SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UC Santa Barbara baseball team landed a program-record 13 student-athletes on the Big West All-Conference Team, announced by the league office on Wednesday afternoon. Additionally, a program-record seven student-athletes were named to the All-Big West First Team, one more than the previous program-best set in 1986, the last time the Gauchos won the Big West title before this year.
2019 Big West Field Player of the Year: Junior catcher Eric Yang
Yang caps off his stellar season by being named the conference's Field Player of the Year after leading the team with a .383/.492/.567 slash line and recording 25 multi-hit games. The West Hills, Calif.-native played in all 54 games this year, starting 44 behind the dish and playing in 10 as the designated hitter. Yang finished fourth on the team with 45 RBIs and fifth on the team with seven home runs in the regular season, and he takes a 12-game reached base streak into the postseason.
Defensively, Yang was exceptional. He threw out 10 runners trying to steal in 29 attempts for a 34.5 caught stealing percentage, playing to the tune of a .995 fielding percentage.
Yang's work at and behind the plate has earned him a spot as one of 14 semifinalists for the Buster Posey National Catcher of the Year Award. He was named Big West Athlete of the Week on April 1 after leading UCSB to a series win at Cal State Fullerton after hitting .500 in 14 at bats against the Titans, along with a home run and six RBIs.
Yang becomes the first Gaucho to win the award since Cameron Newell shared the award with Cal State Fullerton's David Olmedo-Barrera in 2015.
2019 Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year: LHP Rodney Boone
Boone earns the Freshman Pitcher of the Year honor after going 8-0 in 14 starts with a 2.78 ERA. He established himself as the Sunday starter early on in the season and quickly became a key part of the Gauchos' success. The lefty recorded 80 strikeouts while holding hitters to a .204 BA against, and had no shortage of quality performances throughout. In the finale of UCSB's series against Missouri State, Boone struck out 10 in six innings of three-hit ball allowing just one run. On April 7, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning against Stephen F. Austin, eventually settling for a one-hit outing. Two weeks later, the Orange, Calif.-native allowed just three hits in 7.2 innings in a win vs UC Davis. Perhaps most memorably, Boone's career-high 12 strikeouts in 8.1 innings helped the Gauchos clinch the Big West title for the first time in 33 years in their final-day victory over Cal Poly.
Boone is the first UCSB player to earn the honor since Mario Hollands in 2008, and only the third Gaucho to win it since the award was introduced in 2004.
2019 Big West Coach of the Year: Andrew Checketts
In his eighth season at the helm of the UCSB program, Checketts has led to team to one of its best seasons in program history. UCSB broke several records this year, including most wins against Division I opponents (45), surpassing the 43 wins set by the 2016 Gauchos, and longest winning streak (13, twice), most triples (29), and saves (19). UCSB is also set to break a few more records, including winning percentage (currently at .833) and strikeouts (491). This will be the fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament under Checketts, and the first since the Gauchos' College World Series run in 2016.
This is the first Coach of the Year award for Checketts, the program's all-time leader in winning percentage (.610), and it represents the fifth time a UCSB coach has earned the honor, with Bob Brontsema ('96, '01) and Al Ferrer ('83, '86).
Sophomore second baseman Andrew Martinez
Martinez played in all 54 games for the Gauchos, while starting 52. Martinez opened the season at shortstop, where he started 17 games, before moving to second base and starting in 35 games at that position. The San Francisco, Calif.-native's 47 RBIs led the team, and his 8 home runs were good for fourth on the team. Martinez got better as the season continued, getting past a slow start in March by hitting .288 in April and .327 in May, ultimately finishing with a .286 batting average.
Senior designated hitter Thomas Rowan
After having been named to the All-Conference Honorable Mention list last season, Rowan makes it to the First Team after a season in which he took his power to the next level. The fifth-year senior led the team with 13 home runs, while slashing .324/.402/.599. Those numbers include three multi-home run, 23 multi-hit, and 11 multi-RBI games. Over the course of the season, Rowan started in all 54 games, with 42 of them coming as the designated hitter, 10 as catcher, and two as first baseman. From March 29 to May 3, he reached base in 20 straight games.
Junior outfielder Tommy Jew
Jew has been a rock for UCSB since arriving in Santa Barbara his freshman year, and he now makes his second straight appearance on the All-Conference First Team list. The reliable veteran has made 162 consecutive starts in center over the past three seasons, and slashed .282/.354/.535 this season. His 11 home runs are tied for second on the team, and he had multiple hits in 17 games. Jew was named Big West Athlete of the Week on March 11 after hitting .526 (10-for-19) with two home runs and eight RBIs at Tulane. The Dougherty Valley HS product also showed his prowess on the basepaths by stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts, also tying for the team lead in that category.
He becomes the first Gaucho to be named to the All-Big West First Team twice in his career since Dave Molidor in the 2000-01 seasons.
Junior outfielder Armani Smith
Smith started in all 54 games for UCSB in the regular season, with 53 of them coming at right field. He's fifth in the nation with eight triples and finds himself just one away from the UCSB single-season record. Smith has hit 11 home runs and has a team-high 16 doubles to give him 35 extra-base hits, and he has had 16 multi-RBI and 22 multi-hit games. He heads into the postseason slashing .325/.395/.636. Smith earned Big West Athlete of the Week on May 6 after his game-winning two-run single in the 9th at CSUN. UCSB is 24-5 with him hitting 5th, and 10-2 when he bats cleanup.
Sophomore LHP Jack Dashwood
Dashwood earns a spot on the All-Big West First Team thanks to his 9-2 record with a 2.17 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 87 innings pitched, with a batting average against of .219. Dashwood was twice named Big West Pitcher of the Week this season, first after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and striking out 10 in a 2-1 win at USC on February 27, and the second time after he tossed a complete game, three-hit shutout in a win over UC Davis on April 19.
On March 16 against Cal Baptist, the lefty scattered six hits and struck out eight in 6.1 innings of one-run ball. A week later, he tied his career-high in strikeouts with 10 in UCSB's win against Missouri State. On April 13, Dashwood went eight strong, striking out seven and allowing just one run on four hits in a massive win over then-No. 15 UC Irvine. He struck out eight in each of his quality starts at CSUN and Hawai'i.
Freshman RHP Michael McGreevy
In his freshman season, McGreevy has become one of the most dependable arms in the bullpen for UCSB. Checketts has called on him a team-high 28 times, good for second in the Big West, as he leads the team with a 2.01 ERA. Batters hit just .233 against him and he has recorded 51 strikeouts in 58.1 innings pitched, picking up six saves along the way. In what was his second collegiate game, he struck out four in three scoreless innings at UNLV on February 19. Against Missouri State, he struck out a season-high six batters in 3.1 scoreless innings. Later in the season, he came in for a season-high 5.1 innings to pick up a win for the Gauchos over Cal State Fullerton on March 31.
Junior catcher Eric Yang
In addition to being named the conference's Field Player of the Year, Yang was also named to the First Team.
Junior LHP Ben Brecht
Brecht started a team-high 15 games as the Friday starter and ace of the staff. He earned 10 wins in 11 decisions, making him eighth in the country and tied for fifth all-time in UCSB history in single-season wins, with a 3.76 ERA in a team-high 88.2 innings pitched. His 101 strikeouts led the Big West and is tied for ninth all-time in program history. Opponents batted .243 against the Wilmette, Ill.-native.
Brecht's season began with an impressive outing in the season-opener at LMU on February 16 when he struck out five batters in five innings while allowing just two runs. At Tulane on March 8, he struck out a career-high 11 in 7.1 innings. The southpaw struck out 52 batters in six straight starts from February 22 to March 29 where he didn't have less than seven in any game. Against Missouri State on March 22, he hit double digit strikeouts again with 10 Ks in 5.2 innings. In what was then the biggest game of the year, Brecht delivered with eight strikeouts in 7.2 solid innings of three-hit ball and allowed just one run in a 4-1 win over No. 15 UC Irvine on April 12.
Junior RHP Chris Lincoln
Lincoln was converted into a closer after spending the 2018 campaign as a starter, and he was nothing short of dominant in the regular season. His 13 saves are one away from tying UCSB's single-season record, while he closed out the regular season with a 4-1 record with a 3.60 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. The hard-throwing righty limited hitters to a .238 average against in 23 appearances. In the season opener at LMU on February 16, he struck out five batters after throwing four scoreless innings to pick up the save. Lincoln did not allow an earned run in 15 of his 23 appearances.
Freshman RHP Rodney Boone
As well as picking up the Freshman Pitcher of the Year Award, Boone was also named to the All-Big West Second Team.
Sophomore third baseman Jason Willow
Willow made 27 starts at third base, eight at shortstop, and one in right field this season, finishing with a .263 batting average, while hitting six doubles, three triples, and a home run. He successfully stole base five times in nine attempts. The Canadian hit his first career home run in a tight 4-3 contest over UC Davis on April 20.
Junior shortshop McClain O'Connor
O'Connor was a valuable player for the Gauchos over the course of the regular season, showing his versatility by playing nine games at second base as UCSB shuffled lineups early on due to injuries. He found a home at shortstop where he has made 27 starts and has settled in as the leadoff hitter. The Lassen College transfer had a strong month in April hitting .350 (21-for-60). In 40 games, he recorded a .338 batting average, good for second on the team, while tacking on 3 home runs and 16 RBIs.
Senior outfielder Tevin Mitchell
Mitchell tied for the team lead with 20 stolen bases after starting 50 games this season. The left fielder spent much of the season as the leadoff hitter and showed off his power with five home runs, while also slashing .285/.379/.464. His best performance of the season came at Tulane on March 10 when he went 2-for-3 with six RBIs and a grand slam in a 16-6 rout at Tulane.