UCSB's Joe Gardner Named First-Team All-Big West

UCSB's Joe Gardner Named First-Team All-Big West

May 26, 2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Junior right-handed pitcher Joe Gardner was the lone UC Santa Barbara player to be named to the Big West's First Team, although the Gauchos had six players recognized in the annual awards voted on by league coaches, it was announced on Tuesday.

Senior first baseman Eric Oliver was voted to the Second Team while UCSB placed four players on the Honorable Mention list - Ryan Cavan, Brian Gump, Marty Mullins and Matt Valaika.

"Im pleased that we got six guys recognized," UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema said. "Obviously Joe had an outstanding year, as did the other guys, but this is such an outstanding conference and to get any recognition is a great accomplishment."

UC Irvine, which went 22-2 in conference play, swept the big awards with left-hander Daniel Bibona named as Pitcher of the Year, shortstop Ben Orloff as Player of the Year and Mike Gillespie the conference's Coach of the Year. The Anteaters placed five players on the First Team, as did Cal State Fullerton.

Gardner went 7-1 with a 3.40 ERA for the Gauchos this season, leading the team in nearly every pitching category. Despite not pitching this past weekend as he dealt with injury, Gardner was also among the conference's leaderboard in most every pitching statistic.

The junior from Fremont, Calif. ranked fourth in the Big West with 69 strikeouts while his ERA was sixth-best and his .252 batting average against was seventh. Gardner, who transferred from Ohlone College, pitched two complete games, both in conference play, and the Gauchos were 10-3 in games he started.

"I put Joe up for Pitcher of the Year but the years some of these other guys had at 10-1 was tough," Brontsema said. "Joe may be the best overall prospect, but some of those other guys had great years."

Oliver was the lone Gaucho to make the Second Team after leading the Gauchos with 48 RBI while batting .325. The Irvine, Calif. native led UCSB in batting (.389), slugging percentage (.633) and on-base percentage (.477) in Big West play while his 21 RBI during conference play also paced the team. Oliver was the only Gaucho to start every game this season.

"Eric put up a great year, especially in conference play," Brontsema said, "and was well worth the Second Team, if not better."

Gump led the Gauchos with eight home runs, which was ninth in the Big West, while his team-high 59 runs scored was fourth in the conference and his 22 stolen bases ranked third. The senior from Westminster, Calif. batted .323 in Big West games and his 25 runs scored in conference play led UCSB.

Valaika batted .343, which led the Gauchos, and his 45 RBI were second on the team behind Oliver and tied for 10th in the conference. The junior from Valencia, Calif. drove in 20 runs in conference play while hitting .325. His .545 overall slugging percentage also led the team.

Mullins' .358 batting average in conference play was second on the team behind Oliver's as the junior catcher scored 16 runs in Big West games. The Los Gatos, Calif. native also threw out 42% of runners attempting to steal.

Cavan batted .341 this season, which was second on the team, while scoring 50 runs and leading the club with his .435 on-base percentage. The Belmont, Calif. native's runs scored ranked eighth in the Big West while his on-base percentage was 10th. His 31 walks were second in the conference.

Earlier this year UCSB Athletics unveiled the BE Great initiative. BE Great is dedicated to maximizing leadership ability, strong on-campus interaction, and general welfare for all 450 student-athletes and Intercollegiate Athletics staff at UC Santa Barbara. BE Great also focuses on personal and career development, diversity, and social awareness, along with ensuring academic success. UCSB has a 92% student-athlete graduation rate.