CBB: UCSB’s Newell earns co-Player of Year honors in Big West

UCSB senior left fielder Cameron Newell was named the Big West Co-Field Player of the Year while nine of his baseball teammates also picked up all-conference honors, it was announced by the league on Tuesday afternoon.

Cameron Newell is Big West co-Player of the Year.

Cameron Newell is UCSB’s first conference player of the year since 1991.

Newell, a Roseburg, Ore. native, is UCSB’s first Conference Player of the Year since Jerrold Roundtree in 1991. He shared the honor with Cal State Fullerton slugger David Olmedo-Barrera.

In addition, UCSB’s 10 all-conference honorees ties a program record set in 1986.

Newell was joined on the All-Big West Team by junior right-handed pitcher Dillon Tate, junior left-handed pitcher Domenic Mazza, and junior utilityman Robby Nesovic.

UCSB’s second-team selectioins included senior third baseman Peter Maris as well as starting pitchers Justin Jacome and Shane Bieber.

Rounding out UCSB’s honorees were outfielders Andrew Calica, Luke Swenson, and catcher Campbell Wear, who each received honorable mentions.

The Gauchos’ stable of allcConference talent will host the program’s first ever NCAA Regional this weekend at Lake Elsinore’s minor league ballpark. They will welcome in USC, Virginia, and San Diego State, as the Gauchos look to achieve their goal of reaching their first-ever College World Series.

UCSB’s first postseason game will be played on Friday at 7 p.m. against San Diego State and will be televised on ESPN3.

Newell, who was named the outright Big West Player of the Year by College Sports Madness on Monday, led the Big West in batting average at .380. He also is having a monster year in the power department, topping his previous career-high for slugging percentage by over 100 points at .470. A hit-producing machine, he led all Gaucho batters with 20 multi-hit games while batting over .400 (.404) with runners in scoring position. It was the second career All-Big West honor for Newell after earning an honorable mention in 2013.

A year after earning Big West Second Team honors as one of the best closers on the west coast, Tate made the jump to the First Team this season as one of the premier starting pitchers in the entire country. The Preseason All-American backed up the strong hype surrounding him, co-leading the conference in wins while allowing the fewest hits per nine innings (5.66) of any Big West pitcher. The D1Baseball Midseason Pitcher of the Year, he enters the postseason with exactly 100 strikeouts in 95.2 IP.

Earning his third consecutive All-Conference selection, Nesovic had another banner year at the plate, slashing .344/.400/.406 with 39 RBIs, 62 hits, and 11 doubles. He was also extremely valuable to the Gauchos this season in that he filled holes at first base and closer after injuries took down the incumbent starters at those positions. The La Mesa, Calif. native led the league in RBIs for the majority of the season, ending the campaign third with a career-high 39 runs driven in. On the mound, he pitched to a career-best 2.70 ERA while locking down six saves.

Mazza had one of the true breakout campaigns in the Big West, winning six of his seven decisions while authoring a personal-best 2.69 ERA over 77 innings as a key member of both the rotation and the bullpen. This is the first career All-Conference honor for the versatile lefty, who ranked in the top-10 conference-wide in both strikeouts per nine innings (8.42, sixth) and WHIP (1.13, 10th).

Starting at his third different position in three years, Maris had his most consistent offensive performance as a Gaucho in his senior year, as he enters the postseason with career highs in batting average (.300), OBP (.369), slugging percentage (.377), hits (62), extra-base hits (11), and walks (25). The only Gaucho to play in all 56 games this season, he is also the active roster’s career leader in games played (164).

Bieber and Jacome each helped the Gauchos forge arguably the best rotation in the NCAA, as their exploits helped the team record a 2.39 team ERA for the season, third-lowest in the country and a soon-to-be school record.

This is the first career Big West award for the underrated Jacome (7-4, 2.53) , who already sits eighth all-time in the UCSB annals for wins (20) and has set career bests in strikeouts (91) and innings pitched (110.1). Bieber was a Sunday sensation once again for UCSB, going 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA. One of the elite strike-throwers in the country, he ranks second in the NCAA in walks per nine innings (0.73) and fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.56), both of which would be school records for pitchers with 100 or more innings.

Despite being a first-year starter behind the dish, Wear made his case as one of the best defensive backstops in the country. Opposing runners attempted a Big-West low 28 stolen bases against him, and the San Diego native responded by throwing out a conference-best 47% of would-be thieves. He also led all Big West catchers with six pickoffs while his strong game-calling skills and rapport with the pitching staff was a huge reason for the team’s success.

Calica and Swenson, both speedy lefty-batting outfielders, helped spark the Gauchos offense wherever they hit while providing superb defense in the spacious Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Swenson battled back from an ACL injury that claimed his entire 2014 season, batting a career-best .307. A 2013 All-Corvallis Regional selection, his experience will be crucial as UCSB opens up postseason play this weekend.

Fully healthy for the entire season for the first time in his career, Calica responded by being an optimal catalyst at the top of the UCSB lineup, reaching base in his first 37 games this season. He set career highs in all slash categories (.315/.433/.404) and went another season without an error, all while providing a highlight reel play in the gaps every few games.