Perfect Game is giving high marks to the UCSB baseball team, slotting it at No. 10 in its Preseason Top 25 poll while selecting pitcher Rodney Boone to its Preseason All-America Second Team.
The Gauchos, 13-2 during last year’s COVID-shortened season, followed Florida, Louisville, Texas Tech, UCLA, Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Miami, LSU and Virginia in the preseason ranking.
Boone, a 6-foot-2 sophomore lefthander, is the second UCSB pitcher in recent weeks to receive preseason All-America honors. Zach Torra, a junior lefthander from Santa Ynez, was named to Collegiate Baseball’s third team last month.
“Michael McGreevy made D1 Baseball’s list of top-100 draft picks,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts pointed out, “and I think all three of them are capable of making it (All-American).”
Boone, Torra and McGreevy comprised a pitching rotation that combined for a win-loss record of 7-1, ERA of 1.22, and 96 strikeouts in 74 innings during last year’s COVID-shortened season. The Gauchos tied Vanderbilt for best ERA in the nation at 1.84.
Boone went 2-1 with an ERA of 2.53 and 31 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Checketts said he appears primed for another big season, coronavirus willing.
“His last three weeks of the fall were good,” he said. “He was competitive with a lot of pitches in the strike zone. He made progress with the curveball, which is something he’d been working on.
“His velocity is starting to creep up a bit. It’s still not where he wants it, but I think it’s in a good range. And his changeup has been pretty dominating.”
Perfect Game’s announcement came with the explanation that last year’s interrupted season prompted it to consider “statistics from both 2019 and 2020, prospect status, 2021 expectations, and ranking relative to their draft status.”
In two seasons, Boone has compiled a win-loss record of 10-1 and ERA of 2.73. He’s struck out 111 batters in 102 1/3 innings.
He clinched UCSB’s first league championship since 1986 when he pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings against Cal Poly on the final day of the 2019 regular season.
“He’s handled himself well and, if anything, when he’s not been good it’s been when he’s over-trying a little bit,” Checketts said. “But he has shown a lot of poise.
“He was a Freshman All-American and Big West Freshman of the Year and threw a lot of big games that year.”
UCSB is expected to resume training on Jan. 18. It’s tentatively scheduled to open its season on Feb. 19 with a weekend series against Sacramento State with other non-conference series against UCLA, Oregon, and possibly USF. The Gauchos have also been invited to play in San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Classic.