As the UCSB baseball team’s season winds down, Head Coach Andrew Checketts is already making moves heading into next year. Checketts has added a new group of incoming players that look to make an impact on the Gauchos’ lineup and pitching rotation for 2015.
With the Major League Baseball Draft slated for June 5, potential players from Checkett’s recruiting class could opt for the majors instead. However, UCSB could have as many as 11 to 13 players join the team next Spring.
“This [recruiting class] here probably has guys that have a more immediate impact and are maybe a little more refined from a skill standpoint,” Checketts said. “This group has maybe a little more polish to it than the ones in the past.”
Perhaps the biggest area this recruiting class could make a difference in is on the mound with James Carter, a transfer from Chabot College, and Chris Clements out of Pacific Grove High. Carter throws a fastball that clocks in as high as early 90’s MPH and can control the strike zone.
Clements went a combined 20-2 his last two years in high school and comes in with an above average changeup, coupled with excellent command of the strike zone.
“[Clements’] won a ton of games, struck out a lot of hitters, pounds the strike zone,” Checketts said. “He has the ability to be a starter … He can come in and do something immediately.”
UCSB has power lined up in the form of 6’5’’, 240-pound first baseman Austin Bush. The left-handed batter will need to work on decreasing his hit-or-miss approach at the plate, but the slugger’s frame can provide a homerun threat in the middle of the lineup for the Gauchos.
“Power is really hard to find in college baseball, there’s just not a lot of guys that hit two words,” says Checketts. “He’s athletic and can feel his position for a big guy. He’s got a chance to come in to compete for the first base job immediately.”
Another player with the same frame as Bush is right-handed pitcher Austyn Willis out of Barstow High. The speed on his fastball can reach the upper 80’s. In his final year in high school, Willis made 11 appearances and had a 2.85 ERA.
UCSB has also recruited from within Santa Barbara with the addition of Santa Barbara City College’s Patrick O’Brien. In 35 games played for SBCC, the catcher hit .299 and had 27 runs to go along with 13 RBI. With current starting catcher Jackson Morrow set to graduate, O’Brien’s experience puts him in position to start right away and fill the hole left by Morrow.
Shane Mardirosian from Martin Luther King High School in Riverside is another potential player for UCSB. The infielder’s elite speed and bat speed makes him a lock to get drafted, says Checketts. Depending how high Mardirosian gets selected will decide if he plays for the Gauchos come next season.
As of now, the Gauchos are saying goodbye to four seniors from this year’s team, including left fielder Joey Epperson, who has arguably been the best hitter in the lineup for UCSB this season. However, the team has built a strong recruiting class that could contribute to a Big West title next year for Santa Barbara.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of May 22, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Dustin Harris of the Daily Nexus.