November 21, 2013

UCSB Baseball Inks Ten Recruits to NLI's During Early Signing Period

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Head coach Andrew Checketts and the UC Santa Barbara Baseball program have signed ten outstanding players from the prep and junior college ranks to National Letters of Intent over the week-long early signing period, it was announced by the team today.

The recruiting class currently consists of six pitchers and a quartet of infielders. Nine of UCSB's incoming players are high school athletes, while one is a junior college transfer.

"This is an outstanding group of student-athletes," said Checketts. "Coach (Eddie) Cornejo and Coach (Jason) Hawkins worked tirelessly in putting together the foundation for another exceptional class."

UCSB's recruiting has been an unmitigated success under Checketts, as both recruiting classes under the new regime have been ranked among the top in the nation by national publications such as Baseball America and Perfect Game. The first recruiting class put together by Checketts and assistant coaches Eddie Cornejo and Jason Hawkins garnered a program record No. 12 ranking by Baseball America.

A right-handed pitcher out of Claremont High School, which also produced UCSB pitchers Kenny Chapman and Dillon Tate, Andrew Bernstein impressed scouts and coaches with a high 80's fastball and a plus breaking ball despite becoming a full-time pitcher just last year. The 6-1, 180 pound hurler compiled a 2.75 ERA in his junior year, while also making the All-Tournament Team at the Perfect Game World Championships after fanning five batters in just two innings of work. He is also featured in Perfect Game's top-200 rankings of players in California for the 2014 class.

"Andrew has a great breaking ball," said Checketts. "He has an athletic delivery and will continue to add velocity as he develops."

At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Austin Bush gives the Gauchos a potential power bat at first base. The lefty hit .354 and had 14 extra base hits as a junior at Turlock High School. His standout season with the bat led to a multitude of awards, including First Team All-League, Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention. He also featured in a number of elite showcase events, including the Area Code Games, the North-South Showcase, and the NorCal World Series.

"Austin is physical and athletic," commented Checketts. "He has power potential from the left side of the plate and is a strong defender at first base."

The sole junior college player to sign an NLI with the Gauchos, James Carter put together a 7-4 record to go with a 3.51 ERA as a freshman at Chabot College in Danville, Calif. His fastball has been clocked as high as 94 MPH.

"James is one of California's top junior college prospects," said Checketts. "He commands an electric fastball and pounds the strike zone."

As a junior at Pacific Grove High School, Chris Clements had a historic year, going a perfect 14-0 with a miniscule 0.71 ERA and 93 strikeouts in just 78 innings pitched. A 2013 North-South Showcase participant and 2013 Mission Trail League Pitcher of the Year, Clements boasts plus command on all of his pitches.

"Chris is a very polished pitcher," noted Checketts. "He has great fastball command and solid off-speed stuff. He possesses an advanced feel for the strike zone and is a proven winner."

Clay Fisher batted .404 as a junior at La Quinta High School, and has the glove to go with a solid bat. A sound defender, he has an above average arm and the ability to make tough plays.

"Clay is one of the top defensive shortstops in California," said Checketts. "He can run, has the arm strength to stick at shortstop after college and is a solid offensive player that will fit into our team's offensive approach."

A Bishop Amat High School product, Alex Garcia had a 2.40 ERA as a junior and struck out 53 batters in 49 innings. With a high 80's fastball and an above average slider, the righty is a fierce competitor and grinder on and off the field. He played for the Angels Elite this past fall.

"Alex is athletic and has tremendous upside," continued Checketts. "He throws a power slider that – when thrown for a strike – makes him very difficult to hit."

Shane Mardirosian hit .493 and had a gaudy .596 on-base percentage as a junior at Martin Luther King High School this past year. The left-handed hitting shortstop has a full trophy cabinet going into his senior season, as he picked up All-CIF, All-League, and All-State honors while participating in prestigious events such as the Area Code Games, USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, and playing for the Angels Elite this past fall.

"As one of the most dynamic hitters in California, he can consistently drive the ball to all fields and is a major distraction to his opponents when on base," said Checketts. "He is an outstanding worker and competitor who has succeeded on big stages in front of a lot of coaches and scouts."

The only southpaw among the signees, Kyle Nelson struck out just under two batters per inning last season at Galileo High School in San Francisco. He possesses a wiry frame at 5-10, 155 pounds, with a mid-80's fastball and solid repertoire of offspeed pitches. Voted as the Galileo Player of the Year, he was also an All-City Honorable Mention.

"Kyle is a dual sport athlete and is extremely competitive," said Checketts. "He attacks the strike zone and has a wipe out breaking ball."

Rounding out the infielders is two-sport star Kyle Plantier. The nephew of former MLB player and current San Diego Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier, he was the MVP of the Southwestern League and made First Team All-State this past season after hitting .400 and driving in 29 runs with 13 extra base hits. Also the starting quarterback at Temecula High School, Plantier has major upside on the offensive side of the ball with the ability to hit for power and average to all fields.

"Kyle has proven himself to be a prominent offensive player," noted Checketts. "He will develop his overall game as he devotes himself full-time to baseball. We anticipate he will contribute as a run producer early on in his collegiate career."

A 6-6 righty out of Barstow High School, Austyn Willis was named the Desert Sky League Player of the Year after going 5-3 with a 1.81 ERA and throwing a no-hitter as a junior. Willis has been clocked as high as 89 MPH and has good tilt on his fastball, and also has a sharp slider.

"Austyn has an impressive, projectable frame," said Checketts. "He has made tremendous strides this year with his velocity and secondary pitches. He has solid fastball command and his velocity will continue to go up with strength and maturity. We expect big things from him as he develops into a prospect at UCSB."

The 2013-14 Gauchos recently unveiled their schedule for the upcoming season, including matchups against the last two National Champions and three of the last four finalists in the College World Series. This season is shaping up to be one to remember, as UCSB will return its entire rotation and seven of nine starting position players.

You can support Andrew Checketts' vision for a winning program by following the "Gaucho 9" blog, with news, updates, and commentary on everything UCSB Baseball.

UC Santa Barbara Baseball 2013 Early Signees

Name Position School Height/Weight
Andrew Bernstein RHP Claremont HS 6-1, 180
Austin Bush 1B Turlock HS 6-5, 240
James Carter RHP Chabot College 6-3, 190
Chris Clements RHP Pacific Grove HS 6-1, 185
Clay Fisher SS La Quinta HS 6-1, 185
Alex Garcia RHP Bishop Amat HS 6-0, 180
Shane Mardirosian INF Martin Luther King HS 5-10, 175
Kyle Nelson LHP Galileo HS 5-10, 155
Kyle Plantier INF Temecula Valley HS 6-2, 195
Austyn Willis RHP Barstow HS 6-6, 200