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Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Zach Torra put together legendary career as Santa Ynez' left-handed ace

Santa Ynez' left-handed ace went 31-5 with Pirates, named All-American at UCSB

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In 2013, Zach Torra was an undersized but tough left-handed freshman pitcher at Santa Ynez High School.

Flash forward to 2021, and Torra is an All-American.

The former Pirate, who pitched at Hancock and Cuesta before attending UCSB starting last year, has bounced around, but there's no questioning the promise he has in that left arm.

Torra compiled a 31-5 career record at Santa Ynez, going 11-0 as a sophomore when the Pirates won a CIF Southern Section championship. Torra threw a five-hit complete game with six strikeouts as a sophomore against Sun Valley Village Christian in the Division 5 title game that year, helping the Pirates clinch the championship with a 2-0 win.

The now 6-foot-1, 195-pound hurler put together one of the finest pitching careers this area has ever seen. For his efforts, he's the first nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade contest. There will be 16 nominees announced over the coming weeks. 

Torra started 37 games in a Pirate uniform. He threw complete games in 21 of those starts, with six shutouts. His career ERA: 1.11. 

“For four years, he was unbelievable. He was one of the greatest pitchers in Santa Ynez High School history,” Warren Dickey, who was Torra’s head coach at Santa Ynez, told the Times last year.

Last year at UCSB, Torra made four starts before the season was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over his 25 1/3 innings, he compiled a 0.36 ERA and went 3-0. In those innings, he allowed just 11 hits and averaged nearly 14 strikeouts per nine innings, with 39 Ks on the season.

Torra, who spent a red-shirt year at Santa Barbara City after high school, was a reliable and durable starter at Santa Ynez, throwing nearly 250 innings over three-plus varsity seasons with the Pirates. He allowed just 181 hits while striking out 181 batters. 

Opponents hit just .195 against Torra during his career. His elite control resulted in batters reaching base against him at a rate of .255. 

Torra was the Times' All-Area Pitcher of the Year during his sophomore and junior seasons and earned First Team All-Area recognition as a senior. 

Torra was injured in the final game of his high school career. He left the playoff contest against Woodcrest Christian with an arm injury, which was later diagnosed as an ulnar collateral ligament tear and required Tommy John surgery. Torra has overcome that obstacle and now appears stronger than ever. 

“He was very durable and then it happened,” Dickey told former Times reporter and sports editor Elliott Stern in 2020.

“My arm feels good, strong, healthy — that’s all I can ask for," Torra said last year.  

Collegiate Baseball named Torra a Second Team Preseason All-American heading into the 2021 campaign.

Torra certainly put the work in to get where he's now at. He did not have the prototypical build of an ace. Top collegiate and professional pitchers are typically 6-foot-3, or 6-foot-4 and at least 220 pounds.

“Physically, he’s changed,” Dickey told Stern last year. “He’s changed his lifestyle, workout, diet — he’s all in. He’s doing all the work necessary, focused on the next level.”

“Zach threw a lot for Cuesta (in 2019). He had a nice year,” UCSB coach Andrew Checketts said. “We watched him and got to see that he works hard, he’s a diligent worker. He’s adjusted to Division I ball and has been throwing really well. He’s had a good fastball and landed his breaking ball when he needed it. He’s done a really nice job of moving the ball around.” 

The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade. A tournament-style voting contest will be held to determine the Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com. Players from Northern Santa Barbara County and Southern San Luis Obispo County whose final seasons where between 2009-10 and 2019-20 are eligible.

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