CBB: Epperson is a first-team All-American

UCSB senior outfielder Joey Epperson was named to the College Sports Madness All-American First Team, it was announced on Monday, becoming just the second Gaucho in program history to take home First Team honors.

Joey Epperson is UCSB's first baseball All-American since 2001.

Joey Epperson is UCSB’s first baseball All-American since 2001.

Listed as a utility player on the 12-man First Team, he was joined on the list by Big West rivals Andrew Morales of UC Irvine and Mark Mathias of Cal Poly. Epperson is the first UCSB player to receive All-American honors since 2001 (pitcher James Garcia) and joins Scott Cerny (1986, 2B) as the only other Gaucho to receive a First Team All-America nod. Epperson is the seventh Gaucho in program history to be named an All-American.

The Lafayette, Calif. native ended the season with the top on-base percentage (.483) in the Big West while also ranking in the top-five conference-wide in batting average (.376, second), runs (45, second), hits (74, third), and slugging percentage (.508, fourth).

“Joey had a great year with the bat for us, so this honor is well-deserved,” said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. “It’s a great way to cap off the collegiate career of an exemplary student-athlete.”

Epperson, who is also a member of the 30-man Golden Spikes Award Watch List, was arguably the top batter in the nation for the first half of the season, leading the nation in batting average at various junctures and hitting over .450 all the way through mid-April while also maintaining a 24-game hit streak that didn’t come to an end until Mar. 22.

Splitting time between the leadoff and No. 3 positions in the lineup, he paced the Gauchos with 22 multi-hit games. In the 41 games that he recorded a hit, the Gauchos went 30-11 (compared to 5-6 when he did not).

Epperson was named the Big West Field Player of the Week for the second time of his career on Mar. 3 after leading UCSB to a perfect 4-0 week, including a midweek win over defending national champion UCLA and a three-game sweep of Princeton, by hitting .588 with eight runs scored and four RBIs to go along with five stolen bases in as many attempts.

Other signature moments included a walk-off single against Cal State Fullerton on Apr. 12 and a 4-5 performance with four RBIs and three runs scored against Wagner on Mar. 23.

As a team, the Gauchos went 34-17-1 this season with a program-record 22-5-1 mark in non-conference games. It was the first time since 1991-92 that UCSB had 30 wins in consecutive seasons.