UCSB gets good news in that Hollands, Valaika will return

Monday’s deadline for Major League Baseball teams to sign players came and went and it brought good news for the UCSB baseball team.
Left-handed pitcher Mario Hollands, an All-American two years ago, and infielder Matt Valaika, who led the club in batting average and slugging percentage last year, did not agree to contracts with the teams that selected them in the June amateur draft. Valaika was taken in the 20th round by the Cincinnati Reds while Hollands was a 24th round pick by the Minnesota Twins.
They were just two of the school-record nine UCSB players drafted, a number that led the Big West Conference, which was recently ranked as the sixth-best in the nation, according to RPI ratings and is also a league that had two nationally-ranked teams in the NCAA postseason and has featured at least one team in the College World Series in eight of the past 11 seasons.

That gives the Gauchos two terrific players from last year’s squad coming back for the 2010 season.
“We are very excited that Matt and Mario have decided to continue their pursuit of winning a championship and getting their degrees at UCSB,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said. “Both guys are very important parts of what we plan to do. It doesn’t happen very often that players pass up the opportunity to go out and play professional baseball, but both Mario and Matt value what they have at UCSB and also know that their opportunity to play professionally will come again. Needless to say, we are very excited about their decisions.”
Valaika batted .343 with a .545 slugging percentage to lead the 2009 Gauchos, earning him All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. The second baseman will be a senior next season. This summer Valaika played with the Santa Barbara Foresters, helping the team to the National Baseball Congress playoffs.
Meanwhile Hollands had a superb summer, going 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League. The lefty, who will be a junior next season, was 6-6 with a 4.74 ERA for the Gauchos last season as the team’s Saturday starter. As a redshirt freshman, Hollands was named the Big West’s Freshman Pitcher of the Year while earning All-America honors from two separate publications.
“We are excited that Mario has decided to return for his junior campaign. He will be looked upon to lead on and off the field for our 2010 team,” said Associate Head Coach Tom Myers, who was the manager for the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps and therefore saw firsthand how Hollands did this summer. “After an outstanding summer in the Cape Cod League, we believe Mario is ready to take the next step as one of the top pitchers in the country and help the Gauchos compete for a conference title.”