Jan. 20, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In Baseball America's pre-season baseball poll released last week, UC Santa Barbara was picked to finish fifth in the Big West Conference. The conference coaches' poll, also released last week, selected the Gauchos to finish sixth.
The Baseball America poll favored No. 4 Cal State Fullerton to win the conference with defending champs No. 9 Long Beach State as a close second. UC Riverside was picked to finish third with UC Irvine fourth. Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge and Pacific rounded out the eight team Big West poll behind UCSB.
UCSB and Cal Poly flip-flopped projected finishes in the coaches' poll while every other spot remained consistent with Baseball America's picks.
Gaucho juniors Chris Malec and Matt Wilkerson were selected to Baseball America's pre-season Big-West All-Conference team as "Players to Watch" in 2004. Others on that list include Cal State Fullerton's Justin Turner and Danny Dorn and Long Beach State's Jered Weaver.
Malec and Wilkerson are both returning to the field after injury plagued 2003 seasons which saw them fall short of their Freshman All-American performances of 2002. Malec, who hit .223 with just two home runs and 17 RBI, is healthy after rehabilitating a twisted knee he suffered while belting a home run last March. Wilkerson is rebounding from off-season shoulder surgery and should be in the lineup by the season's second week.
The Gauchos open their 2004 campaign on Friday, February 6 at San Diego State. After the three game series at Tony Gwynn Stadium, UCSB will face off against Cal State Northridge on February 10 before its home opener on February 13 against San Jose State.
UCSB's 2004 squad is set to take on several former Gauchos in the school's annual Alumni game scheduled for this Saturday afternoon.