SBCC baseball is back.

Jeff Walker

Jeff Waker returns for his 11th season as SBCC baseball coach.

Coach Jeff Walker’s Vaqueros returned to action Thursday with a night game against Chaffey at Azusa Pacific University.

SBCC last played baseball in 2020 before the season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vaqueros didn’t play in 2021 as the college opted out of all sports for the entire 2020-21 school year.

Walker returns for his 11th season as head coach. He guided SBCC to the Western State Conference North title in 2019 and was named the division’s Coach of the Year for the fourth time.

Walker has an older group of players this season.

“I think the overall strength is the depth of our team and our roster, because we have a lot of good players. Probably more depth than we’ve had in a while,” Walker said. “Certainly we could run a couple different lineups out there; we’ve got 16 pitchers or so with a couple two-way guys, so that’s certainly a strength. With all the uncertainty with COVID and guys going out, being able to run out different lineups and match up in that way should be an advantage.”

The Vaqueros picked up two solid transfers from other WSC North schools: infielders Gabe Baldavino (Ventura) and Mark Hernandez (Oxnard).

“Gabe Baldavino played at Ventura College as a freshman four years ago, and then the COVID year,” said Walker. “He’s a transfer, and he was the best player in the league four years ago, so he should be an impact guy for us. Same with Mark Hernandez. He was an all-conference player at Oxnard before transferring to us last year as well.”

Notable returners to the team from the shutdown year in 2020 are infielders Owen Creveltand Nicholas Seyler, pitchers Jake McBride (RHP), Dylon Furseth (RHP) and Colby Downard (LHP) and catcher Andrew McKenna.

Mckenna, a left-handed hitting catcher, is a transfer from Holy Cross who is committed to the University of Nevada, Reno.

McBride was a 2019 All-WSC North closer, when he posted a team-best 0.63 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 14.1 innings pitched. While graduating from UCSB this year, he will also be finishing out his second full season with the Vaqueros.

“They’re chomping at the bit,” Walker said of his players returning to action. “Some of them have been patiently waiting for a chance to get back out and tee it off a little bit, some of them have got a little bit of a chip on their shoulder and they’ll get to experience a full season and play Vaquero baseball.”

Walker’s coaching staff has some familiar faces.  Daniel Burrato and John Jensen played for Walker in 2017, and Jensen was a two-time All-WSC North first-team selection and the division’s player of the year in 2017.

Lead assistant coach Tyler Caserta joined the team last year from UCSB, while Max Greenfield is in his first season on the staff.

SBCC will make its home debut on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Chaffey at Pershing Park.