May 4, 2011
UC Santa Barbara pitcher Nick Capito straddled the mound. He looked down to his catcher Marty Mullins. It was April 24, 2010. Capito was preparing to throw his first pitch of the fourth inning. Through his first three innings, the Gaucho lefty had allowed just one hit to Long Beach State and his team was on top, 3-0.
Capito went into the windup and delivered a change-up on the outside corner to the 49ers' Devin Lohman. Lohman swung and made contact. He hit a hard line drive up the middle. The next thing Capito knew, he was sprawled out on the mound.
Lohman's line drive deflected off the bill of Capito's hat and then struck him right between the eyes.
"I saw it coming," Capito remembered. "I thought I got a little bit of my glove on it, I wasn't sure, and then it hit my hat, then me, and I went down. I didn't go unconscious or anything, I was just laying there kind of in shock, thinking `Geez, what just happened? I should have caught that.'"
The next thing Capito remembers is athletic trainer Mike Martinez and head coach Bob Brontsema running out to the mound and kneeling next to him.
"I was alright," Capito said. "I was fine. I honestly could have gotten back on the mound and pitched, but no one was going to let that happen after a head injury like that."
Capito was taken to a Long Beach hospital where cat scans showed that the only damage he suffered was cosmetic.
"The next day, my eyes swelled up like a balloon," he said. "But nothing was broken."
A few months before getting hit in the face with the line drive, during Christmas break, Capito had to face far greater adversity as his maternal grandmother and one of his best friends each passed away.
"Losing my grandmother was very hard," said Capito. "We were very close."
The death of his friend came in particularly tragic circumstances.
James Wernke was walking his dog in a rainstorm. They walked near an overflowing creek and Wernke's dog fell in. Wernke went in after the dog, slipped, hit his head and lost consciousness. The authorities said he drowned.
Capito and Wernke had been teammates at Santa Ana College.
"I became really close with him," Capito said. "He redshirted our sophomore year and then signed a Letter of Intent to go to Long Beach State, so he would've been there this year. It would've been fun playing against him."
Indirectly, Capito believes that his friend was there the night that he was felled by the line drive in Long Beach.
"I had James' initials written on the side of my hat and the ball hit the hat, probably taking some of the impact, before it hit me in my forehead," recounted Capito. "I really believe he was looking out for me. It was at Long Beach State, too, the school where he was supposed to be going. It was just kind of a surreal thing."
While the ball hitting the cap most certainly minimized the physical damage suffered by Capito, there was still the challenge of actually climbing back onto the mound and pitching again.
"The next couple of days (after the incident) I was just icing it and trying to recover," he said. "(Pitching coach Tom) Myers asked me if I'd be able to go next weekend and I said `yeah, of course.' I was feeling fine and just wanted to get back on the bump."
When Capito did return, something had definitely changed.
"I felt fine physically, but it was just kind of a mental thing," he said. "I really wasn't the same after that. I was still a little shell-shocked the rest of the season. I don't think I really bounced back too well."
After jumping out to a fast start in 2010, Capito was up-and-down after the line drive incident. It took him a while, but he finally started to return to normal during the summer when he played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks in the Northwoods League.
"It was kind of a hard thing to get over," Capito said. "It took me about a month. I went to play summer ball in June and started to feel better. They use wood bats out there and that didn't scare me as much as metal bats, or whatever they are now. That kind of put some ease in the back of my mind about the balls coming off the bat."
While Capito started progressing from the moment he got to Wisconsin, there was still one thing he had to overcome: another ball hit back up the middle.
"Last summer, I remember having my first comebacker and it was just a soft ground ball," he recalled. "I jumped back and flinched pretty bad, but I got the ball and ran it over to first, and I was like `okay, well that was my first one and there will probably be more, so you better be ready.'"
Capito enjoyed, and truly benefitted from, his summer season in Wisconsin. He pitched well, helped the Woodchucks get within one game of playing for the league championship, learned a new pitch (a two-seam sinker) and really re-focused himself for the 2011 UCSB season.
"I came back during the fall with a vengeance," said Capito, who also bounced back from surgery to his left elbow while pitching at La Quinta High School. "I just wanted to win, I wanted us to have a good season and I was willing to do whatever role I was given."
While Capito was primarily a starter as a junior in 2010, he has been primarily a reliever in 2011. In fact, entering the first weekend in May, the Whittier, Calif., native had made 19 appearances on the season, 17 out of the bullpen. He did, however, start - and win - a May 1 game at UC Riverside.
Capito has adapted to his role out of the bullpen, but it isn't out of the question that he could re-enter the rotation on a regular basis. Either way, he's at ease.
"I've become accustomed to `whatever happens, happens,'" said the art history major. "I'm ready for anything. I've never really pitched exclusively out of the bullpen before, and the beginning of the season, I thought, was a great test to show that I can fill whatever role I need to fill."
Capito is 4-2 and tied for the team-lead in wins. His 3.20 ERA is the lowest among all pitchers who have tossed at least 45 innings and he has allowed just 34 hits in his 45 innings.
"I feel I've helped the team out of the bullpen and as a starter," Capito said. "It's been pretty topsy-turvy, but whatever the situation is, I'm basically just trying to get guys out. It's all the same. Pitching is pitching. People want to talk about pressure situations, but I just come in and try to get guys out and do my job."
20 Questions With Nick Capito
What are your favorite things to do when you're not playing
If you were on a deserted island and could bring only three
things, what would they be?
What is your favorite class you've taken at UCSB?
I've taken a couple I've liked a lot. Probably Fall quarter it was a modern art history class with Professor Monahan. I think it was Art History 119F. That was a really cool class, it was art from after WWII up until today, so it was a lot of the modern stuff that I had never really studied that much.
Do you have any role models?
What's the best part about waking up in Santa Barbara every
What's your favorite TV show?
What will you miss most about life at UCSB after you
What actor would play you in a movie about your life?
Your favorite sports team is the Dodgers, so that's an easy one.
What is your favorite movie?
Do you have any pre-game rituals?
IWho is your favorite musical artist or band?
What's your favorite spot on campus?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
What is your favorite UCSB sport to watch besides baseball?
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
What is one thing about you that most people do not know?
Do you have a motto that you live by or some words that someone
said to you at some point that you think about a lot?
In one word how would you describe UCSB Baseball?
What are your goals once baseball is over, like once you have to
be a career person?
If you had a book written about your life, what would the title
Do you have any nicknames?
Nick Capito: A Great Example
August 2, 2011 UCSB Hall of Famer Geivett a Mover with the Rockies
July 5, 2011 Beck Wheeler: A Great Example
June 22, 2011 UCSB Hires Checketts as New Baseball Coach
June 22, 2011 What They're Saying
June 21, 2011 Connor Whalen Signs Deal With Milwaukee
June 15, 2011 Davis, Wheeler Sign Free Agent Deals
June 13, 2011 Meaux, Haddow Selected on Second Day of MLB Draft
May 15, 2011 Irvine Finishes Off Sweep of Gauchos
May 13, 2011 No. 17 UC Irvine Scores Early to Knock Out Gauchos
May 11, 2011 Gauchos Defeat No. 13 UCLA
May 10, 2011 Gauchos Face Pair of Top-25 Teams This Week
May 9, 2011 Vedo Named Big West Pitcher of the Week
May 8, 2011 Vedo Pitches Gauchos Past CSUN
May 7, 2011 Gauchos Drop Game at Northridge
May 6, 2011 Gauchos Shutout in Opener at Northridge
May 5, 2011 Trinkwon could be back on field by the weekend
May 4, 2011 Nick Capito: A Great Example
May 1, 2011 Gauchos Salvage Series With 9-5 Win at UCR
April 30, 2011 Baseball Team Falls 14-3 to UC Riverside
April 29, 2011 Gauchos Unable to Rally Late, Fall 5-3
April 28, 2011 Baseball Team Begins Longest Road Swing of Season
April 26, 2011 UCSB Rallies In Late Innings to Defeat CSUN, 6-4
April 25, 2011 Baseball Team Adds Game At UCLA
April 25, 2011 Gauchos Host Cal State Northridge on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
April 23, 2011 Gauchos Drop Series Finale to Long Beach State, 6-2
April 22, 2011 Davis, UCSB Offense Make Easy Work of Long Beach, 7-2
April 19, 2011 Haddow's Homer Ends Longest Game in UCSB History
April 18, 2011 Baseball Team Hosts Pepperdine on Tuesday
April 13, 2011 Gauchos Travel to No. 7 Fullerton for Weekend Series
April 12, 2011 UCSB Unable to Support Edgington in Defeat
April 11, 2011 UCSB Opens 4-Game Road Trip on Tuesday at CSUN
April 10, 2011 Wheeler's Walk-Off Hit Leads Gauchos Past Mustangs
April 8, 2011 Gauchos Drop Big West Opener
April 5, 2011 Baseball Games Broadcast on AM 1290 Starting on Friday
April 5, 2011 Gauchos Host Cal Poly for Three Games Starting Friday
April 3, 2011 Capito, On the Spot, Leads Gauchos Past San Jose State
April 2, 2011 San Jose State Scores Early to Defeat Gauchos
April 1, 2011 Spartans Rally to Thwart Gauchos
March 30, 2011 LMU Topples Gauchos, 6-4
March 28, 2011 Mark Haddow Named Big West Player of the Week
March 27, 2011 Trinkwon, Davis Lead Gauchos Past No. 23 Oregon State
March 26, 2011 Oregon State Chases Vedo Early, Beats Gauchos 11-5
March 25, 2011 No. 23 Beavers Top Gauchos
March 24, 2011 UCSB Opens Three-Game Series at Oregon State on Friday
March 22, 2011 Haddow's 4 RBI Powers Gauchos to 5-2 Win Over USC
March 21, 2011 UCSB Travels to USC on Tuesday, Oregon State This Weekend
March 20, 2011 Gauchos and Nevada Have Sunday's Game Rained Out
March 19, 2011 Vedo's Near No-No Helps Gauchos Sweep Doubleheader
March 18, 2011 Come Meet the Gaucho Baseball Team!
March 16, 2011 UCSB Hosts Nevada for Three Games This Weekend
March 13, 2011 No. 18 Rice Wins Pitching Duel
March 11, 2011 Gauchos Offense Shut Down by USF in 3-2 Loss
March 9, 2011 Gauchos Head to AT&T Park for Weekend Tournament
March 8, 2011 Loredo, Gauchos Edge USC, 3-2
March 7, 2011 UCSB Hosts USC on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
March 5, 2011 Gauchos Stymied by Sacramento State's Pitching
March 4, 2011 Meaux is Brilliant as Gauchos Defeat Hornets, 4-2
March 1, 2011 Waves Rally to Top Gauchos
February 27, 2011 Snow Cancels Sunday's Baseball Game
February 26, 2011 Washington State Sweeps Gauchos in Doubleheader
February 24, 2011 Gauchos Travel to Chilly Pullman to Face Cougars
February 22, 2011 Loredo is Terrific in Gauchos' Win Over Westmont
February 22, 2011 Haddow's back in the outfield, looking in
February 20, 2011 Gauchos Sweep La Salle in Baseball Doubleheader
February 19, 2011 Gauchos and La Salle Called Off After Two
February 18, 2011 Gauchos and La Salle Rained Out on Friday; Saturday Game at Noon
February 17, 2011 Season Preview Day 4: The Starting Pitchers
February 16, 2011 Baseball Season Preview Day 3: The Infield
February 15, 2011 Baseball Season Preview Day 2: The Bullpen
February 14, 2011 Baseball Season Preview Day 1: The Outfield
February 4, 2011 UCSB to Broadcast 45 Gaucho Baseball Games
February 3, 2011 Valaika running a Reds' light into spring training
February 2, 2011 Meaux Honored as One of 50 Best in Nation
January 31, 2011 Zuanich has a blast at Uyesaka
January 26, 2011 Brontsema Wins Award at Annual Baseball Cooking Challenging
January 25, 2011 Gauchos Welcome Back Top Players for Alumni Weekend
January 25, 2011 UCSB Picked 6th in Annual Coaches Poll
January 24, 2011 Good guy Roenicke gets his due and a Brew
January 14, 2011 Baseball Season Tickets Now on Sale
December 22, 2010 UCSB Athletics Announces a 'Night With An Angel'
December 21, 2010 Join Us For A Night With An Angel
December 8, 2010 Two Former Gauchos Honored
November 19, 2010 Baseball Team Signs 7 Top Recruits
November 15, 2010 UCSB Baseball Releases Challenging 2011 Schedule
October 14, 2010 Baseball Team Among Top Recruiting Squads in Nation
October 8, 2010 Missed check-swing call didn't beat Rays; Young did
October 6, 2010 First postseason well worth wait for loyal Young
October 5, 2010 Make Joe Gardner the Class A Pitcher of the Year
September 27, 2010 Former Gaucho Michael Young Reaches Postseason For First Time
September 7, 2010 Gardner Picks Up Year-End All-Star Award
September 2, 2010 Valaika Found His Ecstacy in the Agony
August 25, 2010 Former Gaucho Chris Valaika Makes MLB Debut, Records First Hit
August 23, 2010 Business As Usual for Joe Gardner
August 17, 2010 Pitchers Meaux, Gelinas Will Return to UCSB
August 2, 2010 Eligio, Haddow Named to CCL All-League Squad