December 31, 2009

All-Decade Baseball Team Selected

Dec. 31, 2009

Chris McMurray, 2006-08


Tyler Von Schell, 1999-2001


Chad Peshke, 1998-2001


Chris Valaika, 2004-06


Dave Molidor, 1998-2001


Jared "Skip" Schumaker, 2000-01


Ryan Spilborghs, 2000-02


Matt Wilkerson, 2002-05


Chris Malec, 2002-05


Robbie Blauer, 2007-08


James Garcia, 2001-02


Joe Gardner, 2009


Chuck Huggins, 2007-08


Michael Martin, 2003-08


Rylie Ogle, 2000-01


Alex McRobbie, 2002-05


To see the All-Decade women's volleyball team, click here

To see the All-Decade men's water polo team, click here

To see the All-Decade women's soccer team, click here

To see the All-Decade men's soccer team, click here

To see the All-Decade men's volleyball team, click here

To see the All-Decade women's basketball team, click here

To see the All-Decade men's basketball team, click here

To see the All-Decade women's water polo team, click here

To see the All-Decade softball team, click here

To conclude the 10-part series, which have been released over the final two weeks of 2009, the UC Santa Barbara baseball team will be the final team featured in the All-Decade Team.

Over the past 10 seasons, the baseball team has seen 38 players drafted while winning nearly 300 games and earning seven top-5 finishes in the hyper-competitive Big West.

UCSB currently has four players from the decade on major league 40-man rosters, saw eight players named All-Americans during the decade, 12 players named to the All-Big West First Team and 33 others earn all-conference honors while many of the following players set numerous school records or at the very least, challenged them.

Picking a starting nine from 2000-09 was not simple based on the talented players to take the field at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, so this All-Decade Team may look more like a major league roster. There are five starting pitchers, a designated hitter, and a utility player to complement the starting nine, which also includes a relief pitcher.

Due to the amount of successful players to wear the Gaucho uniform, we have also included an Honorable Mention squad and have listed many other players who were strongly considered, but ultimately didn't make the cut. Many of these players still have time left in their UCSB careers.

UCSBgauchos.com, along with Head Coach Bob Brontsema, entering his 17th season at the helm, Associate Head Coach Tom Myers, entering his 10th year, and Assistant Coach John Kirkgard, who will be in his 13th year, helped select the team.

Here is the group that makes up the All-Decade Team.

Chris McMurray, 2006-08, Catcher
Known primarily as a defensive catcher who was adept at handling a pitching staff, Chris McMurray was also a pretty solid offensive player. The Mission Viejo native batted .312 as a junior in 2008 with eight home runs (second on the team) and 39 RBI, earning him All-Big West Second Team honors. He threw out 14 runners as a junior and an astounding 31 in his sophomore season, which doesn't account for the four runners he picked off the base paths. McMurray was thrown into the starting backstop job as a freshman in 2006 due to injuries and he batted .293 which helped him earn All-Big West Honorable Mention. McMurray is currently in the Cincinnati Reds organization and was recently named the organization's Best Defensive Catcher.

"What sets him apart was his ability to control the running game and handle the pitching staff," UCSB head coach Bob Brontsema said. "I can't remember a more athletic catcher - not just in the last 10 years, but during my time at UCSB."

Tyler Von Schell, 1999-2001, First Base
One of the biggest power threats to ever wear a Gaucho uniform, Tyler Von Schell was not a one-dimensional first baseman. Though Von Schell still holds the single-season record of 18 home runs (doing so in 2001) and ranks sixth all-time at the school with 30 home runs, he was a tremendous defensive first baseman. Von Schell was one of three players to start all 57 games during UCSB's 40-win 2001 season and batted .319 with 65 RBI and a .633 slugging percentage. In his sophomore season Von Schell batted .292 with 10 home runs and 53 RBI. Von Schell was named All-Big West First Team as a sophomore and was a Second Team pick as a junior. He was selected in the 15th round by the San Francisco Giants in the 2001 draft and made it to Class AAA in 2007.

"His power numbers are what set him apart from any other first baseman this decade, many of whom were pretty good," Brontsema said.

Chad Peshke, 1998-2001, Second Base
Chad Peshke started every single game of his UCSB career and is the school's all-time hits leader. The Redondo Beach native ranks in nearly every one of UCSB's top-10 offensive categories. Only once in his four years did he hit under .300 - and that was his .298 average as a freshman. His 68 career doubles still rank as the best ever in Big West history and Peshke's name is scattered throughout the conference's top-10 in several other categories, including hits, at-bats and total bases. Peshke was named to the All-Big West First Team after hitting .389 with 57 runs scored and 50 RBI as a senior and was an Honorable Mention pick the season before. He was an All-Regional pick for UCSB in the playoffs as he went 7-for-15 in the Gauchos' three games with a team-best seven RBI.

"His credentials are UCSB Hall of Fame worthy," Brontsema said. "His numbers also resonate throughout the history of the Big West."

Chris Valaika, 2004-06, Shortstop
Currently on the Cincinnati Reds' 40-man roster, Chris Valaika put together an impressive UCSB resume beginning his freshman season. He was named to the Louisville Slugger All-American Freshman Team after finishing in the top-five in nine major offensive categories. His 77 hits in 2004 rank as a UCSB freshman record and he was second on the team with his .347 average and his seven homers. He was a Second Team All-Big West pick and the conference's Freshman of the Year. After missing most of his sophomore season due to injury, the Valencia, Calif. native rebounded with a superb junior year when he batted .335 with a team-high 10 homers and 57 RBI to go with 120 total bases and a .372 on-base percentage. He was a First Team All-Big West selection as a junior and was subsequently picked in the third round in the June draft.

"He was as good a defensive shortstop as we've seen," Brontsema said.

Dave Molidor, 1998-2001, Third Base
Originally a walk-on, Dave Molidor certainly made his mark on UCSB's baseball program in his time at the school. Molidor ranks in the top-10 in batting average, hits, at-bats, home runs, games played and RBI. A terrific-fielding third baseman, Molidor batted .300 or better - oftentimes, way better - in all four seasons. He was twice a First Team All-Big West selection. As a junior in 2000, he led the team with a .378 batting average, which included a .400 mark in conference play. In 2001 he batted .387 in 56 games to go with a .437 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and a team-best 67 RBI, which ranks second all-time in UCSB single-season history. The Santa Rosa, Calif. native was picked in the 14th round by the Cincinnati Reds.

"Like Peshke, he put up four great years and that makes this a pretty easy selection," Brontsema said. "He has Hall of Fame numbers as well."

Jared "Skip" Schumaker, 2000-01, Outfield
Though he played just one season at UCSB after redshirting in 2000, there is no denying Jared Schumaker's impact on the Gaucho program. The catalyst for the team's record-setting 2001 season, Schumaker (who now goes by Skip, but preferred Jared at UCSB) batted an even .400 as the team's leadoff hitter as he started all 57 games that year. A First Team All-Big West pick, Schumaker scored 65 runs and drove in 41 more while posting a .462 on-base percentage and playing a flawless center field, earning him All-Big West First Team honors. He is currently the leadoff hitter and starting second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.

"His impact on the team in 2001 was tremendous," Brontsema said. "He is one of two players in the history of our program with 100 hits in a season and he could have been a leadoff man on any team."

Ryan Spilborghs, 2000-02, Outfield
Still the school's record-holder with his 35-game hitting streak in 2001, local legend Ryan Spilborghs put together one of UCSB's best careers in a short span of time. After playing just 18 games as a freshman, Spilborghs hit .375 as a sophomore in 2001 with 54 runs, 40 RBI and 19 stolen bases, mainly out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order. Was a First Team All-Big West pick and a Second Team ABCA West Regional choice. Despite his record-setting streak, he also set a school record with his 12 sacrifice bunts and during his hitting streak, batted .406. In 2002 he started all 55 games and batted .338 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI, while posting a .439 on-base percentage, which earned him Big West Honorable Mention. Spilborghs is currently with the Colorado Rockies.

"He was one of the most unselfish players that you'll find," Brontsema said. "He had a great career for us. To have a 35-game hit streak and set a school record in sac bunts is pretty impressive."

Matt Wilkerson, 2002-05, Outfield
A Freshman All-American, Matt Wilkerson is the program's all-time home run leader with 42. Wilkerson set a Big West freshman home run mark with 16 bombs in 2002 while scoring 49 runs and driving in 49 more, earning All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. As a sophomore he batted .270 with four homers and 30 RBI and posted nine homers and a team-high 56 RBI as a junior. In his senior season Wilkerson was a Second Team All-Big West choice after hitting .318 with a team-best 13 homers and 51 RBI while posting a .399 on-base percentage.

"He had a power bat that set him apart," Brontsema said. "He is up there in the all-time power numbers and he can't be left off this list."

Chris Malec, 2002-05, Utility
Known as much for his incredible story as anything he did on the field, Chris Malec's statistical numbers rank among the best in Gaucho history. As a freshman he was named an All-American after hitting .328 with 17 doubles and eight home runs and led the team with 60 RBI. A knee injury as a sophomore limited him to 35 games, but the Laguna Niguel native still hit .615 with runners on third and less than two outs. As a junior he was a First Team All-Big West choice after hitting .306 with 54 RBI and 11 doubles and 20 multi-hit games. As a senior, however, Malec battled testicular cancer during the early part of the season. He returned two weeks earlier than expected from aggressive chemotherapy and in his first start crushed a grand slam in the first inning to propel the Gauchos to a victory over No. 10 Long Beach State. (Read this archived ESPN.com feature on Malec's heroics) He was a Second Team Al-Big West pick after hitting .316 in 45 games with five homers, 25 RBI and a .404 on-base percentage. Malec is currently with the New York Yankees Class AAA team.

"He was a four-year starter who gave us everything he had everyday and every play," Brontsema said. "He is an absolute no-brainer for this team."

Robbie Blauer, 2006-07, Designated Hitter
A tremendous hitter, Blauer was a standout first baseman/designated hitter in his two seasons in a Gaucho uniform. He batted .332 in 2006 with 29 RBI and a .432 on-base percentage, earning him Second Team All-Big West honors, which only set up his impressive 2007 campaign. Blauer batted .398 - sixth-best in UCSB history - with four homers and 43 RBI while compiling an incredible .480 on-base percentage. He had hits in 51 of the team's 54 games, hitting in the Gauchos' first 24 games and then the team's final 22 contests and was named All-Big West First Team.

"He was as good a pure hitter as you'll find," Brontsema said. "He was a doubles machine."

James Garcia, 2001-02, Starting Pitcher
An All-American in 2001, James Garcia was one of the toughest pitchers to pitch for the Gauchos this past decade. In 2001 Garcia, a hard-throwing right-hander, won 10 games and struck out 112 batters in 122 innings pitched. The strikeouts rank third in UCSB single-season history while his innings pitched are fourth. A First Team All-Big West pick in 2001, Garcia was limited by injuries in 2002 and threw just 40.2 innings, yet still struck out 36 batters. His career .706 winning percentage is ninth all-time in school history.

"He had one of the most competitive and dominant seasons in Gaucho history," Brontsema said. "Like Schumaker, he was a big-time difference-maker for that group."

Joe Gardner, 2009, Starting Pitcher
Like Garcia, Joe Gardner turned in one of the most impressive seasons and because of it, makes this list. Last season Gardner went 7-1 with a 3.40 ERA which earned him First Team All-Big West honors. The team's Friday starter, he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the Big West and was relied upon to get the team a victory in the opener of any weekend series - which he oftentimes did. After leading the team in wins, ERA, complete games, strikeouts and batting average against, Gardner was selected in the third round of June's draft by the Cleveland Indians - the first Big West player selected.

"His year last year was very similar to what Garcia did for us in 2001," Brontsema said. "Even though he was only here one year, he might project to be one of the better pitchers to come from this program."

Chuck Huggins, 2007-08, Starting Pitcher
His .737 winning percentage ranks fourth all-time in school history as the crafty left-hander turned being a walk-on into one of the better careers in UCSB history. He went 6-2 in eight starts in 2007 and tossed 54 innings, striking out 42 and limiting batters to a .242 average, which led the team. In 2008, Huggins again led the team with his 8-3 record. He made 14 starts and pitched 86 innings, striking out 77 while walking just 26. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008 and last summer played with the organization's Class A team.

"Chuck was a great competitor and a great leader," Brontsema said.

Michael Martin, 2003-08, Starting Pitcher
Second all-time in UCSB history with 24 victories, Michael Martin was a solid pitcher who put together a very nice career. He ranks fifth in school history with his 313 innings pitched and his 49 games started are third-most at UCSB while his 182 strikeouts are ninth all-time. In 2004 he went 9-4 with a 5.15 ERA in 87.1 innings pitched. In 2005 and 2008 he had six wins each year and as a senior he made 22 appearances, including 10 starts. He posted a 3.82 ERA. In 2006 and 2007 he battled elbow injuries, but came back to become one of the team's most reliable and best pitchers.

"Michael Martin won more games on the mound than any Gaucho pitcher in this decade," Brontsema said. "The fact that he overcame injury adversity makes his performance even more impressive."

Rylie Ogle, 2000-01, Starting Pitcher
Rylie Ogle was the perfect complement to James Garcia in 2001 as the left-hander went 10-2 with 4.18 ERA for the 40-win Gauchos. His .857 career winning percentage is tops all-time in Gaucho history after he went 2-0 in his first year in the blue and gold. The southpaw threw 97 innings in 2001 and struck out 61 hitters. He was drafted by the New York Mets in that summer's draft.

"The fact that he has the highest winning percentage of any Gaucho in history makes him an easy choice," Brontsema said. "He pitched in the shadow of Garcia, but he was every bit as good."

Alex McRobbie, 2002-05, Relief Pitcher
The school's all-time leader in saves with 16, Alex McRobbie turned a walk-on appearance into one of the great Gaucho success stories. His 2.91 career ERA is sixth all-time and his 73 appearances out of the bullpen rank fourth in UCSB annals. In 2005, McRobbie was dynamite, making 30 appearances and converting a school-record 14 saves.

"He is a great walk-on story like Dave Molidor," Brontsema said. "He just blossomed into one of the best closers in the Big West."

Putting together this list for the All-Decade Team was no easy task and Brontsema, Myers and Kirkgard felt that several players deserved honorable mention status: Donovan Warrecker (2000-01), Jeff Bannon (1998-2001), Matt Valaika (2007-present), Nate Sutton (2001-04), Mike Zuanich (2007-08) and Justin Segal (2005-07).

Others considered for this list included: Shane Carlson (2006-09), Loren Fraser (2004-05), Mike Ford (2007-present), Jamie Gonzales (2000-01), Andy Graham (2006), Brian Gump (2006-09), Mario Hollands (2008-present), Steve Morlock (2003-07), Ivan Ramirez (2003-04), Patrick Rose (2006-08), Jed Stringham (2001) and Matt Vasquez (2001-03).

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