty good job keeping his team together and having them competitive all season long. And keep in mind that they had very little experience coming into the season to go along with that all-new coaching staff. So wins over teams like Oregon State, Fullerton, Fresno State and Pepperdine look pretty good in this rebuilding process.

- Though it wasn’t anything to crow about, the team batting average of .277 was second-best in the Big West last season. But there are going to be a lot of new faces in that batting order this year, so don’t look for a .300+ team average. One of the faces to look for is 1B Tyler Kuresa, who played his freshman year at Oregon, getting 25 starts but hit only .191. However, his ceiling is unlimited, considering he is a former 11th round draft pick of the Twins.

- Once again, pitching will have to be the leaning post for the Gauchos. But even still, the arms corps took a few hits with drafted arms like Matthew Vedo and Zak Edgington heading off to pro ball.

- Aw crap, why accentuate the negative, the good side of the ledger is that the Gauchos also have a good bit of young pitching that will be the core of this year’s staff including quadrant of second-year guys. Frosh All American Andrew Vasquez will be joined by Austin Pettibone (7-3, 4.44), Greg Mahle (3-4, 3.88, 4svs) and Jared Wilson (0-1, 4.63), who was drafted in the 35th round by the Twins last June but chose to come back for his senior year.

- The other good news? – and this is a biggie – that bitchin’ recruiting class. Yes, UCSB had one of the best talent round-ups in the country. No foolin. Collegiate Baseball pegged the Gauchos newbies as the 18th-best group in the country. The big gems of the class appear to be 6’5 RHP Connor Baits, who can wing it up to 95mph and Dillon Tate, who is expected to be a big contributor out of the ‘pen. Also keep an eye on OF Andrew Calica and SS Devon Gradford, who was a 34th round pick of the A’s. But the player that coach Checketts and his staff feel may make the biggest impact is LHP Domonic Mazza, a pinpoint southpaw who jumps ahead in counts consistently.

 

COMMENTS:

February 2, 2013 at 1:25 am

Great stuff Stitch!! A few comments on my Gauchos, BaseballAmerica also ranked the class as #12, ahead of even Fullerton so the baseball tide is definitely turning for this sleeping giant on the beach. As always, thanks for this awesome write-up and looking forward to a promising season as Hawaii joins the conference.