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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | KEEPING TABS

For Cal Poly's Gant, New Stadium a Hit

April 07, 2001|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ

Bryan Gant, a left fielder-designated hitter for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is seeing some familiar faces from home this weekend.

Gant, a junior from Chatsworth High, and the Mustangs are hosting Cal State Northridge in a three-game Big West Conference series at Baggett Stadium, San Luis Obispo's new facility.

The Mustangs lost to Northridge, 4-3, on Friday. The series continues today and concludes Sunday.

Gant entered Friday's game batting .292 with two home runs and 15 runs batted in. He batted a team-leading .392 as a freshman All-American and .287 last season.

"I've been slumping a little bit lately," Gant said. "I've been hitting hard, but right at somebody. It can be frustrating."

Gant missed the final three weeks last season because of a pulled hamstring, but said he's in excellent shape after an extensive weight-training program in the off-season. He weighs 185 pounds, 20 more than he did in high school.

"I have a better diet," Gant said. "I don't have an In-N-Out down the street anymore."

Gant has seen a difference in his left-handed stroke because of the added bulk.

"I feel like I'm able to drive the ball better," Gant said. "I try to hit line drives. Occasionally, I turn on a ball."

The new stadium, which San Luis Obispo inaugurated with a 6-5, 12-inning victory over Stanford in front of 3,110 on Jan. 21, can be a hitter's paradise if the wind is blowing out.

Although the foul poles are 335 feet from the plate and the center-field fence is 405 feet away, Gant, who had four hits against Stanford, said balls can leave the yard when carried by a good jet stream.

"It's nice being in our own place now," Gant said. "We don't have to share it with a high school team."

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They haven't had major league baseball in Brooklyn since the Dodgers bolted for Los Angeles in 1958, but the borough still has a pretty good softball team that features a slick second baseman from Canyon Country.

Freshman Sonia Zapata, a former All-Foothill League selection at Canyon, is batting .379 with four home runs and 19 RBIs for Long Island, all team highs.

She batted .429 in a tournament in February against pitchers from California, DePaul and Nebraska, among the top 15 Division I teams.

"She's legit," Coach Roy Kortmann said. "She has an incredible work ethic and focus. She's quite matured for a freshman."

Zapata bats third or fourth for the Blackbirds, defending Northeast Conference regular-season champions. Long Island (17-8, 9-0) has won 13 of 15.

Although Zapata has made a smooth transition to college softball, she had to adjust to living so far away from home.

"It's a big culture shock when you come here," Zapata said. "You see a lot more people here from different races you've never been exposed to. It's a great learning experience.

"I'm not a real big fan of cold weather. I was told this was the worst winter and spring [in Brooklyn] in six or seven years. Lucky me, I came at the right time."

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Scott Dragicevich's dues are paying off.

The former Westlake High standout had only 49 at-bats the last two seasons as a backup infielder at Stanford.

Dragicevich, a junior, is the starting shortstop for the Cardinal. He is batting .333 in 31 games with three home runs and 18 RBIs.

His brother, Jeff, is batting .341 with two home runs and 11 RBIs for California as a freshman shortstop out of Westlake.

*

Freshman catcher Spencer Wyman is earning more playing time at Cal.

The Camarillo product has started 12 games and is batting .271. He has thrown out four of eight runners trying to steal.

*

John Klima contributed to this notebook.

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