SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Baseball America – one of the most reputable college baseball publications in the nation – released its annual college recruiting class rankings on Thursday, placing UC Santa Barbara's 2012 class as the twelfth-best in the nation.
The ranking is tops among all Big West teams and is the highest ever in program history. In fact, it is the first time the Gauchos have appeared on the list.
The accolades for the Gauchos' incoming class are piling up, as the incoming Gauchos were ranked as the No.18 recruiting class by Collegiate Baseball just last month.
"I think it's a tribute to the university and what a special place UCSB is," said UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts. "Santa Barbara attracts great student-athletes."
The strong incoming class – combined with returning underclassmen like All-Americans Greg Mahle, Andrew Vasquez, and Cape-Cod League All-Star Brandon Trinkwon – gives the Gauchos a young, but extremely talented squad for the 2013 season.
"The ranking is the result of a lot of hard work," Checketts said. "Eddie [Cornejo, Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator] and Jason [Hawkins, Assistant Coach] have done a great job while sacrificing a lot for this program."
For the Gauchos, this ranking is a step in the right direction for a program – once ranked as high as No. 5 nationally and a regular participant in postseason regionals – looking to return to national prominence.
"The ranking is nice, but we're more worried about getting wins on the field," Checketts said.
The only other Big West school to appear on the list was Cal State Fullerton at No. 23. Long Beach State garnered an honorable mention.
UCSB's 2012 recruiting class is highlighted by pitchers Connor
Baits and Dillon Tate, as well as position players Andrew Calica
and Devon Gradford.
Baits was one of the most highly regarded high-school pitchers in California. The 6-5 righty out of Point Loma High has been clocked as high as 94 MPH and was a 23rd round draft pick by the Mets in the 2012 draft.
Dillon Tate had a solid 2.85 ERA in his senior season at Claremont High and has shown the ability to reach the low 90's with his fastball. Tate gives Checketts another solid option out of the bullpen.
Outfielder Andrew Calica hit over .400 in each of his final three seasons at Eastlake High School and has shown a solid glove, committing no errors during his entire senior season.
Shortstop Devon Gradford, a 34th round pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 draft, sported a .430/.520/.724 slash line in his senior season at Downey High and significantly improved his defense after making the move from second base in his junior year.
"We brought in some young, talented arms," Checketts said. "We're excited to see them in the scrimmage tomorrow and see how they react when there's another team in the dugout."
Tomorrow's fall game against Loyola Marymount will be the first opportunity for fans to catch the new Gauchos in action.