CBB: Gauchos release 2016 baseball schedule

UCSB Baseball 2016

UCSB’s baseball team opens its 2016 season at home on February 19th against University of San Francisco. (John Dvorak/Presidio Sports Photo)

Fresh off one of the most successful seasons in program history, head coach Andrew Checketts and the UCSB baseball team are striving for big things once again in 2016, evidenced by the formidable schedule that was revealed on Thursday.

This upcoming year, the Gauchos will take on seven programs that participated in the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament, including No. 1 national seed UCLA and strong programs such as Oregon, College of Charleston, USC, Cal State Fullerton, and Pepperdine.

UCSB 2016 SCHEDULE

“It’s always a goal of this program to construct a tough schedule,” said Checketts. “We feel we have accomplished that again this season, as our pre-conference schedule contains a number of traditional NCAA Tournament participants. Facing those strong programs will help us prepare to contend in a very competitive Big West Conference.”

UCSB will open its season on Friday, Feb. 19 with the first contest in a three-game series at home against the University of San Francisco.

They first hit the road a week later, as they will travel south to San Diego to participate in the inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic. Though the matchups for the tournament haven’t been set, other teams set to compete include: co-hosts USD and SDSU, Kentucky, Arizona, Nebraska, Tulane, and Bryant.

Other key non-conference series include a road trip to Oregon from Mar. 4-6, a home-and-home series against USC from Mar. 24-26, and a cross-country journey to College of Charleston – which was a No. 2 seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament – during UCSB’s conference bye-week: Apr. 8-10.

This will be the second time that Coach Checketts will face off against his mentor, George Horton, and the Ducks. Checketts left the Oregon program after the 2011 season to become UCSB’s ninth head coach. Checketts spent three seasons with the Ducks under Horton, serving as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator and helping resurrect a dormant program. Checketts and his former boss led the Ducks to an NCAA Regional in just the second year of the program’s existence, and Checketts put together nationally-ranked recruiting classes in all three of his years in Eugene.

The Gauchos begin Big West play on the road this year, trekking south to Long Beach for a three game set from Apr. 1-3. In conference action, the Gauchos will host CSUN, Hawaii, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside, while traveling to Cal Poly, UC Davis, and UC Irvine.

In addition, the Gauchos have scheduled home-and-home midweek contests against defending conference champions UCLA (Pac-12), Pepperdine, (WCC), and CSU Bakersfield (WAC). Other midweek opponents include WCC members St. Mary’s and Gonzaga.

UCSB’s longest homestand this season will be six games (Mar. 11-20 against Hartford and UConn), while the team’s longest road swing will be eight games (Mar. 26-Apr. 10 against USC, Pepperdine, Long Beach State, College of Charleston).

The Gauchos are coming off a historic 2015 season in which they set a program record for wins against Division I opponents (40) while hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time in UCSB history. After the season, 10 UCSB players were drafted by MLB teams, a figure which ranked second in the country only to Oklahoma (11). The highlight of UCSB’s draft class was right-handed pitcher Dillon Tate, who simultaneously became the first pitcher selected and UCSB’s highest ever draftee when the Texas Rangers selected him with the No. 4 overall pick.

Checketts welcomes back a healthy crop of promising returners for his 2016 squad, highlighted by outfielder Andrew Calica and pitchers Shane Bieber and Kyle Nelson.

Calica won the batting title in the prestigious Cape Cod after hitting .425 for the Wareham Gatemen, the highest average the league has seen since 1980. He is a career .321 hitter at the Division I level.

Bieber earned a All-Big West Second Team nod after a breakout sophomore campaign in which he went 8-4 with a 2.24 ERA, co-leading the Big West in wins and ranking among the nation’s elite in control stats (1.04 walks per nine innings, eighth in nation, 7.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 10th in the NCAA).

In his rookie season, Nelson went 3-1 with a 0.75 ERA out of the bullpen to earn Freshman All-America honors. He closed out the season by allowing no earned runs in his final 27.0 innings pitched, a Checketts-era UCSB record.

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