Four of the five players are from junior colleges, and two of the Gauchos’ signees are highly-touted pitchers. The players will join the 2010 team that will feature several Gauchos from last season’s 35-21 overall record and 14-10 mark in the Big West.
Heading the class is left-handed pitcher Kevin Gelinas, who was rated as the No. 4 prospect nationally by Perfect Game’s Top 50 junior college prospects and one of the top junior college players in the country by Baseball America. The 6-foot-5 southpaw comes from Central Arizona Community College and was 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA and four saves for the Conejo Oaks of the California Collegiate Summer League, limiting hitters to a .086 batting average against while striking out 47 in 26 innings. Gelinas, whose fastball touches 93 mph, was also recruited by USC, Arizona State, Long Beach State and San Diego State.
“Kevin is a big left-handed pitcher with tremendous upside,” Brontsema said. “He has a power arm that could step right into the weekend rotation. He also has some Division I experience, having pitched at Pepperdine his freshman year.”
The other pitcher UCSB landed is 6-foot-3 right-hander Nick Loredo, most recently from San Jose City College. He features a fastball that reaches 90 mph complimented by an above-averaged change-up and a developing slider. As a freshman he was a starter and was SJCC’s only pitcher to throw a shutout while sharing the team lead for complete games.
“Nick is another power arm that we expect to come in and pitch a lot of innings,” Brontsema said. Loredo also was recruited by Fresno State and Pacific. “We really like the competitive nature that he takes to the mound each outing.”
Coming to the team from Santa Ana Community College is outfielder Derek Eligio, who was part of the 2008 Orange Empire First Team and was a 2008 Southern California All-American. As a freshman, he hit .408 with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 38 RBI. Eligio, who is 6-foot-2, walked 20 times and struck out just 17 times in 191 at-bats while also going five for five in stolen base attempts. Possessing very good foot speed, a quality hitting approach and a plus arm in the outfield, Eligio was also recruited by Oregon and San Diego State.
“Derek has had a lot of success in one of the best JC conferences around,” Brontsema said. “He should be able to plug right into the middle of our lineup next year. He has some power to all fields and should be one of the top hitters in the state this year.”
Trevor Whyte is a slick-fielding first baseman who collected nine doubles and a home run with 26 RBI as a freshman at Saddleback CC. The 6-foot-3 Whyte showed some speed going four for six in stolen base attempts and was regarded as a team captain by his peers and coaches at Saddleback.
“Trevor is a strong left-handed hitter that should fit well in our park,” Brontsema said. “He is in the mode of an old Saddleback first baseman, Mark Grace, and like our other recruits is a quality student and person.”
Rounding out the Gauchos’ five recruits is first baseman/outfielder John Vaccaro from Miramonte High. As a junior Vaccaro hit .460 with six homers and 35 RBI. A two-time First Team All-League selection, Vaccaro was selected as the team’s MVP as a junior and was a preseason Under Armour All-American. The 6-foot-2 Vaccaro was showcased in the Mariner Cup in Seattle this summer, was also recruited by Cal and Pacific and also plays quarterback for Miramonte High.
“We feel John will be a quality bat and a strong run-producer for the Gauchos,” Brontsema said. “He provides us needed flexibility with his ability to play both outfield and first base. He should compete for a starting spot as a freshman.”
This is the third consecutive solid recruiting class headed by pitching coach and recruiting coordinator Tom Myers. Last year’s class was ranked 52nd in the nation while the 2007 class was named 43rd best.
“Coach Myers has once again put together a strong recruiting class,” Brontsema said. “These student-athletes all fit the requirements that we look for at UC Santa Barbara to compete well on both the field and in the classroom. We feel as it we have filled some of our immediate needs with this early class and now we’ll wait to see what happens with the draft.”
Matt Hurst is a UCSB assistant director of athletics communications.