February 18, 2009

Baseball Season Preview Day 2: The Catchers

Feb. 18, 2009

Click here to see Season Preview Day 1: The Infield

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - When UC Santa Barbara catcher Chris McMurray left the school after bring drafted in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds, it left an opening behind the plate and has resulted in some friendly competition at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.

Today, we take a look at the catchers a day after previewing the infield for the Gauchos, who are ranked No. 30 in a pair of preseason polls - courtesy of Ping! Baseball and also Collegiate Baseball. - as well as boasting the 18th toughest schedule in the nation courtesy of Boyd's World and Postseason Regional berth by Baseball America.

Tomorrow, we will preview the talented outfield the Gauchos will take into the 2009 season, which starts this Sunday when UCSB battles St. Louis at Cal State Bakersfield this Sunday.

Losing McMurray, a Second-Team All-Big West selection last year, to the draft has allowed four players to vie for quality time receiving one of the country's best pitching staffs.

The most likely candidate to start at catcher is junior college transfer Marty Mullins, who comes from West Valley College. The Los Gatos, Calif. native hit .357 with 16 doubles, five home runs and 46 RBI at West Valley, helping his squad to a fourth-place finish in California.

"He is a solid workman-like backstop," head coach Bob Brontsema said. "He doesn't have the flash you got with Chris McMurray but he's solid across the board. He throws well enough, he'll be a threat offensively."

Pushing Mullins for time is redshirt freshman Bryce Tafelski, a product of Santa Ynez High.

Tafelski was drafted coming out of high school by the Cleveland Indians, but instead chose to attend UCSB. He was MVP of the Los Padres League and hit .451 with eight home runs, 39 RBI and 20 steals his senior season at Santa Ynez.

"He has the greatest upside of the group," Brontsema said. "He's an everyday type guy. However, he needs to be healthy. He hasn't been able to stay healthy in the short time he's been here."

Two other junior college transfers - Doug Hansen of the College of San Mateo and Dan Camou of Cañada College - will also compete for time and each will be known for their solid arm to put a crimp into opponents running games.

Hansen, who hit .285 as San Mateo's starting catcher in 2007, is described by Brontsema as someone who "has the best release of the group. He gets rid of the ball quickly. He gets the ball down to second base quicker than anyone."

Camou started in every one of Cañada's 40 games last season and hit .295 with 37 RBI. However he threw out 23 of 50 potential base stealers and was a First-Team All-Coast North Conference selection.

"He can really throw," Brontsema said. "He blocks well and handles pitchers well."

For the first time ever, fans can now purchase baseball season tickets for seats located at Field Level at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium or on the Reserved Level directly behind home plate by clicking here. Every season ticket purchase comes with a free hat and UCSB hosts its home opener vs. Westmont on Feb. 23.

Single-game tickets are available by calling (805) 893-UCSB, visiting the Ticket Office located on campus in the Intercollegiate Athletics Office or by clicking here.

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