SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara head softball coach Brie Galicinao has signed five student-athletes to National Letters of Intent this week during the fall signing period, she announced on Friday.
Kristen Berlo (Santa Barbara, Calif./San Marcos HS), Emily Brucelas (Fountain Valley, Calif./Fountain Valley HS), Stacy Cavazos (Riverside, Calif./Patriot HS), Kristen Clark (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista HS) and Rieanne Thomas (Camarillo, Calif./Buena HS) will all join the Gauchos for the 2014 season.
"We graduate athleticism, speed, and power, and this incoming class will do a good job of helping fill those parts of the game," Galicinao said. "We add another big arm to the pitching staff with Berlo, and even more options to our lineup with position players who can all hit and run.
"On top of all that, we get to welcome five gifted students and their families who are just as excited as we are for them to be Gauchos."
Berlo is a dual sport athlete that also signed this week with the UCSB volleyball program. The pitcher is heavily decorated, having earned consecutive All-Channel League First Team honors and twice being named San Marcos' Most Valuable Player. She was also named San Marcos' Female Athlete of the Year following her junior season in which she posted 277 strikeouts. She also competes for Team Mizuno-Gonzalez for travel ball.
On the court, she has twice garnered All-Channel League First Team honors in addition to being named the league MVP after leading the Royals to the 2012 Channel League Championship.
"Kristen is such a gifted athlete – all 6-1 of her – and has effortless pitching mechanics and great upside in the circle," Galicinao said. "It's scary to think that she still has room to grow as a pitcher; she already throws with velocity and movement without putting everything she has into her pitches.
"As a bonus, she'll start her first softball season already having experienced college competition and balancing school and sports from playing volleyball at UCSB in the fall."
Brucelas is a middle infielder that is a three-time All-Sunset League selection and has garnered consecutive First Team honors. She has been named the Fountain Valley Offensive Player of the Year following all three seasons of her prep career and helped lead her team to its first CIF playoff appearance as a sophomore. Last season, she batted .353 with a .578 slugging percentage, 11 doubles and four home runs. She plays travel ball with So Cal Explosion.
A dual-sport standout, she is also a two-time All-Sunset League First Team honoree in field hockey. She led her team in scoring two consecutive seasons and was named her team's Offensive MVP.
"If you're watching Emily on defense, she's pretty unassuming in the middle infield, until you realize she's getting to a lot of balls and executing a lot of tough plays," Galicinao said. "She just happens to make it look easy. Offensively, however, Emily has a different presence at the plate: she always looks like she's going to do something and usually does. She has consistent power and is clutch enough now to be able to bring her simple approach with her to the next level."
Cavazos is a three-time All-Sunkist League selection and two-time First Team honoree. In 2011, she garnered Sunkist League MVP honors. Last season, she hit .464 and had a .768 slugging percentage. The outfielder helped the So Cal Athletics-Smith travel ball team to a third-place finish at the 2012 Gold ASA Nationals. She also plays for Firecrackers-Blanco.
"I joke with Stacy that she wasn't at all what we were looking for in the recruiting process (since we weren't looking for her position) but she's that type of player we absolutely need to have in our program: she knows softball, has speed and an arm and can hit for power," Galicinao said. "Most importantly, she's someone who will show up to practice every day ready to work, and those are the types of players who continually get better throughout their careers and do great things."
Clark is an outfielder that has twice garnered All-East Bay Athletic League honors, including First Team accolades last season. She started her prep career at The Woodlands High School in Texas, where she was named the District Freshman MVP.
She plays travel ball with the San Jose Sting, which she helped lead to a third-place finish at the 2012 Premier Girls' Fastpitch Nationals.
"Tex [because she's from Texas] has such a different personality on and off the field," Galicinao said. "Talking with her, she's a sweet, polite scholar-athlete with perfect grammar, and then you watch her at the plate and run around the bases. She's the classic offensive triple threat: she can knock one over the fence, play the small game from the left side, and take extra bases. Like her classmates, she's a student of the game and is continuously working on the little things."
Thomas is a utility player that garnered 2012 All-Channel League Second Team honors and led Buena to the CIF Division IV Semifinals. She plays travel ball with So Cal Pumas.
Like several of her signing mates, she is a dual sport athlete that served as the goalkeeper on the Buena soccer team. She helped her squad to three Channel League Championships and the 2010 CIF Division II Southern Section crown.
"Being one of the more local recruits, we have been able to follow Rie for a while at our camps and travel tournaments," Galicinao said. "She's always been an athlete – and had a successful career as a soccer goalkeeper – and most recently, we've had a chance to see her develop all aspects of her game. After hitting from the left side, she's back to hitting from the right side and just starting to tap into her power offensively. And she's softball savvy enough to be able to play at many positions on the field."
UCSB will open its 2013 campaign the weekend of Feb. 7-10 when they head to Louisiana for the Mardi Gras Classic hosted by University of Louisiana, Monroe.
Pictured (L to R): Berlo, Brucelas, Cavazos, Clark and Thomas.