UCSB draws Fresno State in Friday night opener, with 11th seed Stanford lurking
Tommy Jew admitted to refreshing his internet browser quite a bit on Sunday night, taking in various projections after the UCSB baseball team wasn’t chosen as a host site for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
On Monday, many of the projections proved true: The Gauchos (45-9) are headed to Stanford, where they will open up with a 7 p.m. contest against Fresno State (38-14-1) as the second seed in the Palo Alto Regional.
Stanford (41-11) will face Sacramento State (39-23) in its opener of the double-elimination regional. The Cardinal is the No. 11 seed in the tournament and is one of 16 host sites, with three on the West Coast.
“We’ve been preparing for this for the last eight months now,” said Jew, a junior. “Personally, I was looking at (the projections) a lot, I’m kind of into that stuff. I like to see where other teams are going, I have a lot of friends around the country.”
The five-hour bus ride up to Sunken Diamond stadium pleased UCSB skipper Andrew Checketts.
“I don’t like to fly, so I’m pumped about getting on a bus,” Checketts quipped. “Any time we can just bus somewhere, I’m good with it.”
Fresh off securing its first Big West Conference title in 33 years, senior Thomas Rowan is feeling confident in a team that is 18-6 on the road this season.
“I like our chances. There are three good teams there, but you’ve seen us play all year and we have a good chance of getting out of there,” said Rowan, who experienced the Gauchos run to the College World Series in 2016 alongside four other seniors on the current roster, including starting left fielder Tevin Mitchell.
Fresno State comes into the tournament as the Mountain West Conference champions and are led by hurler Ryan Jensen, who sports an 11-1 record and 2.92 ERA. The Bulldogs won the College World Series in 2012.
“It’ll be challenging that first round with Fresno,” Checketts said. “We haven’t played them, but we know a bit about them. They are a good team, they have some arms.”
The trip to the Bay Area will be the fourth time the Gauchos have played a regional there, also playing there in 1983, 1987 and 1996. UCSB was one win away from advancing in 1983.
UCSB, the only team from the Big West to make the 64-team field, will get national TV exposure on the ESPN family of networks, something that will help the Gauchos continue to put themselves on the recruiting map after two subpar years following their exciting run to Omaha in 2016.
Checketts is pleased the juniors that joined the program on the heels of that success were able to experience the Selection Show on Monday morning at UCSB’s Intercollegiate building.
“It’s fun because it’s the same kids,” Checketts explained. “A lot of those kids were recruited coming off hosting a regional, coming off the World Series, so I think their expectations were that we would continue to go along that path, and that they’d have opportunities to be able to play in the postseason.
“It’s really sweet to see them get to that point and the same kids that battled through a tough couple of years that weren’t a lot of fun. To see them hang in there, and get rewarded is pretty sweet.”
Rowan has consistently called this the best all-around team he has been on at UCSB, and relishes the legacy that this year’s squad is leaving behind.
“When I came in, we were pretty high, hosted the Regionals, went to the World Series. This year has propelled us back. I feel like our team has made a name for itself again,” Rowan said.
“UC Santa Barbara is a powerhouse again.”
Tickets for the regional go on sale at 9 a.m. today.