Sporting a 38-12 record and a 17-game winning streak, the seventh-ranked UC San Diego Baseball team travels to Stockton this weekend for the CCAA Championship Tournament with a third consecutive conference regular season title already in its possession. One of the catalysts for the Tritons' late-season surge has been senior Blake Tagmyer. The Centennial, CO native who came to UCSD via USD, is hitting .352 and leads the club in both on-base (.481) and slugging percentage (.576) despite sitting out a stretch with injuries and playing several different positions. Although the numbers are gaudy, it's the intangibles that catch the eye of UCSD Coach Dan O'Brien. "Blake's just a winner-he flat out competes," says O'Brien, in his 14th season at the helm. "I think he's been our team leader between the lines. He always gets quality at bats and does whatever it takes in the field-and he gets it done every day, no matter what the situation." With the post-season looming, Tagmyer spent time discussing his team, the season and what's ahead.
Q-In your opinion, what has been primarily responsible for your team's late-season surge?
we finally started to come together as a team. Guys started to pick each other
up, which took some pressure of the guys that felt they had to carry the team.
Also, I didn't think there were too many games during the beginning of the
season when both offense and pitching were on during the same game. As of late,
we have been getting outstanding pitching performances and our hitters have
been locked in at the plate.
Q-Was there a particular, moment, game or series during the year where you thought, "hey, we're really playing at a higher level?"
TAGMYER-After the first game at Chico State was when I realized we were playing at a high level. I have always known this team has what it takes, but before that series we were playing inconsistent baseball. We had taken 3-of-4 from a lot of teams, but nobody was satisfied with that because we all hold each other to such high standards. After that Friday night game at Chico, I knew we were going to be unstoppable. Then Guido (Knudson) came out on Saturday and shut down a good team for the second straight night. Chico has been having success all year, and there was a moment during that weekend that I thought they could hang with us.
Q-Over the weekend, your team clinched its third consecutive CCAA regular season championship. In your mind, what does that say about the UCSD program?
it speaks volumes about this program. It's hard to have continued success in
college baseball, which says a lot about the job that Coach O'Brien and his
staff have done. This year more than ever I think teams have been gunning for
us, which made winning a third consecutive regular season title that much more
of an accomplishment.
Q-How sweet was it to be able to clinch the conference in front of your home fans?
TAGMYER-It was awesome to be able to clinch it at home. We have had tremendous support from friends, family, and alumni this year so it was great for them to be a part of it.
Q-You were part of last season's 54-8 squad that finished second at the NCAA Division II Championships. What effect, positive or negative, did last year's performance have on this year's club?
TAGMYER-I think at first it had a negative effect on this year's team. I felt like everybody felt the pressure to win and sweep almost every series, which put a lot of pressure on this year's team. I think this all changed after the Sonoma series. I think that weekend we finally found our own identity, and since then we have been unstoppable. Last year's team had tremendous successes, but in my mind why strive to be like last year's team when we didn't finish what we set out to do. This year's team has a totally different dynamic, and in my mind were more battle-tested than ever and prepared to accomplish all the goals that we set out to reach at the beginning of the year.
Q-What are the primary, ongoing messages that Coach Dan O'Brien and his staff preach to the players?
TAGMYER-I think his main message has been to just have fun and enjoy playing with the guys around you. Our team is at its best when we're loose and relaxed, so I think having this mentality has played a huge part in our late season success.
Q-You lead the team in both slugging and on base percentage, two categories that aren't always directly related. How do you explain that?
TAGMYER-My focus at the plate all year has been to have quality at bats and go 90 feet for this team. We have so many good hitters up and down the lineup that if somebody gets on it creates so many different weapons for our offense. I think I have been more patient at the plate this year, which has led to more walks and hit by pitches, and also allowed me to get my pitch. When this happens I have been fortunate to get some extra base hits.
Q-This season, the batting order has been more fluid than it was a year ago. Is there a particular spot in the order you prefer to hit? Does your place in the order change your approach at the plate?
TAGMYER-Before this season I had never batted clean-up before. It took a little bit to get used to because you definitely get pitched differently than other spots in the lineup, but now I cant imagine hitting anywhere else. It's been awesome hitting behind guys like Danny Susdorf, Aaron Bauman, and Kyle Saul because they are always on base, and I feel that I am at my best when there are guys in scoring position.
Q-Along the same lines, you started the year at second base, are now over at first and have done some duty at DH. Which do you like best?
TAGMYER-Second base had always been my favorite position, but to be honest I don't really care where I play as long as I am in the field. DH is a difficult position because it's hard to get into the flow of the game, and you have nothing to take your mind off your next at-bat. First base has been an easy transition coming from middle infield, and I'm sure the other guys love it now that they have someone with some height to throw to.
Q-You bat left-handed and throw right-handed. Which is your dominant hand and have you always batted from the left side of the plate?
TAGMYER-I don't really have a dominant side. I throw right, kick right, and play golf right, but everything else I do left-handed. I refuse to call myself a lefty though, so I guess I will say I am right hand dominant. When I was younger, I used to switch hit, but when I got to high school I went back to my natural side which is left-handed.
Q-To date, what has been the high point of this season for you?
TAGMYER-The high point of the season for me has been everything from the Sonoma series on. After that first game we lost, this team made a decision to turn it around and not be the same team we were at the beginning of the year. Right before the Sonoma series I remember telling the guys in a team meeting that our season is just beginning.
Each team that we were going to play from that point on was at the top of the pack, which is what college baseball is all about. Coming out and rising to the occasion and winning the last 17 regular season conference games to win conference is something that I will never forget. And the most exciting part about it is that best times are still to come!
Q-Looking at this year's roster, who would you describe as the "leader," the "best clutch hitter," the "comedian" and the "brain?" Give reasons.
TAGMYER-This year's team is different than most because we have so many seniors. I think we have tremendous senior leadership with all the guys, but if I had to pick a couple I would say Tim (Shibuya) and Guido. Both these guys have tremendous work ethic, and come to play everyday. I think true leadership is demonstrated on the field, and Tim and Guido are perfect examples of this. They don't need to talk to lead the group, they just come out everyday ready to help this team win! The younger guys on the team have some great role models to look up to, which is why UCSD has had continued success throughout the years.
I think the best clutch hitter has been Danny Susdorf. He has been our most consistent hitter throughout the year, and also been one of our most clutch hitters. I can think of many times when we needed to get a leadoff man on late in the game and Danny was the guy to do it. I can also think of a couple times, most recently in Chico, when Danny had a two-out two-strike hit that scored a couple guys late in the game to give us a lead. Danny has tremendous work ethic which is why he is such a great hitter.
As for the comedian, I would have to say Abro (Eric Abraham). I have never met someone that has made me laugh so much. He always has funny one-liners and is so quick-witted, which makes him an awesome guy to be around.
I think the nerds of the team has to go to Guido and (Elias) Tuma. Guido is so smart that he tutors all the geniuses that go to UCSD, and Tuma owns all academic records at UCSD. He is the guy that won't go out on a Friday because he has a midterm three weeks away.
Q-What's this team like on the road? Is there a particularly memorable moment or two you can share from this season's travels?
TAGMYER-To be honest there isn't much excitement that goes on with this team on the road. Were such old guys that when the game ends, we eat, take an ice bath, and usually pass out before nine. I think all the excitement happens with our assistant coaches, but those aren't stories I can tell on here. The real excitement happens when we get home Sunday night and we get together as a team to celebrate a sweep. Those are some stories that I can't repeat either.
Q-You are from
Centennial, Colorado, started your collegiate career at USD and then
transferred to UCSD; what about UCSD caught your eye? Has your experience at
UCSD been everything you hoped it would be?
TAGMYER-The first thing that caught my eye about UCSD baseball was that it was a winning program. I knew coming from USD that I wanted to transfer to a program that had a chance to win a national championship, and I also wanted to stay in Southern California. Coming to UCSD has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, I just wish I would have done it sooner.
Q-As a Communications major, what are your plans after you graduate? Is baseball part of that equation?
has always been to play professional baseball and I will follow that dream as
long as I can. If that doesn't work out, I have thought about playing overseas
somewhere because I don't think I am ready to hang em' up. I have also thought
about going to Law school next year, but as of right now I am just trying to
enjoy my last month of college and win a national championship!
Q-You've got the CCAA Championship Tournament this weekend in Stockton with the NCAA Regional's the next week, likely at Triton Ballpark. How does post-season play differ from the regular season? Does last year's experience make you and your team any better-prepared this time around?
TAGMYER-There really isn't too big of a difference between post-season play and regular season. Our regular season is designed to get you ready for post-season play, so all we have to do now is continue what we have been doing since February. So many teams and players try to do something extra special during the post-season, but we know that if we play our game it will all work out in the end. The pressure is on the team in the other dugout because we have proven all year long that if we play our game nobody can beat us.
Q-What is your dream scenario for the 2011 NCAA Championships?TAGMYER-My coach would kill me to know that I am looking past the conference tournament, but I can't help dreaming about dog piling on our own field to send us to Cary, North Carolina! This team has been through a lot this year, and I think we have put ourselves in a great position to go back to the World Series for the third consecutive year. And this year were gonna win it!
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