May 5, 2011

Trinkwon could be back on field by the weekend

May 5, 2011

By MARK PATTON, NEWS-PRESS SENIOR WRITER

May 4, 2011 6:10 AM

UCSB baseball coach Bob Brontsema was worried barely two weeks ago that freshman Brandwon Trinkwon might lose his left eye.

But he could be playing shortstop for the Gauchos again this weekend.

Trinkwon, who fouled a pitch into his own face during the April 22 game against Long Beach State, has been cleared by his doctors to return to the diamond.

"I got a text from him asking, 'What do I have to do to get back playing?' " Brontsema said.

The first thing is to get cleared by UCSB's training staff, and then he must get fitted for a plexiglass mask to wear in the field.

"I've been looking around for the helmet that Matt Valaika wore after he broke his nose," Brontsema said. "Brandon will have to wear a clear, plastic mask like the one basketball players sometimes wear, and also one of those softball-type helmets with the facemask when he bats."

Trinkwon, who was batting .277 with only three errors in 22 games at shortstop, broke his nose in five places and also suffered four fractures around the eye socket.

But Brontsema said the swelling of his face subsided dramatically in just the last week.

"He still had his black eyes, but when we saw him last weekend, it was, like, 'Whoa!'" he said. "He was unrecognizable before, but last weekend, it was like, 'Hey! There's Brandon!' Nobody could believe it."

BASKETBALL

It was no surprise that junior guard Orlando Johnson received the most valuable player award at Sunday's UCSB men's basketball banquet, but he didn't get it for the obvious reasons.

"This isn't the most outstanding player award," said David Campbell, UCSB's director of basketball operations. "The MVP award is for the person who makes everybody else better."

And that's why the numbers that were most telling for Johnson weren't his team-leading averages of 21.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, but the ones put up by freshman Troy Leaf.

"I look back at a game at Irvine, and we weren't playing particularly well," Campbell said. "I specifically remember coming out of a time out, and Troy had missed a couple of wide-open jump shots, and Orlando told him, 'Hey, keep shooting ... I know you can shoot ... I believe in you.'

"We stopped to get something to eat afterward, and in the line at Subway, he's talking to him and just trying to pick up his confidence a little bit. And to me, that's what a most valuable player does."

Leaf, an all-state guard from San Diego, had shot just 22 percent overall and 18.8 percent from the arc in his first 23 games as a Gaucho. But after leaving Irvine, he shot 50 percent (13-for-26) which included 41.7 percent (5-for-12) in 3-pointers for the rest of the season.

"This award for Orlando is not about his stats," Campbell said. "It's for what he does for all the other members of this team."

UCSB's three departing seniors received the other awards, with forward Jon Pastorek winning most improved, point guard Justin Joyner getting the captain's award and guard Jordan Weiner receiving the academic award.

Weiner will also be honored as one of UCSB's top scholar-athletes at Wednesday's Golden Eagle Award banquet at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort.

Perhaps the best news coming out of Sunday's basketball banquet was the status of junior forward Jaime Serna, who underwent surgery after breaking his wrist in the opening minutes of the NCAA Tournament game against Florida.

"The report on the wrist is that it's healing properly and he'll soon be back 100 percent," coach Bob Williams announced. "That is a great report."

VOLLEYBALL

The UCSB men's volleyball team caught Monday night's red-eye flight to Pittsburgh so it can acclimate to the change of time zones for Thursday's NCAA semifinal against top-ranked USC.

The match will be played at Penn State at 4 p.m. PDT, with the winner advancing to Saturday's 4 p.m. final against either Penn State or Ohio State. Both matches will be televised by ESPN2.

"I'd rather we played them tonight," assistant coach Lee Nelson said before catching Monday's flight. "I think our guys are a little jacked and ready to do it.

"We know each other about as well as two teams can know each other. It's just going to be who executes better."

The fifth-ranked Gauchos (17-14) beat the Trojans (23-3) in a five-game thriller at USC on Saturday to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's bid to the Final Four. The Trojans received the lone at-large berth.

"We were taking the bus home and my phone just blew up with all the e-mails and texts, so it's already been a great experience," said Nelson, a Santa Barbara High graduate who played on UCSB's last Final Four team of 1988. "Jon Roberts, who played for UCSB the first time it went to the Final Four, left me a message saying, 'It's great what you're doing, but you've got to be greedy and go and get that championship!'

"So that's what we're going to try to do, and I think we have a good shot at it."

SWIMMING

Chris Peterson, UCSB's lone representative at this year's NCAA Championships, heads a list of 10 Gauchos to receive CollegeSwimming.com Mid-Major All-America honors.

Peterson, a junior who advanced in both the 50 and 100 freestyles while setting school records in both events, was selected to the first team.

Teammates receiving honorable mention were Kevin Ferguson, Tim Freeman, Ryan Hanni and Garrett Thompson.

Women's swimmers Paige Bradley, Allie Knight, Kendall Neely, Andrea Ward and Sophia Yamauchi also got Mid-Major All-America honorable mention. Swimmers must record at least one NCAA "B" cut to receive honorable mention.

e-mail: mpatton@newspress.com

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