The UC San Diego baseball team finished second in the CCAA regular season and will defend its title at the CCAA Baseball Tournament, May 11-13. Last year, UCSD lost its first game and came back with two wins on each of the next two days to capture its first ever baseball title. A good showing at the 2006 CCAA tournament will result in a trip to the NCAA West Regional. Damian Fante is one of three, four-year seniors on the Tritons and has started every game in centerfield. He is currently hitting .492 (30-for-61) during a 16-game hitting streak and leads the team with 20 stolen bases. Fante recently took time before practice to discuss the current season and the upcoming tournament.
Q- Is there a different feeling on the team heading into this years tournament, compared with last season?
FANTE- I would say that the only difference is with the guys on the team this year, that were a part of the championship team last year. I think we are more prepared since we have now gone to the tournament the last two years. We have been expecting to go to the tournament all year.
Q- Batting nearly .500 during your 16-game hitting streak, are you doing anything different?
FANTE- I try to stick with the same approach, not to give up any at-bat. If I swing at a bad pitch, I’m not going to let that get to me. I need to swing at the pitches that I know I can hit. Also, I think it helps that we have had games against the staffs of Cal State Monterey Bay and San Francisco. It is never easy to get a hit in every game, but those two staffs are not as good as some other teams in our conference this year.
Q- Do you change your approach when batting leadoff, compared to fifth/sixth?
FANTE- It really depends on where I come up to bat during the inning. If I’m leading off in the first inning, I’m trying more to get on base for the guys behind me. When I come to plate with runners in scoring position, I need to do what it takes to get that run in.
Q- In a game this weekend, you bunted in four consecutive at-bats, two of which you reached on singles. Were you specifically working on that part of your game?
FANTE- No. Actually they were just playing me back so I figured I would just take what they gave me. It didn’t necessarily go as I planned. I reached base twice, but I think I may have been better off swinging. The next day, I think I got a hit each time I swung, and then got out when I bunted. They were just playing me back, so I knew if I could just get the bunt down, I could get a hit every time.
Q- Is it a relief to have all of your graduation requirements done?
FANTE- It’s great to not have any real outside stressors. I can go to practice, the training room, go home and relax. And do it all over again the next day. At some point I am going to have to get a job, so I am enjoying this while I can.
Q- What do you expect from the three other teams in the CCAA Tournament?
FANTE- I expect all three teams to play well. I think CSUDH, Cal State L.A., Chico and UCSD are all fairly even. It’s going to be tough, and I’m expecting each game to be good competition.
Q- Do you have any preference in playing the CCAA tournament in Southern California opposed to Northern California?
FANTE- I do not really have a preference. It’s great to have it in Southern California because it’s closer to where I’m from and my family can come to the games. Last year in Chico was great too. There are so many fans there that come out to watch baseball.
Q- When you scored the winning run in the 2005 CCAA Championship game, who was the first to meet you at home plate?
FANTE- I think it was Craig King. I remember him being there, but I couldn’t exactly tell you. Everyone was there and mobbed me, and then we all moved over to where Alex Gascon was and mobbed him. I think it was King, but other than that, it was probably everybody.
Q- Was there a deciding factor in choosing to play baseball at UC San Diego?
FANTE- I like San Diego and I wanted to get away from home. San Diego is not too far, but not too close. I like everything about the school, the campus and the Triton Baseball program. Dan O’Brien was someone who I wanted to play for and I wanted to go somewhere where I would make the team and play right away.
Q- Was it always the plan to play centerfield this season?
FANTE- Matt Lawson played well for us last year in centerfield. This year early on, he was having injury issues with his legs. It was the plan to have myself in centerfield, for as long as Lawson could not get his legs back. With that in mind, and with Lawson not playing this year, it has been just me in center this season.
Q- Does the team consider themselves a homerun hitting team since they have the school record?
FANTE- I don’t really think so. It’s pretty much those three guys (Clement, Cantele, Morehead). David Gomez hits some because he can tomahawk them into the jet stream and get them over. Other than those guys, I’d say no. No one really has the power to match those guys.
Q- The team has 98 steals and the school record is 101 set by the 1985 and 88 teams. Is this one of the faster Triton baseball teams?
FANTE- I do not really think there is much of a difference with this team compared to past teams. We have always been an aggressive base running team. It’s just another thing we can do to win a game.
Q- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
FANTE- I spend time with my girlfriend and friends. Usually I’m pretty beat after baseball. I pretty much go home, relax, watch more baseball on t.v., go to the movies, little things like that.
Q- You are the only four-year senior on the team that is not married or engaged. Do your teammates get on you about that?
FANTE- Everybody asks me because I’ve been with my girlfriend for four years now. We have the married and engaged guy and even the freshmen get on me about it sometimes. I have no plans in the recent future. Also, my girlfriend and I are doing just fine.
Q- This years team has a mix of freshman and seniors. The 2005 team was more senior led. How has the 2006 team been successful with the mix of youngsters and veterans?
FANTE- It’s helped that our freshmen stepped in and contributed right away. All of the freshmen, they come in and play baseball. As a senior on this team, I feel that we have a good team atmosphere with equals. I think this allows our freshmen to concentrate on baseball, and not worry about not having as much experience as others.
PREVIOUS Q&A ARTICLES
Damian Fante (Baseball) - May 9, 2006
Whitney Johnson (Women's Track and Field) - May 1, 2006
Flynn LaRochelle (Women's Water Polo) - April 27, 2006
Marsha Malinow (Women's Tennis) - April 19, 2006
Steven Oliver (Men's Crew) - April 11, 2006
Brad Libuit (Men's Track and Field) - April 6, 2006
Erik Oijala (Men's Tennis) - March 30, 2006
Jenny Spencer (Softball) - March 20, 2006
David Gomez (Baseball) - March 15, 2006
Hillary Hansen (Women's Basketball) - March 7, 2006
Sophie Levy (Women's Swimming) - February 25, 2006
Henry Patterson (Men's Basketball) - February 18, 2006
Ryan Leake (Baseball) - February 8, 2006
Heidi Runyan (Head Fencing Coach) - February 1, 2006
Robby Peters (Men's Basketball) - January 25, 2006
Leora Juster (Women's Basketball) - January 19, 2006
Kevin Ring (Men's Volleyball) - January 3, 2006
Kim Buffum (Women's Basketball) - December 19, 2005
Andrew Hatch (Men's Basketball) - December 12, 2005
Andrea Lippin (Women's Swimming) - December 5, 2005
Michael Baier (Men's Swimming) - November 15, 2005
Janell Jones (Women's Basketball) - November 1, 2005
Jonathan Hopkins (Men's Water Polo) - October 25, 2005
Mimi Hodgins (Women's Cross Country) - October 17, 2005
Heather Sugg (Women's Soccer) - October 11, 2005
Laura Watkins (Women's Volleyball) - September 28, 2005
Kevin Murray (Men's Soccer) - September 20, 2005
Carl Lostrom (Men's Cross Country) - September 13, 2005
Clark Petersen (Men's Water Polo) - September 6, 2005
Brianna Koche (Women's Volleyball) - August 30, 2005