June 2, 2005
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
UC Santa Barbara's senior shortstop Chris Malec, senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson, and senior relief ace Alex McRobbie, were selected All-Big West, it was announced Wednesday.
Malec and Wilkerson earned second team All-Big West, while McRobbie was an honorable mention choice.
Malec's selection to the all-league team is impressive on a number of fronts. On April 14, he had surgery after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. A week later Malec had his first chemotherapy treatment. He was not expected to return to the lineup until UCSB's three-game series against UC Irvine, which started on April 20, and that is if he was to return at all. Instead, the four-year Gaucho starter returned two weeks early, for a three-game series against Long Beach State, which began on May 6. After entering the first game of the series as a defensive replacement, Malec was back in the starting lineup on May 7. He made the most of his return against the 49ers, belting a first inning grand slam and propelling the Gauchos to a win in the game and the series. He missed just one game the remainder of the season, the first game of the series against UC Irvine, after a second chemotherapy treatment.
In addition to battling through cancer, Malec made a successful shift from second base to shortstop. A first team all-league selection at second base in 2004, he was forced to play shortstop after Chris Valaika suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 18th game of the season. Valaika was the Big West Freshman of the Year and a second team All-Big West choice at shortstop in 2004.
Malec ultimately played in 45 of UCSB's 56 games, he batted .316 with a team-leading 13 doubles. In addition, he ranked tied for second on the team in home runs with five, had 36 run sscored, and had 25 RBI.
Wilkerson had his best all-around season as a Gaucho. He was second on the team in batting at .318, but he led the team in home runs (13), RBI (51), hits (69), runs scored (47), and stolen bases (nine). His 13 home runs tied for the ninth highest total in UCSB history, and his final home run of the season, a game-winner at Cal State Northridge in the second to last game, gave him 42 career home runs, a new school record. Additionally, Wilkerson was almost flawless in right field, where he committed just one error in 120 chances. He was also the only player on the team to start all 56 games. Not only did Wilkerson finish his career as UCSB's all-time home run leader, but he also finished ranked fourth in RBI (186), eighth in hits (243), eighth in run scored (167), fifth in at bats (825), fifth in games played (216), sixth in total bases (417), and first in stolen base percentage (28-of-30, 93.3%).
McRobbie, who also earned honorable mention All-Big West following the 2004 season, finished the 2005 season with a school record 14 saves, and a school record 18 saves for his career. The 14 saves not only paced the Big West Conference, it ranked second nationally at the close of the regular season. Overall, McRobbie finished with a 2-0 record and a 2.75 ERA to go with his 14 saves. He also had 48 strikeouts and just seven walks in 39.1 innings of work. In fact, McRobbie recorded either a win or a save in 61.5% of UCSB's games.
The individual award winners for the Big West Conference included Cal Poly catcher Kyle Blumenthal and Cal State Fullerton outfielder Sergio Pedroza, who shared the Player of the Year award. Fullerton's Ricky Romero was chosen the league's Pitcher of the Year, Pacific first baseman Justin Baum was chosen Freshman Player of the Year, Fullerton's Wes Roemer was named Freshman Pitcher of the Year, and Titan head coach George Horton was chosen Coach of the Year.