UCSB Heads to Corpus Christi for Kleberg Bank Classic

Jason Willow (photo by Eric Isaacs)
Jason Willow (photo by Eric Isaacs)

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• The Schedule
Kleberg Bank College Classic at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, Tex. 
Friday, Feb.  23 at 12:00 p.m. PT vs. Mississippi State (1-3)
All-Time Record / Last Meeting: 2-1 / (UCSB wins two games in 2014)
Saturday, Feb. 24 at 4:00 p.m. PT vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-1)
*First Meeting*
Sunday, Feb. 25 at 9:00 a.m. PT vs. Nicholls State (1-3)
*First Meeting*

Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 6:05 p.m. PT vs. Fresno State (4-1)
at Bennett Stadium in Fresno, Calif.
All-time record vs. Bulldogs: 38-29
Record vs. FSU in Checketts era: 9-2 (won six straight)
Last meeting: UCSB 7-2 FSU (2/21/18 @ UCSB)

• The Week Ahead
This weekend, UCSB flies to Texas for the Kleberg Bank College Classic, featuring Mississippi State, Nicholls State, and host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The tournament will be held at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi, the home venue of the Hooks, the Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. The Gauchos open up against MSU at noon on Friday, then play the host Islanders at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday before finishing up against Nicholls State at 9:00 AM PT on Sunday. This is the first time the Gauchos have took part in a tournament since winning the inaugural Tony Gwynn Classic – hosted by SDSU and USD – in 2016. 

• The Week in Review
UCSB had a rough start to the season last weekend at San Diego State, getting swept by the Aztecs. The Gauchos were outscored 24-10 in the series and lost an opening series for just the third time in Checketts' seven years. However, the Gauchos bounced back for a solid 7-2 win over Fresno State on Wednesday in the team's home opener, receving seven innings of one-run ball from Bakersfield College transfer Luke Andrews while Clay Fisher (3-4) led a seven-run offensive outburst. 

• Not Just A Glove
Though he made his name with a golden glove, redshirt junior Clay Fisher has been getting it done with the bat so far this season. Limited to DH duties as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, he has hit safely in all four games this season, capped off by a 3-4 performance against Fresno State on Wednesday. He has more than twice as many hits as anyone else on the team and has also stolen three bases. Fisher was listed as the No. 14 shortstop in the nation in D1's positional power rankings. 

• Non-Conference, No Problem
UCSB has traditionally excelled against out-of-league competition, posting a 99-43 record against non-conference opponents since the beginning of 2014, a .697 winning percentage. 

• Trending the Right Way
After taking a 9-1 loss in the season opener at Tony Gwynn Stadium, UCSB has slowly but surely started to turn the tide. Since that game, the Gauchos have increased the run output (1-4-5-7) in every game while lowering their runs allowed in every game (9-8-7-2). 

• History Against the Field
UCSB will be meeting some new faces in this weekend's tournament, as it will be the program's first-ever meeting with both Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Louisiana-based Nicholls State. The Gauchos are 2-1 all-time against Mississippi State, taking both games of a neutral matchup at the University of Arizona in 2014 – the Bulldogs were ranked No. 10 in the country at the time – but falling to MSU in the first game of the 1996 NCAA Regional at Stanford's Sunken Diamon. 

• Program on the Rise
Though the Gauchos recorded a sub-.500 record last season – the first losing season in Checketts' six years at the helm – observers around the country still recognize that UCSB Baseball is a program on the rise, evidenced by the team's three trips to the postseason, first-ever College World Series berth (2016), and first-ever Regional hosting appointment (2015) in the past five seasons. Because of that, national outlet D1Baseball pegged UCSB as the No. 38 program in the country, which is second-best in the Big West and fourth-best among California programs. 

• Rolling on the Recruit Trail
While UCSB has experienced a golden age of on-field success over the past five years, the program has done equally well on the recruiting trail. This past offseason, recruiting coordinator Eddie Cornejo, Checketts, and the rest of the coaching staff brought in the No. 19 recruit class (per Collegiate Baseball). The Gauchos were the only Big West program to appear in every major recruit class rankings. UCSB has put together a nationally-ranked recruiting class five of the past six seasons, and on three occasions had classes ranked in the top-20.