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Fall Report: UC Santa Barbara

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SANTA BARBARA,  Calif. — The last time we saw the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, they were winning regionals, hitting jog-off grand slams, eliminating Miami in Omaha and leaping the tallest buildings in a single bound.

This team was hot property.

UCSB1But here is a little advice for you… if you see them anytime soon, don’t bring up the words “College World Series.” They won’t acknowledge them. They probably won’t even say them. At least not in that order.

Catching up with Gauchos head coach Andrew Checketts on Saturday before their scrimmage at LMU, the first thing he told me about his team and their fall practices was: “We told our guys that last year was last year. You can’t wear your College World Series stuff in the weight room. You have to wear the stuff that we issue for this year’s team. You haven’t won a game yet and last year is not going to help you this year.”

So, there you go. Just in case you were wondering if the Gauchos were planning on living in the afterglow of Omaha.

I was surprised that coach Andrew Checketts didn't insist on taking off the tiny College World Series stickers still on the UCSB batting helmets, as sported by J.J. Muno here.I was surprised that coach Andrew Checketts didn’t insist on taking off the tiny College World Series stickers still on the UCSB batting helmets, as sported by J.J. Muno here.

But the impact of making the trek to Omaha has definitely had an effect on the Gauchos program, particularly to the latest recruiting class, which was lauded as the program’s first to ever be ranked in the top 10 nationally. Yes, Santa Barbara. Right there at No. 21 in our recently released recruiting class rankings.

“The whole last month of last season on the field, the stars just seemed to align for us,” Checketts said. “And the same goes for this recruiting class. I think going to the postseason, winning a Super Regional and playing in Omaha gave us some extra exposure and maybe it did help us hang on to some of the draft risks. They put pretty good numbers on themselves, money-wise, for the draft and in past years we have lost some of those guys to pro ball.”

We shouldn’t be too stunned about this latest recruiting coup by coach Checketts and his staffers Neil Walton, Matt Harvey and recruiting coordinator Eddie Cornejo, as this is the fourth fall that their incoming class had been ranked by Collegiate Baseball. The 2102 class was ranked at No. 12, then No. 31 in 2013 and at No. 32 in 2014.

Three incoming frosh were drafted th is past summer and seven players in the class took part in the prestigious Area Code Games.

The Gauchos will certainly lean on many of the newbies to make contributions on the mound, just like a year ago when first-year guys like RHP Noah Davis (started 15 games) and RHP Kevin Chandler (18 appearances) stepped up. The losses off that Omaha team aren’t too heavy. They’re without Friday ace Shane Bieber, Centerfielder Andrew Calica, third baseman Ryan Clark and a few midweek starters and relievers.


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