Gaucho sluggers picked third in Big West

Already with a pair of preseason No. 30 rankings, the UCSB baseball team was picked to finish third in the Big West when the preseason coaches poll was released.
Last season the Gauchos finished 35-21 and 14-10 in the competitive Big West and with 19 returning players, UCSB is expected to vie for the conference crown in 2009.
“It’s a great conference and obviously teams aren’t overlooking us this year and that’s a good thing,” UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema said. “So it’s our hope that we can do that or better.”

UCSB received 65 total votes, just two behind second-place UC Irvine. Cal State Fullerton received 78 total votes, including seven of nine first-place votes. The Gauchos received one first place vote as did Long Beach State, which was picked to finish fourth with 55 total votes.
Cal Poly finished fifth with 45 tallies, followed by UC Riverside (41), UC Davis (26), Cal State Northridge (19) and Pacific (9).
The Gauchos return top pitchers Mike Ford, who was a Second-Team All-Big West selection last season, and Mario Hollands, who was named to the Freshman All-America Team by Louisville Slugger. UCSB also returns position players Shane Carlson, who hit .349 with 53 RBI in 56 games, and outfielder Brian Gump, who batted .318 with 36 RBI and 25 stolen bases.
UCSB opens its season on Feb. 22 with a doubleheader in Bakersfield before hosting a home opener on Monday, Feb. 23 vs. Westmont.