#21 UC Santa Barbara Baseball 2014 Preview

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Overall Rank: #21
Conference Rank: #2 Big West
#21 UC Santa Barbara Baseball 2014 Preview
UC Santa Barbara Team Page


UC Santa Barbara had a very successful season last year, finishing tied for second in the Big West and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament.  The Gauchos finished 16-6 to close out the season, and that run secured both second place and the tournament berth.  This year, the Gauchos return almost all of their key contributors and they are set to have a big year.

2013: 35-25, 17-10
2013 Postseason: NCAA Tournament
Coach: Andrew Checketts

Field Players:
The Gauchos return six players off last year’s team who played in at least 51 games, led by Tyler Kuresa. The junior played in all 60 contests and led the team in home runs with five and RBI’s with 46. He also hit .296 and had a .455 slugging percentage.  Woody Woodward returns after appearing in 51 games and hitting a team leading .330 with 34 RBI’s.  Catcher Jackson Morrow and outfielder Cameron Newell also return after playing in 59 games apiece.  Morrow provides a solid catcher behind the plate after not committing an error in 401 total chances last year, while Newell hit .309 with 26 RBI’s last year.  Pitcher Robby Nesovic, who doubles as a utility player, had a great freshman season, hitting .326 with four home runs and 33 RBI’s in 54 games.  In the outfield, Joey Epperson and Luke Swenson both return.  Epperson hit .324 and stole a team-high 15 bases, while Swenson hit .295 with 23 RBI’s and 11 stolen bases in 57 games.  Adding depth will be outfielder Dalton Kelly and infielders Peter Maris, Ryan Clark, and Devon Gradford.  A pair of intriguing freshmen also join the team.  Outfielder Josh Adams was the Gauchos top recruit and appeared in some top 500 recruit lists, while shortstop Brody Weiss is the son of Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss.  

The pitching staff nearly returns intact as 12 players who were underclassmen last year are back.  Junior Austin Pettibone will lead the starting rotation after going 10-3 with a 2.98 ERA in 16 starts last year.  Justin Jacome started 14 games and went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA.  He struck out 53 batters in just over 83 innings.  Also back are Nesovic and Andrew Vasquez, who both started nine games last year. Nesovic was 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA while Vasquez was 2-3 with a 4.31 ERA.  Greg Mahle was 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 32 appearances, including four starts.  Closer Dillon Hecht is back after posting a 1.83 ERA and nine saves in 29 games.  Cameron Cuneo is the lone senior in the bullpen and he went 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA last year.  Five sophomores will make up the rest of the bullpen.  Domenic Mazza posted the best numbers out of the group, going 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA in 18 appearances.  Kenny Chapman was 3-0 in 9 appearances, while Connor Baits appeared in 14 games.  Hector Lujan and Dillon Tate both saw limited action out of the pen.  

Who to Watch:
Robby Nesovic is coming off a great freshman year and could be poised for an even bigger sophomore year.  Nesovic was the Big West Freshman of the Year last season and also had a good season on the mound.  He led the team with a .405 on base percentage and was third on the team with 82 total bases.  The sophomore was also second on the team in home runs, with four, and batting average at .326.  On the mound, he struck out 31 batters in just over 57 innings to go along with his 4-4 record and 5.02 ERA.  If Nesovic can improve on those numbers, he will be a very dangerous player for the Gauchos and will be bad news for opponents.

Final Projection:
UC Santa Barbara has a very tough schedule this season. The Gauchos will open the year with NC State, who have two of the top three players in the country, and will play six other teams that made it to a regional last year, including last year’s National Champion, UCLA, and National Runner-up, Mississippi State.  Although those are tough teams, UCSB matches up well against them.  They return a ton of production, and with another year of experience, those players could make it happen this year for the Gauchos.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Tyler Kuresa, IF, 233
Hits: Tyler Kuresa, IF, 69; Cameron Newell, OF, 69
Home Runs: Tyler Kuresa, IF, 5
RBIs: Tyler Kuresa, IF, 46
Runs: Cameron Newell, OF, 37
Stolen Bases: Joey Epperson, OF, 15

Wins: Austin Pettibone, P, 10
Innings Pitched: Austin Pettibone, P, 117.2
Strikeouts: Austin Pettibone, P, 61
Saves: Dillon Hecht, P, 9


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