SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara, the 2019 Big West Conference champion, will begin its quest for a return trip to the NCAA College World Series on Friday, May 31 when it plays Fresno State in a 7:00 p.m. game at Stanford's Sunken Diamond.
The No. 2-seeded Gauchos (45-9) and No. 3 Bulldogs (38-14-1) are joined by the host and No. 1-seeded Cardinal (41-11) and the No. 4 seed Sacramento State (39-23). The Regional will run through either Sunday, June 2 or Monday, June 3.
"This is a very good Regional," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "I think Fresno's good. They've got a real number one (pitcher). It's going to be a challenge. An all-California Regional is going to be super-competitive. All of the coaches do a great job and I think any of the four teams can win it."
With its 7-0 win over Cal Poly in the regular season finale on Saturday, UCSB secured its first Big West Championship since 1986, a span of 33 years. The program will be making its 12th postseason appearance and the fourth since Checketts became head coach in 2012. In their last NCAA Tournament appearance, the Gauchos won a Regional hosted by Vanderbilt and then a Super Regional at Louisville, advancing to their first College World Series in history.
UCSB's success this season has been spearheaded by a well-balanced offense, outstanding starting pitching and dependable relievers. The Gauchos led the Big West in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases. On the pitching side of the ledger they paced the league in ERA, strikeouts, fewest hits allowed and saves.
The Bulldogs, the Mountain West Conference champions, are led by junior pitcher Ryan Jensen. The right hander will enter the Regional with an 11-1 record, an ERA of 2.92 and a WHIP of 1.13. He has 99 strikeouts in 92.1 innings. Fresno State, which was in the Big West the last time the Gauchos won the league crown, claimed the College World Series title in 2012.
To UCSB baseball, playing in a Regional at Stanford is nothing new. The Gauchos played there in 1983, 1987 and in 1996. The 1983 team came within a win of advancing to the College World Series.
"There is a benefit to not getting on a plane," Checketts said. "We can bus up, we get to go to class on Wednesday and get a practice in before we leave. We also have a lot of NorCal kids, a lot of NorCal alumni and a lot of NorCal Hammerheads, so I think we'll have a chance to travel well. I think it would be cool if we could play in front of a lot of our fans."
The UCSB-Fresno State game will be aired on one of the ESPN family of networks. It will be preceded by the Stanford-Sacramento State game with first pitch for that one scheduled at 1:00 p.m. The teams that lose on Friday will meet in an elimination game on Saturday while the winners will also meet. Tickets for the Regional will go on sale Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. and can be purchased by clicking here.