For the first time since 2001, UCSB will get to enjoy postseason baseball. In just his second season as head coach, Andrew Checketts has guided his team into the playoffs. The Gauchos made a major push in the final two months of the regular season to capture a tie for second place in the Big West and earn a bid in the 64-team NCAA Baseball Championship.
“This is kind of like a dream come true,” senior third baseman Marc Venning said. “I transferred from University of Arizona two years ago and they won the National Championship the year after I left, so I’ve had to live with that. I’ve always wanted a taste of Regionals, so this is like a dream come true and I wouldn’t go back and change this for anything.”
The Gauchos, who enter the tournament at 34-23, received an at-large selection to participate in the Corvallis Regional hosted by the Pac-12 winner Oregon State, who finished the year 45-10. On the road in neutral ground, UCSB will take on Texas A&M in the first game of the round.
“We are just going to get ready to play like we would any other weekend and get ready for Texas A&M,” Checketts said. “This should be fun because going up there is my alma mater and my boss Mark Massari’s last job was with Oregon State, so this should be a lot of fun; there is a lot of family up there.”
At 32-27 and 13-16 in the SEC, the Aggies enter the regional as the second-seeded team behind Oregon State. The Gauchos are the third-seeded team above University of Texas at San Antonio from the Western Athletic Conference.
The Regional will take place in double elimination format, with games ending June 3 before the Super Regional hosts are announced.
The two teams head into this regional tournament riding very different ends to their seasons. The Gauchos have won their last six weekend series in a row with the last being a sweep of UC Davis to help push them into the postseason.
The Aggies, however, scuffled with the end of their schedule losing five straight games from April 20-27. However, a 7-3 record in May gave them the final push they would need.
Texas A&M heads to Oregon having just played in their first ever SEC Tournament. The Aggies went 2-2 over their four games in Alabama, starting off hot with two wins, including one against No. 1 seeded Vanderbilt, but eventually dropped two in a row for elimination.
The two teams are likely to throw their aces at one another to take game one of the tournament. That means UCSB will put sophomore starting pitcher Austin Pettibone on the bump. Pettibone has been the workhorse of the Gaucho staff and of the Big West conference. He has thrown 110 innings this season, the most in the Big West, and has a 9-3 record. The right hander has thrown at least eight innings in his last three starts.
Texas A&M is likely to throw sophomore Daniel Mengden on Friday. The right-hander from Houston holds an 8-4 record on the season with a 1.84 ERA in 15 starts this year. Mengden has thrown nearly 50 more innings than any other pitcher on the Aggies staff, as he too has cleared the 100 innings pitched plateau.
The Gauchos and Aggies are set to kick off the Corvallis Regional with a noon game scheduled at Goss Stadium, the home of Oregon State in Corvallis. Following their game will be UT San Antonio and Oregon State at 5 p.m.
A version o this article appeared on page 1 of May 30, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of The Daily Nexus.