Zach Torra passed on professional baseball last summer after getting shut out of a drastically reduced MLB Draft, but it led to many happy returns for the UCSB pitcher on Christmas week.
Torra, a junior left-hander from Santa Ynez, was named as a Second Team Preseason All-American by Collegiate Baseball on Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled minor league baseball last summer, prompting Major League Baseball to trim its annual draft from 40 rounds to five.
“I think he would’ve gone between the sixth and 10th rounds,” Gaucho coach Andrew Checketts said, “and unless he priced himself out, he would’ve signed.”
The coronavirus also prompted the NCAA to pull the plug on last season in early March. Torra, a transfer from Cuesta College, had started four games by that time. He posted a win-loss record of 3-0 and earned-run average of 0.36. He also struck out 39 batters in 25 1/3 innings while limiting opponents to a batting average of just .133.
“It was a small sample size, but he made a lot of progress in a short amount of time,” Checketts said. “A lot of it was figuring out who he was after all the analytical data came in. He threw a lot of two-seamers (fastballs), but the information we were getting was that he could spin the ball and make it rise — tilt it up.
“There were some learning curves in the fall and he did have to get used to it, but he was able to add a slider, plus a cutter and curveball combination that were very effective.”
Torra pitched Santa Ynez High to a CIF-Southern Section championship during his sophomore year of 2014, shutting out Village Christian on three hits in the Division 5 final. He went 30-5 with an 0.47 ERA during his four seasons with the Pirates.
He was part of a starting rotation at UCSB last year that returns intact with Rodney Boone and Michael McGreevy. They combined for a record of 7-1 and ERA of 1.22, with 96 strikeouts in 74 innings.
“I was a little surprised that Boone and McGreevy weren’t on their (All-America) list too, based on what they’ve done the last two years,” Checketts said. “They put themselves in the conversation for awards like that.
“The preseason may be more challenging, if it ends up shaking out as it’s supposed to. We’re done with scheduling, although there might have to be some adjustments. We’re just hoping we play as much baseball as we can.”
Last year’s Gauchos had an overall team ERA of 1.84, tying Vanderbilt for best in the nation.
Collegiate Baseball ranked UCSB No. 8 in its preseason coaches’ Fabulous 50 poll which was released on Monday. It’s the highest the Gauchos have ever been ranked during the preseason.