The Cinderella team from Santa Barbara, embraced by hometown fans in Omaha, entered the college baseball World Series (CWS) and displayed outstanding pitching and baseball grit.
As Coastlines went to press, the Gauchos had lost their first game 1-0 to Oklahoma State. Two days later,they beat the No. 3 team in the country, the University of Miami 5-3, and were slated to play against either Oklahoma State or Arizona in a double elimination tournament of the top eight teams in the country. The championship games are best of three.
This was no Cinderella experience with magic slippers. This was a 14th inning home run to beat the University of Washington and a now nationally famous walk off grand slam home run to defeat the No. 4 team in the nation, the University of Louisville. It was Shane Bieber going pitch for pitch against one of the best college pitchers in the country.
It was brilliant coaching from fifth-year head coach Andrew Checketts who called for not one, but two successful squeeze bunts against Miami.
The Gauchos, who had a 42-18-1 regular season record, had to prevail first in the 64-team Regional playoffs, beating the University of Washington with an Austin Bush home run in the 14th inning of the championship game. Then the Gauchos brought even more drama to Louisville, where with two outs, the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, freshman Sam Cohen, called in to pinch hit, belted a walk off grand slam home run. Cohen had so few at bats during the regular season that he did not even make several of the Omaha media guides.
While it may have been big hits that got the Gauchos to the CWS, it was sterling pitching that kept them in the game. Shane Biebert threw a gem against Oklahoma State, only giving up one run on six hits over nine innings. Nash Davis held Miami to one run in six innings but got lifted after a one hour rain delay. He was followed by reliever Kyle Nelson who allowed two runs but shut down Miami in the ninth inning.
More than 500 Gaucho fans travelled to Omaha for the CWS. Their regular chants of “Ole, Ole Gauchos, Gauchos” drew puzzled looks from fans from Oklahoma and Florida.
Coach Checketts was named a finalist for the 2016 Skip Berman National Coach of the Year Award by the College Baseball Hall of Fame. The award recognizes the best college coaches in the nation.
Two of UC Santa Barbara’s most successful basketball players have ended up on two different paths in the National Basketball Association.
Alan Williams ’15 ended the basketball season on the roster of the Phoenix Suns. Suns’ coach Earl Watson is excited about Williams’ prospects in summer league play. “We have to work with him but I believe in him,” Watson told the Arizona Republic. The coach went on to say, “I can’t wait to see him play in Summer League so I can see him from the sideline and go crazy for him.” The Republic wrote that there is a “good chance” the Suns will pick up his team option for the 2016-17 season. The Suns signed Williams in March to a multi-year contract and he played in several games, including a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 13 where he scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds in 22 minutes of play.
Gaucho alum Orlando Johnson ’12 has a less rosy future in the NBA. Johnson signed a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans in March but the team did not renew the contract when it expired. He is expected to return to the pro Development League, a minor league for the NBA, after playing for both the Pelicans and Suns.
UCSB alumni Ryan Martin and Barbara Nwaba have their eyes set on the Rio Olympics. Read about how they managed school work and practice while at UCSB and their goals for the future. For the special Coastlines Webextra, click here.
The UC Santa Barbara women’s tennis team made history when they became the first Gaucho team to win an NCAA tournament game, with a remarkable upset of No. 32 Kansas at UC Berkeley. The Cinderella slippers did not stay on long. In their next game the team fell to the No. 2 Berkeley team. The Gauchos were ranked No. 74 in the nation. Top Gaucho doubles players PalinaDubavets and Stefani Stojic will represent UCSB in the NCAA Individual Doubles Tournament at the University of Tulsa.
The UCSB men’s and women’s track teams both finished second in the Big West Championships in early May. Five Gauchos won Big West champion titles, including Darion Williams in the javelin; Tori Tsolis in the 1500 meters; Shyan Vaziri in the 800 meters; Jessica Emde in the high jump; and Tyler Nelson in the Decathlon.
Ohio State freshman basketball player Mickey Mitchell has signed scholarship papers indicating he plans to play for UC Santa Barbara. Mitchell, a 6’7” forward from Plano, Texas, started seven games for the Buckeyes and appeared in a total of 23 games. He averaged 2 points and 3 rebounds per game. His best offensive game was in the NIT tournament where he scored 9 points against Akron. Because he is transferring from one Division 1 team to another, Mitchell will have to sit out the 2016-17 season. His transfer is one of a wave of transfers nationally, something that has caught the attention of the NCAA rules makers. As of the first week of May 525 Division 1 basketball players had transferred. More than 700 transferred last year. Mitchell is one of four members of the Ohio State 2015 recruiting class that are transferring. Mitchell was on a club basketball team in Texas with Gaucho Grant Troutt. “It’s great to have a guy with his pedigree and background in our program,” said UCSB coach Bob Williams. “He’s played with and against some of the best players in the country and that’s a huge plus.”
UCSB swimming coach Gregg Wilson received received the National Collegiate and Scholastic Swimming Trophy from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America. Wilson’s career as a coach spanned 40 years and included 39 league championships in four different conferences. Wilson, who announced this past season as his last at UCSB, guided 72 swimmers to All American status and coached three Olympians, including gold medalists Jason Lezak and Richard Schroeder. On Oct. 8, Wilson will receive the UCSB Alumni Association’s highest award for non-alumni, the Honorary Alumni Award.