A Season for Santa Barbara Baseball

By Jamie Knee   |   June 11, 2024
The Gauchos prepare for their game against Fresno State this Friday (photo by Jeff Liang)

This week, UCSB Baseball will make history by hosting an NCAA regional tournament for the first time. The Gauchos’ remarkable journey this season goes beyond wins and losses; it’s a testament to resilience and the indomitable human spirit. Despite facing challenges that could have derailed many teams, these obstacles only strengthened their bond and galvanized support from Santa Barbara.

The season began with significant logistical hurdles. Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, their home field, was under renovation, leaving the team without a proper field for six months. The Gauchos practiced on various borrowed fields, including soccer fields and high school facilities, often lacking essential baseball infrastructure. Despite these makeshift arrangements, the team remained focused and undeterred.

Adding to their trials was a profound personal tragedy. During an early-season home game, Coach Andrew Checketts’ father, Gordon Checketts, suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away. Gordon was a father figure and a passionate supporter of the team. His sudden passing left a void, but it also inspired the Gauchos to dedicate their season to his memory.

Despite these hardships, the Gauchos started the season with seven of their first eleven games on the road, facing tough competition. Their focus and determination, guided by Coach Checketts’ leadership, never wavered. Support from Santa Barbara played a crucial role in their journey. Local schools and colleges, including Westmont College and Santa Barbara City College, provided practice spaces. This unwavering support strengthened the bond between the team and their fans, fueling their drive to succeed.

Returning to a newly renovated Caesar Uyesaka Stadium marked a turning point. The team, now more cohesive and motivated, began an unprecedented winning streak going undefeated at home. This remarkable feat reflected their hard work, dedication, and the emotional boost of playing on their home turf once again.

This season’s success isn’t just measured by their impressive 42-12 overall record or their dominance in the Big West League with a 26-4 record. It’s about the journey, the obstacles they overcame, and the unity they fostered. Hosting an NCAA regional tournament for the first time in their history is a historic achievement that the entire Santa Barbara community celebrates.

As Athletic Director Kelly Barsky said, “This has been a really challenging year for so many reasons, but it demonstrates a beautiful connection as well. When we were awarded the regional games, we went on sale with tickets and sold out in under half an hour with the majority being from our community, including alumni, family, and local residents. We have approximately 1,800 tickets available, and I wish we were able to accommodate more as the waitlist, the outreach to come out and unify, and the support for this team has been tremendous.”

Kelly Barsky is one of the few female athletic directors in collegiate sports, and under her guidance the Gauchos exemplified team spirit and sportsmanship. Barsky’s leadership was pivotal, not only in navigating logistical challenges but also in fostering a culture of resilience and unity within the athletics program.

As the Gauchos prepare to host Fresno State this Friday, the atmosphere in Santa Barbara is electric. The community’s pride and support are palpable, and the team’s story has become a source of inspiration. It’s a narrative that transcends sports, highlighting the power of perseverance, the importance of support, and the impact of leadership in overcoming adversity.

This season will be remembered not just for the wins, but for the spirit of the Gauchos. Santa Barbara stands behind their team, celebrating not just their athletic achievements but their journey and making their supporters proud. With the excitement of hosting the NCAA regional tournament, the Gauchos have shown that determination and community support can turn challenges into triumphs. The Gauchos’ story is one of unity, strength, and an unwavering drive to succeed, leaving a lasting legacy for UCSB Baseball and Santa Barbara.  


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