UC Davis needed an ace.
After a 2009 season that was marred by inefficient pitching, the Aggies turned to a young southpaw out of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Sophomore Dayne Quist has been simply dominant this season.
In five starts, his record stands at 4-1. He has a 2.90 earned run average and is logging more than three times as many strikeouts as walks.
The rubber-armed Quist recently sat down with Aggie Associate Editor Mark Ling to discuss his performance thus far this year, his goals for the season and how his team could fare in the Big West Conference.
You got off to a pretty hot start this season, throwing three complete games and starting 4-0. What were you doing right?
I’ve just been working on improving my game as a whole. That includes throwing more strikes, locating my pitches and holding runners. If I do those things consistently I feel like I can compete with anybody.
Throwing that many pitches is rare. Is your arm about to fall off?
(Laughs) Nah, my arm is fine. I like to be able to throw a lot of pitches and last the whole game. That’s my goal every time I go out there.
Do you ever tell your bullpen before the game that they can take the day off?
(Laughs) Yeah, I just tell them to take it easy. I’ll take care of things today.
What’s most impressive about your play is the improvement you’ve made since last season. What did you concentrate on during the off-season?
Our biggest thing this year was to just change our mentality as a team. We wanted to play to win instead of playing to not lose. Personally, I worked on holding runners, locating my pitches and throwing a higher percentage of strikes. The experiences I had from last season helped a lot too. I just wanted to be that No. 1 guy.
Well, mission accomplished, right?
(Laughs) Yeah, I guess. The Friday starter sets the tone for the weekend series, good or bad. I wanted the responsibility to give the team momentum every week.
After having such a strong start, you had a tough game against Fresno State last weekend. Despite giving up a lot of hits, you struck out seven and walked only one. What happened?
Fresno is a good team. They won the national title a couple years ago, so they can hit. But I just wasn’t throwing as well as I wanted to. I don’t feel like I pitched terribly, but I definitely think I could’ve done better.
You guys start the Big West Conference schedule today against Cal State Fullerton. How do you prepare for a schedule like this, especially when it begins against a program that is this prestigious?
We know that there won’t be an easy series in this conference. Pretty much every team is good, including us, so we know that we have our work cut out for us. As far as Fullerton goes, it’s a nationally ranked program. They have guys that can do it all. We tend not to worry too much about our opponents, though. We just focus on ourselves. If we do that we’ll be fine.
You’re taking the hill tonight to start the series. Have you ever played against a team this good with a player as good as Titan shortstop Christian Colon?
I’ve pitched against some pretty good people, including Colon last year. He’s a great player and he’ll probably be a pretty high draft pick, but like I said, I just focus on throwing strikes regardless of who’s at the plate.
With that mentality and playing in a conference as tough as the Big West, what personal goals do you have for this season and what goals does the team have as a whole?
Personally, I just wanted to be that No. 1 starter. I want to compete every time I go out there, and I think I’m doing that. As a team, we just wanted to change the mentality from last season. We’re playing more as a unit and we’re having a lot of fun out there this year. Of course we’d like to make it to regionals or the college world series, and we’re good enough to do those things, but our main goal was to just change the mentality as a whole.
I know that you’ll be modest, but honestly, how far will this team go this year?
(Laughs) It’s hard to say. Like I said before, we play in a conference that is good from top to bottom so it’s hard to put it in terms of wins and losses. Let me put it this way – when our team’s at its best, there isn’t anybody we can’t beat.
MARK LING can be reached at email@example.com.