The #25 ranked University of California, Riverside Highlanders went 4-0 last week sweeping conference power Cal State Fullerton over the weekend and beating #18 ranked UCLA on Tuesday. Many of the Highlanders (27-16, 7-2) star performers developed in the WCCBL including last week’s (April 23-29) Big West Player of the Week Jaime Pedroza and Pitcher of the Week Marc Rzepczynski.
“We’ve had great success sending our players to the WCCBL. They have all improved and matured from their summer experiences in the league,” said UCR assistant coach Andrew Checketts. “Summer ball is a great place for our players to get better. With the length of the summer schedule, many of our younger players get more at bats and innings than during our college season.”
Pedroza (pictured) played shortstop for the WCCBL’s Spokane RiverHawks in 2005 and hit .290 with 7 doubles over 100 league at bats. His UCR teammate Aaron Wible also played with the Hawks in 2005. Aaron led Spokane in hitting that summer with a .292 batting average over 96 league at bats.
This past week, Pedroza, a junior shortstop, homered in UCR’s 3-1 win over UCLA and series finale 5-4 win over Fullerton while Wible, a junior outfielder, delivered a game-winning walk-off single in the Highlanders series opening 3-2 win over the Titans.
Aaron Wible was named Big West Player of the Week for the week of April 2-8 and is currently hitting .293 with 7 HR and 33 RBI. Pedroza is hitting .337 with 10 homeruns and 40 RBI to lead UCR in all three offensive categories.
On the mound, senior southpaw Marc Rzepczynski tossed a three-hit shutout at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. Marc pitched for the Bellingham Bells in 2004 and Aloha Knights in 2006. He was named second-team All-WCCBL for his stellar effort last summer (5-0 W/L, 2.06 ERA). Marc is 6-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings this spring and has now been named Big West Pitcher of the Week twice this year.
Other WCCBL alums contributing to UC Riverside’s first place Big West start are lead-off hitter and starting soph centerfielder Carl Uhl, starting frosh first baseman Mark Samuelson, starting senior third baseman Kyle Barratt and soph reliever Matt Montgomery.
Uhl was first-team All-WCCBL last summer for Spokane and is hitting .311 this spring while leading the Highlanders in runs scored (41) and stolen bases (14). Samuelson played for the Knights last summer and was selected to play in the league’s inaugural All-Star game. Mark is hitting fourth for UCR and batting .279 with 6 homers and 39 RBI. Barratt played for the Knights in 2004. He is hitting .253 with 9 doubles. Montgomery pitched last summer for the Kelowna Falcons. Matt has made 12 appearances and earned the win last Tuesday vs. UCLA with 3 scoreless innings of relief.
UCR is sending 9 more players to the league this summer including Samuelson (Corvallis Knights), frosh closer Joe Kelly (Corvallis Knights) and frosh infielder Ryan Goetz (Kelowna Falcons).
“The competition in the league has always been good, but it seems to be improving and the professional nature of the league requires that players are instructed and disciplined during the summer, which has resulted in our players returning greatly improved,” said Checketts. “Our players have always been treated fairly and kindly by the coaches, general managers and communities. We recommend sending players here and we will continue to grow with the league.”