Quartet of Gauchos Picked on Final Day of MLB Draft
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Four members of the UC Santa Barbara baseball team were selected by Major League Baseball teams Saturday on the final day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
UCSB's four draftees included senior utilityman Joey Epperson (13th round, 387th overall pick by San Diego), junior left-handed pitcher Greg Mahle (15th round, 449th overall by the Los Angeles Angels), junior first baseman Tyler Kuresa (16th round, 470th overall by Minnesota), and junior right-handed pitcher Austin Pettibone (24th round, 726th overall by Texas).
The Gauchos have now had 130 players drafted by Major League Baseball since 1967. It was the 14th time in program history that four or more UCSB players were taken in one draft.
Epperson was named to the College Sports Madness All-America First Team and All-Big West Second Team after putting together one of the most prolific offensive seasons by a Gaucho in recent memory. The Lafayette, Calif. native ended the year with the top on-base percentage in the conference (.483) while also ranking second in batting average (.376) and runs (45) and third in slugging percentage (.508). Epperson led the nation in batting at various junctures throughout the season and at one point had a 24-game hitting streak.
Mahle, a 2012 Freshman All-American and 2014 All-Big West honoree, led the Big West this past season with 32 pitching appearances. That continued a trend for the rubber-armed lefty, who is one of just two Gauchos in program history to record multiple 30+ appearance seasons in his career. He currently has the second most career appearances (82) in program history. Not just a prolific pitcher, he has also been highly effective. He had an ERA of just 1.56 in Big West play this year, fifth-lowest among qualifying pitchers.
Kuresa was drafted for the third time in his career on Saturday, and it was also the second time he has been drafted by Minnesota, as the Twins selected him the 11th round out of high school. The Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 14th round last year. In his junior season with the Gauchos, Kuresa established himself as one of the premier power hitters on the west coast, ranking second in the Big West in home runs (nine) and fifth in slugging percentage (.495). He tied a program mark with a three-homer day against Wagner on Mar. 21.
Pettibone battled back from injuries that knocked him out for the first half of the season to deliver a solid campaign for the Gauchos, going 5-1 with a career-low 2.81 ERA in 10 starts. This came off the back of a 10-3, 2.98 ERA sophomore season that saw Austin become UCSB's first 10-game winner since 2001. With a 22-7 career record, he is currently tied for the third-most career victories in program history. He also ranks second in the UCSB annals with four career shutouts, and he became the first Gaucho pitcher to ever pitch two consecutive complete game shutouts earlier this season by blanking Cal State Northridge on May 10 and San Francisco on May 17.
A number of UCSB commits were selected in the MLB draft as well, including second baseman Shane Mardirosian (seventh round by Cincinnati) and right-handed pitchers Austyn Willis (18th round by the Chicago Cubs) and James Carter (28th round by Baltimore).