The UC San Diego baseball team begins its defense of its 2005 CCAA Championship.Senior pitcher Ryan Leake went 7-4 with a 3.84 ERA and struck out 53 batters in 58.2 innings last season earning All-CCAA honorable mention honors.The Tritons open the season at home on Feb. 8 at against Point Loma.UCSD then plays Cal State L.A., Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State San Bernardino at the CSUSB Tournament on Feb. 10-12.Leake recently took time to discuss the 2006 season and life on and off the field as a member of the UCSD baseball team.
Q- Describe the 2005 CCAA Baseball Tournament.
LEAKE- We knew we had a tall task ahead, but we had won about six straight heading into the tournament and swept a four-game set with Grand Canyon.After the loss to Cal Poly Pomona, we knew winning four games in-a-row would be tough, but not out of the question.
Going into that last day (the two elimination games against Chico), particularly after the first game win, we really felt we had something going.We had this momentum and everyone fed off that.
Q- Did you know when you were going to pitch at the Tournament?
LEAKE- All Fall, building up to the season, I was under the impression that I was going to start, and I was told I was going to start.Then when it came down to it, [the coaches] needed me to come out of the pen, which was fine, anything to help the team.The first game I started, they told me about a week ahead of time.I got really excited and a little too emotional for it.I came out and was just shooting blanks, it was awful.The next time I started a game, the second game of a double header against Sonoma, they waited until 15 minutes before first pitch to tell me I was starting, so there was no time to get amped up, I just went out and threw.I ended up yielding one run and four hits in seven innings.
Same thing happened against Chico.I figured I was coming out of the pen for both games.Then Coach O’Brien came up to me and said, “Leake, you think you should start this game?”I said, “Whatever you need me to do.”Coach said, “Well do you want to start or not,” and I wanted to start.It was a last minute decision, and sure enough without all that emotion and without the adrenaline running high, I just went out and pitched.
Q: What do you think will be the team’s strength?
LEAKE -I’m a little biased because I’m a pitcher, but with the returning guys we have got – T.C. Geach, Jose Navarro, Byron Grubman, myself, Nick San Filippo coming out of the pen... Mike Kearney should be pivotal out of the bullpen, he’s got college experience... Evan McDonald also has college experience.We’ve got a lot of guys with experience pitching, and especially in our conference and the competition we play, that’s huge.Mix in the freshmen -- Trevor Decker, Jon Durkett, Joe Raleigh, a number of guys that are going to contribute.Todd Giminez is another guy with college experience, a left-handed pitcher who will probably start a lot of games.I think pitching is definitely going to be a strength.
Another strength will be team speed, as usual.I think our entire outfield is retunring.David Morehead is a strength at catcher.The biggest question mark is who is going to step up in the infield because we have four new guys there.We definitely have the guys who can do it, it is just having to consistently fill that role.
Q: You started, relieved, and closed games last season.Do you have a preference?
LEAKE - I would prefer starting just because I would like my parents to know when I’m going to pitch...and starting means you are the guy in charge, and you always know this is your day to pitch, and nobody is going to take that from you.Last year, I was asked what I would like to do... and last year I got to throw in half of the team’s games and if I can throw in half the games, there’s really nothing I can complain about.I would prefer starting, but either way, as long as I am in the game, it is just fun to contribute.
Q: How have the Coaches helped you improve?
LEAKE - Basically by making me demand more out of myself.Coach Gunther has a charting system, trying to keep tabs on everything a pitcher does.He tries to put pressure on the pitcher in every situation, so the bullpen knows what is expected out of you.You go out in a game and then it’s just like normal bullpen.You practice doing what you do in a game.You pitch practice with a purpose every day.
Coach O’Brien has helped tremendously with my maturation process.Going from where I was as a freshman at a different school, when I was at UNR for two years, I didn’t get a lot of guidance from the coaching staff.I was always a pretty good kid, but baseball wise, I was a little jittery freshman.But coming here, the way Coach presents and projects himself, it really reflects the way his teams play.He really gives the team identity and attitude.
Q:Any reason for the uniform number change this year?
LEAKE –15 has always been a bad luck number for me.It was my number at UNR and Rancho Bernardo.When I went from Rancho Bernardo to ValleyCenter in high school, I changed to number 10, which was my number when I was a little kid.And as number 10, I went 9-0 my junior year and I was all-state.Senior year, we went to CIF Finals.When I changed back to 15 in college it wasn’t too good.Then I came here and Logan (Boutilier) had number 10.I watched him with number 10 for two years, starting and doing so well and I felt the number was lucky.I just wanted to go back to my roots.Number 28 wasn’t working for me, it was just too big.I like number 10.
Q: Who is the toughest batter to get out in practice?
LEAKE – There are a lot of good hitters.For me it always seems to be a battle with David Morehead.He crowds the plate, which I like, because it makes me throw inside.He plays his little games at the plate.When I was out throwing Monday in an intrasquad game, I was throwing pretty good, working fast.David is notorious for his little games, stepping out of the box, rubbing his eyes, stretching.I threw strike one, he stepped out, trying to ice me.He makes it tough on hitters.
Q: What were some factors in transferring from Nevada to UCSD?
LEAKE – My senior year at high school I was actually committed to UCSD.I had enrolled, I had classes, talked with Coach O’Brien.Second week of August, I played in a tournament down by Tijuana.The team I pitched in was coached by a scout for the Indians who also had contacts with every major Division I west coast school.I had the game of my life – 14 strike-outs, a no-hitter.This guy was all over me after the game, called me the next day telling me he was going to have Texas and Georgia Tech and all these huge schools calling me.First school that called was Nevada, and I told them I had already signed with UC San Diego.They said, “No, that’s just a DII letter, we’re a Division I school.If you want a scholarship, we’ve got one for you.”I was sort of overwhelmed.It was a tough decision, but this was something I always wanted, playing Division I baseball.I took the chance and went up there.
Reno was a great experience, taught me who I wanted to be, where I wanted to be.After two years, I wanted to come back home, I liked it better here.I realized it wasn’t all about playing division I or a scholarship, it was more about finding a program that suited my personality, and that’s what I found here.
Q: Any funny stories with the team?
LEAKE – There’s a million funny stories that I could go into.There’s one tradition called Kangaroo Court, not just at UCSD, but other baseball teams.We have a mock court set-up.Damian Fante is the judge, I’m the bailiff, and all the seniors are the jury.So if somebody does something wrong, they get called to the stands in court and he’s tried.I’ll swear him, the judge will read the charges.Nobody ever pleads guilty, because that just is frowned upon. Everybody tries to defend themselves, going into wild stories about what happens.Sometimes the judge calls somebody up who’s done nothing wrong and that guy kind of comes up with some crazy defense to make everyone laugh.It’s a great way to have everybody let loose before practice, get to know everybody on the team, and show your personality off.
Q: What do you want to do after you graduate?
LEAKE – I still have a five-year-old inside that wants to be a baseball player.Once my playing career is done, I want to get into coaching.I want to be a college coach or junior college coach.If I’m not playing this summer or next season, I plan on going to San DiegoState and getting a Masters in Exercise Science and then helping Coach O’Brien.If none of that works out and I need a triple back-up plan, I want to be a strength and conditioning coach.Anything that keeps me involved in baseball.