Connor Fabing has been on quite a journey. The former San Benito High standout has been an integral part in the Cal State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) baseball team having one of its finest seasons in program history. The No. 1 seed Otters (38-16) beat No. 6 Chico State Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament.
If the Otters are in position to win a game, they’ll have Fabing ready to close things out. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander has a team-high 10 saves with a 4-3 record. The Otters, who are coming off a disappointing 2-2 mark in the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament, should be fresh both physically and mentally with a World Series berth at stake.
“I think we were a little tired (in the conference tournament),” said Fabing, who won Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division Pitcher of the Year honors during his senior season at San Benito in 2015. “It’s been a long season and we could’ve definitely played better.”
Fabing has one of the better stories you’ll see at the college level. A standout pitcher in high school, Fabing took a redshirt season in his first year at CSUMB. Last season was his first year, and he appeared in 15 games—starting five—and put up rather pedestrian numbers.
Interestingly enough, Otters coach Walt White told Fabing before he came to CSUMB that he didn’t intend to have Fabing pitch—at least not in his freshman season.
The decision couldn’t have been easy for Fabing to take. Instead of whining and feeling sorry for himself, Fabing continued to work hard and got the news he wanted to hear when White told him before the last fall ball season that he would have a chance to pitch.
In that time, Fabing morphed into a more refined pitcher and physical specimen. At San Benito High, Fabing threw in the 84 to 85 mph range. This season, Fabing has upped his velocity to the 88 to 90 mph range, throwing all two-seam pitches along with a slider.
“I got stronger in the weight room and worked on a number of different pitches that coach Walt showed me,” he said. “I’ve worked on my mechanics and have grown into my body, and I have no arm problems. I use my legs more now and throwing a lot harder with a lot more movement on the ball which is huge. You can’t throw a flat 89 mph fastball in this league because they’ll hit it.”
Fabing kept on honing his craft, had a solid fall ball season and that carried over into this season. Everything has fallen into place because Fabing stayed patient and persevered, traits that his dad, Robert, has always displayed. Robert underwent brain cancer surgery in May 2016 and after months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments made the long recovery, as the cancer went into remission.
“When dad was coaching me, he always had that mentality to never give up and be strong,” Connor said.
It was Robert who told Connor early in his college career to go with what White had planned early on, even if it wasn’t his desired goal.
“Dad always told me to try it out and see where it takes me,” Connor said. “I stuck it out and look what is happening now—everything has fallen into place.”
Indeed, CSUMB has posted its second best record in program history, with Fabing and another former San Benito High standout making a huge impact. Jacob Tonascia, a 2013 graduate who will be featured in an article in next week’s edition, is tied with teammate Hayden Duer for the single-season program home run record, with 16 each.
CSUMB has established a nice pipeline with San Benito High, as five former Balers are on the Otters’ roster. One of the former Balers standouts, Brandon Granger, grew up playing the game with Fabing, and the two are close friends.
“It’s pretty awesome that we’re still playing together,” Fabing said. “It makes the game that much more fun. … It’s been a pretty crazy experience pitching in college my first year and doing well. We’ve won a ton of games, and I’ve had an opportunity to close a lot of them out. Hopefully the team is feeling fresh on Thursday and we win that first game and get off to a good start.”