Numbers never lie, but sometimes they don’t tell the entire truth. Although he currently touts an earned-run-average of 3.55, UCSB Gaucho pitcher Shane Bieber has been much more dominant than his statistics suggest.
Entering his junior year as the recognized ace on staff and named the Preseason Big West Pitcher of the Year by Perfect Game, Bieber is 3-1 early in the season, having won appearances against San Francisco, Kentucky, and Hartford. His sole loss came at the hands of Oregon, a blowout in which he still tallied five strikeouts.
If you factor out the loss, Bieber’s ERA drops to an impressive 2.05 – not to mention that his average of 7.36 strikeouts per game has the junior on pace to break his career-best 95 Ks from a year ago. A student of the game, he tries to learn from major league pitchers in an effort to build upon his natural talent.
“I like to study some of the best pitchers in the MLB like David Price, Felix Hernandez, and Jose Fernandez to better my mentality and approach on the mound,” says Bieber.
Possibly his most impressive attribute is Bieber’s ability to work out of jams, as evidenced by the opening day game against San Francisco. With two outs in the top of the seventh and the bases loaded, he buckled down and forced a fly-out to shut down what could have been a high-scoring inning.
His recent start against Hartford proved to be a dominant performance, as he tallied a season-best nine strikeouts in seven innings of shut-out pitching. Expect to see more of the same as the 2016 season progresses, as Bieber recorded at least nine Ks four times as a sophomore in 2015 en route to being named to the All-Big West Second Team.
Aside from his individual success, Bieber remains focused on the team as a whole and collective triumphs.
“We always set the bar high so the team’s long term goal is to win a national championship,” says Bieber, “but to do this, we have to achieve smaller goals along the way. The most prominent goal right now is to win the Big West Conference.”
Despite featuring a talented roster, the Gauchos fell short of their goals last year after finishing the regular season 16-8 in conference play and 40-15-1 overall. Their postseason appearance ended in the regional stage with successive defeats at the hands of San Diego State and USC.
UCSB will face the Trojans in a three-game series this week, hosting the first two contests Thursday and Friday, and visiting USC on Saturday. Bieber will start Thursday’s game.
An unselfish player by nature, Bieber attributes his personal successes to excellent coaching and tutelage.
“I’d say [our relationship is] pretty tight,” says Bieber. “We all share a mutual respect which allows us to work well with each other.” He cites pitching coach Matt Harvey as having the biggest influence out of the coaching staff. “He’s helped a ton with my development.”
As long as his stellar play continues, expect to hear more about Bieber’s professional prospects as his likelihood of being selected in the Major League Baseball draft improves.
“[My goal is] to go as far as possible with a professional career and leave no doubt with what I could’ve done to better myself. The most important thing is to keep progressing. To get bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter.”