The 11th-ranked UC San Diego baseball team is headed to its second consecutive NCAA Division II West Regional this week in Chico, Calif.The Tritons earned the No. 2 seed in the six team region, entering the tournament with a school-record 41 wins in 2008.The Tritons feature seven All-California Collegiate Athletic Association team members, including senior closer Keith Noe.The Vista native has set the school and career records for saves in a season with 13.That total also ranks as the third-highest total in the nation.Noe recently took time to discuss the 2008 Tritons and life as a student-athlete at UC San Diego.
Q- How does the UCSD coaching staff stack up against the previous colleges you have pitched for?
NOE- It’s funny because this is my fourth year of school and baseball and it is also my fourth different head coach and coaching staff. So, I have a lot to compare. I feel like I have had some good coaches and there is no doubt in my mind that our coaches do stack up. What I have really come to enjoy is the way that they go about things. All the coaches really work well with one another. I am in the dugout for the first innings of a game and it gives me a chance to watch them. It is not uncommon to see O’Brien go through the dugout and talk to all the coaches to get their opinions on a decision and it is awesome to see that.
Q- As a closer, you usually enter the game towards the end.What is your mindset like throughout the game (ie pregame, first three innings, middle innings, eighth-inning etc.)
NOE- I have a pretty strict routine that starts with getting to the field early. Shibuya and I kind of have a competition to see who can get to the field the earliest and we start to get the field ready. I like to have fun in the beginning with batting practice. Guido Knudson and I had an ongoing contest to see who could catch the most balls and now he owes me a steak dinner. After batting practice I throw with the same people everyday, Abraham and Rodieck. During the first part of the game, the first 5 innings, I stay pretty loose. About the 6th inning I start to calm down and really focus. By the 7th or 8th I am usually in the pen stretching until it is my turn to throw.
Q- Is there one batter on the Tritons that you are glad you do not have to face in a game?How about the other end of the spectrum, do you have any of the UCSD regulars batting at a very low average against you?
NOE- There are actually two batters that I do not like pitching to and it is Hom and Bonelli. They always hit me hard, no mater what. On the other end of the spectrum I do own Franco. But, he will never admit it. Franco is like 1 for 12 off me with 4 or 5 strikeouts and 4 or 5 jam jobs. He always tries to say that he either never faces me or that he has 3 or 4 hits off me.
Q- What is a typical week like for you with weights and practice, leading up to a weekend series?
NOE- Now that we are in season it really isn’t too bad. Before the tournaments started we had practice Monday through Wednesday and left for games on Thursday.We would workout Monday, but had the day off from practice and then workout again on Wednesday with Mams (Rob Mamula). But now that tournaments have started we might get two practices in and one work out in before we leave on Wednesday.
Q- You have set both the UCSD single-season and career-records for saves.Where do these accomplishments rank with others in your baseball lifetime?
NOE- These are by far the biggest accomplishments of my baseball career. Honestly, it is just kind of nice to have something like this. I owe a lot of thanks to the coaches and my teammates for allowing me and helping me to reach these records. The only thing that could make it that much better would be a trip to the College World Series and maybe a National Championship.
Q-With just one year at UCSD, is it difficult to get a sense of the rivalries in conference play?For instance, when you face a ChicoState or SonomaState, is it just another game or more than that?
NOE- I am a pretty intense individual on the field and it really does not take a lot for me to get fired up for a game. I try to treat every team we play the same and as just another game, but sometimes it can be difficult. I love competition, so when we play teams like Sonoma and Chico I know they are going to test me. But, I don’t think anything really changes, just the opponents uniform.
Q- Is there one thing that stands out about head coach Dan O’Brien from previous coaches you’ve had?
NOE- Coach O’Brien knows a lot about the game. Not just the game itself, but the mental aspect as well and in my experience that is rare. A lot of coaches can teach how to play the game and simple fundamentals, but they don’t always really understand the game. The biggest mistakes made in baseball are mental and he does a good job of helping players filter those out with way he teaches the game.
Q- What are some of your favorite pre-game songs to listen to?
NOE- Wow, that is a tough question. My drive to the field is about 40 minutes. So, I would definitely listen to Avenged Sevenfold, my favorite songs are Radiant Eclipse, Critical Acclaim, and Afterlife. I would also listen to Atreyu, my favorite songs form them are Blow and Falling Down. Once I get to the field I get a little rap and country from Wright’s and MacFadyen’s ipods.
Q- What would you like to do after you graduate from UCSD?
NOE- I think once I graduate I want to get into marketing. I have talked to people about possibly getting an internship this summer at a couple of different places that I have connections with. I could always pursue baseball, but I think it might be time to really focus on school and graduating a soon as possible.
Q- What do you feel will be the key for UCSD Baseball at the NCAA West Regional this upcoming weekend?
NOE- We just need to come out and play our game. The last few weekends have really showed us that we are not doing the things we need to be doing. We are making a lot of mistakes that we were making earlier in the year and at this point in the season it is unacceptable. We have had some really good practices this week and we have been working hard all season to get here. There is no doubt in our minds that we have a chance to do something special and I think once Thursday comes around will be ready.