Gauchos announce 12 baseball signings

Head coach Andrew Checketts and the UC Santa Barbara Baseball program have signed 12 outstanding players from the high school ranks early signing period, it was announced by the team today.

The Gauchos’ dozen is currently ranked as the No. 32 recruiting class in the nation by Perfect Game, a figure which ranked tops among Big West schools.

If the rankings hold after the MLB draft, it will be the third time in Checketts’ tenure that UCSB’s recruiting class has been lauded as one of the best in the country. In 2012, a Robbie Nesovic, Justin Jacome, Dillon Tate, and Andrew Calica-highlighted class was ranked No. 12 in the country, the highest in program history. A year ago, the Gauchos checked in at No. 31.

“Credit has to be given to coach [Eddie] Cornejo and coach [Neil] Walton,” said Checketts. “Their hard work on the recruiting trail has landed us a group of high-ceiling student-athletes who will have a chance to do big things for this program. We look forward to working with the newest class of Gauchos and helping them reach their potential as ballplayers and students.”

UCSB’s 2015 recruiting class features three full-time pitchers, a pair of two-way players, three infielders, two outfielders, and two catchers. The players are profiled below in alphabetical order with quotes from head coach Andrew Checketts.

Noah Burnham, Catcher, College Park High School, Pleasant Hill, Calif.

A 6-foot-1 catcher out of College Park High School in Pleasant Hill, Calif., Noah Burnham possesses the always-coveted trait of being a switch hitter. He was a 2014 Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention after backstopping the Falcons to a 27-3 record in his junior year despite playing through injuries. As of now, he would be one of just two switch-hitters on the UCSB roster.

“Noah is physical and athletic. When fully healthy, he catches and throws at a high level and has a chance to have some power in the future.”

Sam Cohen, Catcher, JSerra High School, Coto de Caza, Calif.

Another Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention catcher, Sam Cohen stands an even six feet and was named All-League Second Team this past season while playing at Juniperro Serra High in Coto de Caza, Calif.

“Sam hits from the left side and runs well for a catcher. He has great receiving skills and will develop into a front line catcher with continued strength and maturity.”

Noah Davis, RHP, Huntington Beach High School, Huntington Beach, Calif.

A 6-2 right-hander, Noah Davis had an undefeated 12-0 record to go with a 1.27 ERA in his junior season at Huntington Beach High School. The spotless campaign led to a litany of awards, including All-CIF Second Team, All-County and All League First Team, and a Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention.

“Noah continues to improve and develop into one of the better high school right-handed pitchers in California. He throws in the upper 80’s while flashing some 90’s and has a wipeout slider. His command has steadily improved each year. We expect Noah to come in and contribute immediately.”

Michael Duffey, IF, Granite Hills High School, Granite Hills, Calif.

An offensive-minded infielder, Michael Diffley was named to the All-Grossmont League Second Team after a stellar junior season for Granite Hills High School. The righty batted .311 with five doubles, a .430 on-base percentage, five stolen bases, 18 walks, and eight strikeouts.

“Michael is an offensive left side infielder with a great arm. He has gap power and a feel for his swing that will continue to get better.”

Steven Elliot, CF, Alta Loma High School, Alta Loma, Calif.

A speedy centerfielder out of Alta Loma High, Steven Elliot batted .449, scored 27 runs, and collected 35 hits this past season while recording an astounding OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of 1.094. He was named First Team All-League and All-County while making Second Team All-State. He was another Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention.

“Steven is a true baseball player. He reminds us of former Gaucho great Brett Vertigan. He has a great feel for the strike zone and is a polished hitter that takes consistent quality at bats.”

Bailey Falter, LHP, Chino Hills High School, Chino Hills, Calif.

A nationally-ranked recruit, southpaw Bailey Falter stands 6-foot-4 and had a banner junior year at Chino Hills High, leading to All-County, All-League, and All-CIF honors. One of the most sought-after recruits in the state, Falter had an 8-2 record this past season, amassing 85 strikeouts against just 19 walks in 67.2 innings of work. He held his opponents to an anemic .145 on-base percentage.

“Bailey is one of the premier left handed high school pitchers in California. He commands his fastball exceptionally well and spins a quality curveball for a strike. Bailey is accomplished, athletic and projects. With continued strength and maturity he has a chance to be a high draft pick and an All-Conference pitcher.”

Kyle Hatton, 1B & LHP, Norco High School, Norco, Calif.

Putting up quality numbers as both a first baseman and left-handed pitcher, Kyle Hatton was one of the top two-way prep players in the state this past season playing for Norco High School. The 6-3 Hatton was named the MVP of his league en route to All-State, All-CIF, and All-County honors. He was ranked the No. 320 prospect in the nation by Perfect Game, and was a Second Team Underclass selection by the same publication.

“Kyle is as competitve as they come. He likes to have the ball or bat in his hand when it matters. He is a proven winner that can hit, pitch and play a solid first base. Kyle should be an early contributor.”

Tommy Jew, IF, Dougherty Valley High School, San Ramon, Calif.

A well-rounded, two-sport high school athlete, Tommy Jew comes to the Gauchos after earning All-League recognition in both baseball and football this past year for Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon, Calif. On the diamond, the infielder hit for a .333 average while racking up 25 hits, 10 RBIs, and five doubles.

“Tommy is a slick-fielding infielder that can really run. He has a polished approach at the plate and has a high baseball IQ.”

Matt Lautz, RHP, Agoura High School, Agoura, Calif.

Another two-way player, Matt Lautz is UCSB’s highest nationally-ranked recruit in the 2015 class at No. 231 by Perfect Game. On the mound at Agoura High School this past season, Lautz had an 8-0 record and 1.66 ERA to go with a 47-18 strikeout-walk ratio in 63.1 innings pitched. He only had 18 at-bats in his junior year, but possesses the physical abilities to excel with the stick at the collegiate level.

“Matt is an athletic two-way player that can play centerfield in the Big West. He is a plus runner and has plus bat speed. He pounds the zone on the mound and is a proven winner. We look forward to having another great two-way player in our program.”

Michael McAdoo, OF, De La Salle High School, Concord, Calif.

A 2013 High School Silver Slugger Award winner, Michael McAdoo put up strong all-around numbers with a .297 average, 20 RBIs, and 11 stolen bases in his junior year at De La Salle High School despite just recently giving his full attention to baseball. The 6-2 outfielder was also a member of the Rawlings Top Prospects Team while landing among the Perfect Game National Top 500 prospects.

“Michael has progressed rapidly since giving up football a year ago. He has pro-level tools and should develop into a middle of the order hitter and frontline outfielder at UCSB. He has gap power, a plus arm and runs well for a big guy. With some refinement and more experience, Michael has a chance to be a star.”

Tevin Mitchell, IF, Clovis High School, Clovis, Calif.

Tevin Mitchell was a member of his All-League First Team for Clovis High, batting .354 while driving in 28 runs, clubbing a pair of home runs, and swiping nine bags. The 6-1 infielder is a major threat on the basepaths and is ranked No. 317 in Perfect Game’s national rankings.

“Tevin is the best runner in our class. He has great hands and solid defensive actions. He has an advanced offensive approach and plays with energy.”

Willie Traynor, RHP, Newark Memorial High School, Newark, Calif.

Rounding out UCSB’s 2015 recruiting class is Willie Traynor, a 6-1 right-handed pitcher out of Newark Memorial High School who was named to the 2014 MVAL All-League First Team. As a junior, he led the Cougars’ staff with an 8-1 record, a 1.04 ERA, two shutouts, and a 37-11 strikeout-walk ratio in 60.2 innings on the mound.

“Willie has an athletic delivery with a projectable frame and arm action. He pounds the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball and competes well. He reminds me of [former UC Riverside and current Boston Red Sox right-hander] Joe Kelly at the same age.”

The Gauchos’ 12 newest players join a strong stable of returners – such as 2013 Big West Freshman of the Year Robby Nesovic and Team USA participant Dillon Tate – that fuels UCSB’s hopes of a conference title and run to Omaha in 2015.