Head Coach Andrew Checketts will begin his future with the UCSB baseball program this weekend by welcoming pieces of his past to Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. The Gauchos will face Oregon State in a three-game series over the course of the weekend — a Beaver squad that is run by two of Checketts’ former coaches.
“I played for the head coach [of Oregon State],” Checketts said. “And their assistant coach was my high school coach.”
Checketts will don Gaucho blue during a game for the first time in his career while commanding a UCSB team that finished No. 6 in the Big West last season with a 10-14 league record. UCSB graduated 16 seniors last year, and will look toward returners such as outfielder Joe Wallace to fill the void.
Wallace, a 6’5”, 225-pound senior, was third on the team last year in statistical hitting categories behind graduated seniors Mark Haddow and Sean Williams, both of whom currently play for minor league teams. Wallace’s 22 runs and 28 RBI were among the top-four in each category on the team. Also returning for UCSB is senior infielder Ryan Palermo, whose .364 slugging percentage was sixth on the team last season.
“Santa Barbara has always swung hard so there’s a lot of aggressiveness at the plate, and we’re hoping to maintain that,” Checketts said.
UCSB’s pitching rotation will look much different from last year’s lineup, but it will be a change coach Checketts — who doubles as the squad’s pitching coach — will have addressed come game time.
“Matt Vedo and Kevin Gelinas have a lot of upside from the pitching standpoint,” Checketts said.
The Gauchos will face an Oregon State team that is coming off its sixth postseason appearance in the past seven years. The Beavers finished last year ranked No. 10 overall by Baseball America with a record of 41-19.
OSU’s junior right-handed pitcher Tony Bryant has been named a pre-season All-American after leading the Pac-10 last year with 12 saves. Bryant, who had a 1.52 ERA last year, was a 25th–round pick by the Minnesota Twins in the 2009 MLB draft, but chose not to sign.
The Beaver infield will return all of its starters from last season, a feat not normally seen in collegiate baseball.
“They’ve got a lot of depth,” Checketts said. “We’ll have to keep the early off-hitters off base. They take a lot of pitches and like to see a lot of pitches so we’ll have to do a good job of pounding the strike zone early.”
UCSB’s returners will challenge OSU’s depth this weekend when coach Checketts takes to the dugout for the first time as a Gaucho. His former coaches, however, may find familiarity in facing their one-time student.
“I won the last three,” Checketts said. “And I want to keep the winning streak alive.”
First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.