Jan. 30, 2008
This feature appeared recently on pingbaseball.com
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
The Gauchos are looking to make their move this year in the über competitive Big West Conference. This, despite having what could arguably be one of the toughest schedules in collegiate baseball. After non-conference games against the likes of UCLA, Pepperdine, and Southern California, the Gauchos must tackle conference foes UC-Irvine, Cal St. Fullerton, Long Beach St. and UC-Riverside, all of whom earned regional berths last year (with Fullerton and Irvine reaching the College World Series). But an overall balanced team, led by a pair of talented underclassmen on the mound, have the optimistic Gauchos thinking about post-season play themselves. With sophomore pitcher Mike Ford, and red-shirt freshman Mario Hollands leading the way, the future looks bright for the Gauchos.
Phoenix native Mike Ford passed on offers from several Arizona universities to become a Gaucho. At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Ford has a fastball in the low 90's, and has developed a true change-up to keep batters on their toes. As a freshman, he led UCSB in strikeouts (the first since Barry Zito did so in 1997), sending 68 batters back to the bench empty handed in 82 innings pitched. In fact, he led all Big West freshman hurlers in K's. Ford was recently named to the 2008 Brooks Pre-Season Watch List after his showed more than flashes of greatness while winning a pair of games in 17 appearances (13 starts) his debut season with a 5.05 ERA. With performances such as taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning against TCU in Fort Worth, and striking out 10 against Long Beach St., it's no wonder why the Gauchos are bullish on Ford.
Berkeley native lefty Mario Hollands is another tall drink of water, standing at 6' 5" with an intimidating fastball that's approaching the mid-90's with heavy rotation. He possesses a deceptive Dontrelle Willis-esque delivery that only adds to his uniqueness. The business economic major was named one of "The Nation's Best 50 Pitchers to Watch" by studentsport.com coming out of high school and was listed as the number five prospect from the Alaska League list this summer after going 3-1 in seven starts with a 3.47 ERA for the Peninsula Oilers. In 33.1 innings pitched, Hollands allowed a scant 22 hits, while striking out 25 while pitching in "The Last Frontier". The red-shirt freshman is projected to be the Gaucho's Saturday starter.
Gaucho Head Coach Bob Brontsema said of his freshman ace, "Mario has great potential that we think he will display over the course of this year and beyond. He, along with a handful of our young players, make the future very bright for UCSB baseball."
Ford and Hollands will be keys to the Gauchos' success this season. The underclassmen will be counted on to lead a team that is full of potential, in the always tough Big West. If these two Young Guns produced as expected, look for the Gauchos to fight for an upper-half finish in the Big West, and a little post-season baseball action.
-- UCSBGauchos.com --