February 19, 2009

Baseball Season Preview Day 3: The Outfield

Feb. 19, 2009

Click here to see Season Preview Day 1: The Infield
Click here to see Season Preview Day 2: The Catchers

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It's not often that a team loses its only First-Team All-Big West player and home run leader from the previous season and shouldn't miss a beat.

Mike Zuanich is gone from UC Santa Barbara's outfield but with a surplus of talented returners and some high-caliber transfers and freshmen, the outfield should be in capable hands as the Gauchos open the 2009 season this Sunday vs. St. Louis at Cal State Bakersfield.

Today, we take a look at the outfield after having previewed the infield and catchers 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 are projected to grab a Postseason Regional berth by Baseball America.

Tomorrow, the final day of our season preview, we'll take a look at the Gauchos' incredibly talented stable of pitchers.

Brian Gump, who was the team's starting right fielder last season, will move over to center field to open the season - something that shouldn't be a problem for the senior who has already battled Caesar Uyesaka Stadium's elements in right last season.

"He played right field and he played it well," head coach Bob Brontsema said. "However he is more of a pure centerfielder."

Brontsema compared Gump - who is slated to bat leadoff again after hitting .318 and leading the team with 76 hits and 25 stolen bases and finishing second with 51 runs scored last season - to former Gaucho Ryan Spilborghs, now with the Colorado Rockies.

"He's our leader," Brontsema said. "He has taken that upon himself to be a leader and he has done a good job. He was drafted and he returned for his senior season because I think he understands that this team has a chance to be pretty good."

The corner outfield spots will have several players gunning for a lot of playing time.

Mark Haddow, a sophomore who hit .231 in 23 games (12 starts), figures to open the season in right field because he possesses, as Brontsema says, "a big league arm."

"He also has a some pop and is a plus runner," Brontsema said of the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Haddow. "He has some very good tools and we'd like to get him some at-bats. How he swings the bat and how others play defensively will ultimately determine what his role is."

Adding to the logjam in the outfield will be converted infielder Gunnar Terhune, who could play left or center fields. Terhune batted .336 in 41 games with 25 runs scored last season and to get him some at-bats in a crowded infield, Brontsema has decided to test the San Diego native's abilities in the outfield.

"He's a very good offensive player and he's made a solid transition to the outfield," Brontsema said. "He's done a real good job out there. His bat and his legs need to be in the lineup and we thought out there was a better usage of his abilities."

Returning senior John DeAlba will surely get some playing time at a corner spot after playing 38 games last season. The onetime Santa Barbara City College transfer batted .297 with two homers, 18 RBI and 21 runs scored in 2008.

"John falls into that category of he had a solid year last year and our experience has been that JC transfers are more comfortable in their second season," Brontsema said. "He just competes. He's got some pop and he competes at the plate. He does a lot of things pretty well. We're hoping John has a big year for us."

West Valley College transfer Ryan Tregoning and his terrific resume only adds to the amount of terrific corner outfielders battling for playing time. Tregoning was named the Community College Player of the Year at the Hot Stove Banquet in San Jose this past year and figures to see ample time roaming Caesar Uyesaka's outfield. Tregoning, a junior, hit .442 with seven home runs, 18 doubles, 54 RBI and a .515 on-base percentage last season.

"He's a quiet guy who just goes about his business," Brontsema said, noting that Tregoning could also see some time in center field. "He put up phenomenal numbers in junior college and he had a really strong fall for us."

Junior Brett Fick from nearby Ventura College originally came to UCSB as a catcher and has turned more into a utility player. Last season Fick hit .414 with six homers, 33 RBI 31 runs scored and played every position but first base.

"He had a really tough fall with injury and illness," Brontsema said, "but he is a very disciplined hitter with a good approach. We hope to find him some at-bats coming off the bench."

Ben Edelstein enters the fold as a sophomore from Cañada College after hitting .308 with 13 stolen bases and a .411 on-base percentage by starting 33 of 35 games last season.

"He can really run," Brontsema said. "He brings that dimension to us which we really like off the bench. He's been swinging the bat significantly better. He can do some things off the bench for us whether as a pinch hitter or pinch runner. Much like Lance Roenicke, he could find his way into the lineup."

Which brings us to a well-known name in baseball circles - that of Roenicke's. His cousin, Jason Roenicke, pitched at UCSB before being drafted by Toronto last June and his uncle Gary Roenicke, after a long playing career, is now a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. Lance's father, Ron Roenicke, is the bench coach for Mike Scioscia's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

After redshirting last season, Roenicke will again be battling for playing time with the other extraordinary outfielders, Brontsema said. That, however, doesn't diminish his role on this year's squad.

"He's really come on this fall," Brontsema said. "He's put on a little weight and strength and he's going to be a factor for us in years to come. He can run and go get it in the outfield and looks to be the heir apparent to Brian Gump."

The Gauchos host their home opener on Monday Feb. 23 vs. Westmont and 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, just like the ones the players wear on the field.

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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