The #21 UCSB baseball team left Santa Barbara on Tuesday for the NCAA Regionals, and the Big West Conference made sure the Gauchos didn’t go away empty-handed.
After one of the finest seasons in Santa Barbara history, UCSB Head Coach Bob Brontsema was named Big West Coach of the Year for guiding the Gauchos to a 39-15 record and a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Gauchos also placed nine players on either the First or Second All Big West teams, which the conference announced Tuesday.
Brontsema has now been named Big West Coach of the Year twice, the first time in 1996. This season, Brontsema has led the Gauchos into the top 25 of three national polls and into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1996 campaign. Brontsema now owns a 215-206 record in eight seasons at UCSB.
Of the nine All-Big West selections, five Gauchos made the first team: senior shortstop Chad Peshke, senior third baseman Dave Molidor, sophomore centerfielder Skip Schumaker, sophomore right fielder Ryan Spilborghs and junior pitcher James Garcia.
Both Peshke and Molidor are repeat All-Big West selections. Peshke, who has started in all 208 games since his freshman year, enjoyed a huge final season at UCSB. The second baseman hit .389 with 18 doubles and 50 RBIs. Molidor nearly matched Peshke’s numbers, hitting .387 on the season with 10 dingers and 65 RBIs.
As Santa Barbara’s leadoff man, Schumaker was expected to get on base consistently, and he didn’t disappoint. Schumaker led UCSB with a .395 batting average, 19 stolen bases and 94 hits on the season – only six short of the school record.
The other sophomore of the group, Spilborghs, may be the most surprising selection of them all. Hitting out of the nine-hole, “Spilly” finished the season hitting .386 with 10 doubles and 39 RBIs. Spilborghs also carries a school record 33-game hitting streak into the NCAA Tournament.
The selection of Garcia to the first team was anything but surprising. The Gauchos’ ace finished the year with a 10-2 record and a 2.63 ERA. Garcia also struck out 105 batters in 116.1 innings pitched. In addition, Garcia led UCSB with five complete games, and opposing batters hit only .222 on the season against the righty.
Four Gauchos were also named to the All-Big West second team: junior first baseman Tyler Von Schell, junior left fielder Jed Stringham, senior designated hitter Mike Kolbach and senior hurler Rylie Ogle.
Von Schell enjoyed a monster year in his third season at UCSB. “Bomber” hit .315 with 61 RBIs and broke the school record with 18 round-trippers. Von Schell also finished with 14 doubles and 47 runs scored.
Stringham, a junior college transfer from Utah, finished with a .361 batting average and was second on the club with 13 long balls. Stringham also knocked in 48 and came around to score 37 times.
Kolbach, who was named Big West Player of the Week for his performance against Sacramento State, hit .367 on the season and finished with 24 RBIs.
Ogle, the Gauchos #2 starter, matched Garcia with a 10-2 record, but came in with a slightly higher ERA of 3.65. Ogle also finished second to Garcia with two complete games.
UCSB will be looking for the continued performance of all of its players this Friday against Florida International in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The two squads will square off at 5:30 p.m. with the victor facing the winner of the Notre Dame vs. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee game.