Already one of the top pitchers statistically in UC San Diego Softball history, junior Camille Gaito has elevated her game to a higher level in the early stages of the 2011 season. With a 7-0 record, a 0.30 ERA and 36 strikeouts compared to just four walks, the San Rafael native has been one of the key components in the Tritons' 11-2 start that has pushed them to No. 10 in the national rankings. "Camille is truly a competitor, someone who wants the ball and performs well in every situation," says Head Coach Patti Gerckens. "She's not going to blow the ball by hitters but has always been able to make the ball do amazing things. The area where she's really improved is understanding batters and what they're trying to do-it's made her a smarter, even better pitcher." Now fourth in both career wins (37) and strikeouts (245) at UCSD, Gaito spent time recently talking about the team's fast start and the nuances of her sport.
Q-When you took the field for the team's first game of 2011, did you have any inkling that you might be 11-2 now and ranked 10th nationally?
GAITO-I didn't know what to expect this year with so many new faces in the starting lineup. With our team gaining 10 freshmen I knew that the chance for change was great and I am so excited that we have such strong, confident and wonderful freshmen to add to the team this year. I know I had high hopes for this season and I am thrilled that we are starting it off right
Q-In your opinion, what's allowed UCSD to get off to its best start since 2002?
GAITO-Once again I think that the addition of many talented and eager freshmen has given our team a big boost. The freshmen are paired nicely with a large senior class who are doing a great job of making the freshmen feel comfortable, equal, and a close family.
Q-After seven starts, you're sporting a 7-0 record and an incredible 0.30 ERA. Do you feel like a better pitcher than last year? Why?
GAITO-I feel like my pitching has gotten smarter. I know a lot of the batters in the league and I know what pitches were getting hit and perhaps how to call my pitches better. Coach (Nichole) Willis is a new assistant coach this year and was a great catcher at Fresno State. I attribute a lot of my success to her ability to call my pitches and work with me.
Q-Talk about the 1-2 combination of yourself and Tess Granath. What are each of your strengths and do you make each other better?
GAITO-First of all we are great friends which helps us support each other in games, practice, and staying calm. Secondly, we compliment each other very well with my slower movement and her ability to keep batters off balance with her speed and crippling knuckle ball that I really envy. We also like to try and learn each other's pitches out of curiosity.
Q-What do you consider your "go to" pitch and what pitch?
GAITO-It is very important to me to throw pitches on multiple planes and speeds in every at bat. But I find that the pitch I am most confident will get a pop up or a strike out is my rise ball.
Q-You're throwing to relatively inexperienced catchers this season. How does that differ from having a veteran like Nicole Saari in your first two years?
GAITO-Honestly, I was worried about that this season as Saari was an amazing catcher, smart pitch caller, and amazing teammate who I miss. But I was happily surprised by our freshmen. They have learned quite a lot quickly and I feel completely confident pitching to both Charly (Swanberg) and Caitlin (Brown).
Q-Your father was a baseball pitcher in college. What kind of influence did he have on your development and desire to pitch at the collegiate level?
GAITO-My Dad was and still is a HUGE influence on my pitching. He supported me in every aspect from building a batting cage in our backyard, to catching me, to driving over an hour and a half on week nights for pitching lessons throughout high school. The most important lesson my Dad taught me, while coaching me, was to be humble, confident, but never give up on improving my skills. He is encouraging and knowledgeable while holding me to my highest standard, which I appreciate.
Q-What was the biggest adjustment you had to make going from high school to playing at the collegiate level?
GAITO-My high school league and competition was nothing close to that of college. There were games that I struck out 19 batters and still lost. Luckily, my parents always helped me keep the goal of college softball in perspective and hold myself to goals that were more long term than high school. College was an amazing shift for me to be among people who took the sport as seriously as I did.
Q-What has been the highlight of your career so far at UCSD and why?
GAITO-That is a really tough question so I am going to have to say that the highlight of my career is going to come this year.
Q-At practice, what do pitchers spend the most
time working on?
GAITO-As pitchers we spend our practice hours participating in the same activities as most of the team with more focus on our fielding and our mental game to be able to deal with pressure situations. Our bullpen sessions before practice give us time to focus on getting conditioned and fine tuned for games
Q-Do you ever wish you had the opportunity to swing the bat in a game?
GAITO-It is a little strange to only participate in half of the game of softball and "yes," sometimes I miss it. I played under many coaches who felt that pitchers should only pitch so by the time I got to college I had sort of moved away from that role. Luckily I have great designated hitters who can help me out instead.
Q-Your favorite player is Tim Lincecum and team is the San Francisco Giants. How excited were you to see them win their first Championship in San Francisco and what are your thoughts on them trying to repeat this year?
GAITO- I was soooo excited. I know that the 2010 World Series may have been boring to some people because it was dominated by the pitchers but that was what I loved. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, and even Cliff Lee's dominance made me so excited for my own season. Back-to-back World Series wins are incredibly rare but I think the Giants have as good of a chance as last year with the addition of Miguel Tejada, Pablo (Sandoval) trimming down, a solid staff with Wilson, Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum, and the return of (Andres) Torres, Buster Posey, and Cody Ross.
Q-What do you think this year's Triton Softball team is capable of accomplishing?GAITO-This year's Triton Softball team is capable of beating any team in Division II. Last year we played the Division II championship team, Hawaii Pacific, and lost by a narrow margin in a game where we let ourselves get beat. I am confident that we have the ability to win the CCAA title and go farther in postseason than we ever have.
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