CBB: Five Gauchos earn All-Big West honors

Five members of the UC Santa Barbara baseball team were named to the 2014 Big West All-Conference Team, the conference announced.

Included among UCSB’s honorees were senior outfielder Joey Epperson, sophomore utility player Robby Nesovic, and sophomore closer Dillon Tate, who all received Second Team nods. Junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa and junior two-way player Greg Mahle received Honorable Mentions.

“Each of these guys was among the best at their positions in the conference and were a big part of what we did as a team this year,” said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. “It is well-deserved recognition after a season of hard work and determination.”

For Epperson, Tate, and Kuresa, it was the first All-Conference honor of their careers. Nesovic was named the Big West Freshman of the Year in 2013 and Mahle was a Second Team selection in 2012.

Epperson, who was named an All-American yesterday, led all players in the Big West with a .483 on-base percentage 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). The all-around outfielder is a member of the 30-man Golden Spikes Award Watch List, an honor ultimately given out to the top collegiate baseball player in the nation.

Nesovic had a .326 batting average for the Gauchos in conference play, tops among regular starters. Normally a designated hitter, he spent a large portion of the year in the field this season, committing just four errors at third base in Big West contests. He was one of the most clutch Gaucho hitters this season, batting .360 on the year with runners in scoring position.

Tate put together one of the most spectacular seasons by a Gaucho closer in program history. He finished with 12 saves, the second most single-season saves in the UCSB annals. Striking out over a batter per inning (46 K’s in 43.1 innings pitched), he was recognized as one of the top relief arms in the NCAA by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association, who included him on their “Stopper of the Year” Watch List. Tate allowed an earned run just one time over his first 24 outings, a span of 35.1 innings.

Kuresa proved himself to be one of the top power hitters in the conference in 2014 after owning the fifth-best slugging percentage in the Big West at .495. He also finished with the fifth-most RBIs (44) in the Big West while swatting the second most home runs (nine), including a three-homer game against Wagner on Mar. 21 that tied a program record for single-game big flies.

Mahle and his rubber arm made 32 appearances for the Gauchos this season, the most of any player in the conference. He ramped up his level of play in the Big West, putting together the fifth-lowest qualifying ERA (1.56) of any pitcher in conference games. Just the second Gaucho to have multiple 30+ appearance seasons under his belt, he ends his junior with the second most appearances (83) in program history.

Elsewhere, Cal Poly had both the Big West Coach of the Year (Larry Lee) and Field Player of the Year (Mark Mathias) while UC Irvine’s Andrew Morales was named the Pitcher of the Year.

To view the entire All-Big West Team, click here.