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Vedo leads Big West in Ks, selected 2nd team all-conference
The decision to turn down the Los Angeles Angels' offer last summer paid off for hard-throwing righty Matt Vedo, as he became the first University of California, Santa Barbara pitcher to lead the Big West in strikeouts.
The 2008 Colusa High graduate struck out 112 batters in 82 1/3 innings and his 12.24 strikeouts per nine innings is the fourth-best strikeout rate in the country.
Last season Vedo struck out 64 in 85 1/3 innings, but more than doubled his strikeout total with the help of a new pitching-oriented coach, Andrew Checketts, and a much improved slider.
"The velocity on it was a lot better than last year and it had a harder bite, I got a lot of strikeouts looking. When I got two strikes on a guy I knew I could get them out more often than not," Vedo said.
Vedo's confidence in his slider and fastball allowed him to go for the strikeout instead of pitching to contact like he did last season.
"This year my stuff was pretty unhittable. The only time I was getting in trouble was when I wasn't throwing strikes," he said.
His 112 strikeouts was the third highest total in UC Santa Barbara history, and he teamed up with freshman Andrew Vasquez (104 strikeouts) to put away more batters in a season than any two pitchers in school history, breaking a record of 212 strikeouts by Barry Zito and Bryan Noyes set in 1997.
The senior garnered second team All-Big West honors for the Gauchos, who went 28-28 this year and finished sixth in the conference.
A rough stretch at the start of the year facilitated a move to the bullpen for Vedo but he turned his season around with a strong second half.
Through the first 41 innings he pitched, Vedo's ERA was 5.26 and he walked 37 batters, but stayed in games by striking out 51 and allowing just 27 hits. His ERA was 3.91 over the final 41 1/3 innings of the season, where he walked just 20 batters, struck out 61 and allowed 35 hits.
Vedo said he felt a little bit of pressure early in the season after being drafted and returning for his senior year, but overcame the mental hurdle as the season wore on.
"I was able to take a step back and refocus, and realized what an honor and blessing it was to be where I was, pitching for Santa Barbara," Vedo said.
Vedo went 5-5 with three saves in a team-high 25 appearances, including eight starts, and he tied for the team lead with two complete games. His finished his Gaucho career with a 10-10 record, 176 strikeouts and a 4.45 ERA.
One week of finals separates Vedo from graduating with a degree in Environmental Studies, and also the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, which begins on June 4.
The Angels selected Vedo in the 49th round last year, but after weighing his options he turned down the big leagues and decided to finish out his scholarship and get his degree from Santa Barbara.
This year Vedo is excited about his draft prospects, though he knows he might be a late-round pick again after his early season struggles.
"I've talked to scouts and the interest is definitely there, I don't know if I'll get picked up early in the draft because of my age and past record or whatever but I'm confident I'll be picked up," he said.
Though his success this year often came as a reliever, Vedo would like to start wherever he ends up, but he knows that will depend on his performance.
"I'd definitely like to start, if not, the bullpen is always there and I would enjoy going out and pitching to just one batter. I love playing baseball and competing," he said.
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.