Aztec Baseball Preview Part 3: Pitchers

Credit: Go Aztecs

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Last season, the SDSU baseball team had two very different looks.

On offense, they were one of the biggest threats in the NCAA, finishing second in the NCAA with a .335 team batting average. On the mound, they were one of the biggest liabilities, ranking 226th in all of college baseball with a 6.28 ERA.

That should change in 2022.

“It’s kind of flip-flopped; we feel pretty good about our pitching staff moving into the season. It’s a seasoned group based on the kind of experiences they had last year,” Mark Martinez said when speaking to the media.

Unlike the lineup, the pitching staff didn’t see a mass exodus of players graduating or going pro. Below are some of the projected starters and bullpen arms.

Starting staff

Troy Melton #39 RHP

2021 Stats: 6.14 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 73.1 IP

Last year, Melton was the prized attraction for the Aztecs. At every game, scouts would flood the stands to study his every pitch. He seemed destined for a selection in the 2021 draft. That did not happen, but that will not hold him back in 2022. 

One thing fans should note; Melton is still new to pitching. Throughout most of his high school days, he was a catcher. As a pitcher in college, Melton has dealt with injuries, and two COVID shortened seasons. Coach Martinez has raved about his pitching ability. He still is the ace of the staff. D1 baseball ranks him as the #77 college prospect in the upcoming draft. Keep your eye on him.

Rickey Tibbett #32 RHP

2021 Stats: 6.62 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 50.1 IP

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Tibbett is one of the most interesting players heading into the 2022 season. Last year, Tibbett was a bullpen arm until he earned a rotation spot mid-season. Things seemed to click as he worked his ERA under 4.00 at one point. As the season dragged on, like most of the pitching staff, he fell apart.

Over the summer, he played in the Alaska Baseball League where he dominated on all fronts. The right-handed pitcher posted a 0.98 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 26 strikeouts over 36.2 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see how Tibbett performs now that he is ready for a full workload as a starter. 

Brian Leonhardt #21 LHP

2021 Stats: 6.19 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 32.0 IP

In the preview of the position players, Leonhardt was named the starting DH. The super senior will also be in the starting rotation. Last season, on the mound, Leonhardt started half of the games in which he pitched. In 2021, he took on a larger role as a pitcher, throwing 32 innings compared to a combined 26.1 innings in the previous two years. This coming season, one of the biggest things he brings to the clubhouse is his leadership. Something coach Martinez is looking for from him.

Kelena Sauer #50 RHP

2021 stats: 4.20 ERA, 1.86 WHIP,  15.0 IP

Coming into the 2021 season, Sauer was the big-time freshman joining the Aztecs. He was one of the top high school arms in Hawaii and was able to reach mild success last year. What makes Sauer unique is his sidearm delivery which is very rare for a right-handed pitcher. His best pitch is a nasty sweeping curve that plays off of the low arm angle and release point.

Credit: SDSU Athletics


Ryan Faulks #38 RHP

No 2021 Stats

Perfect Game rated Faulks in the top 50 of all shortstops in California. However, Faulks will not find playing time in the infield. Instead, he is destined for a bullpen role this season. What makes Faulks appealing on the mound is a changeup that Martinez described as “cartoonish.” 

TJ Fondtain #28 LHP

2021 Batting: .250/.304/.300

2021 Summer pitching: 1.00 ERA, 1 Whip, 9IP

Ready for a shocker? TJ Fondtain, in his third year, is expected to find playing time on the bump. In his first two seasons, he saw minimal time while playing at first base and the outfield. This summer, he took a shot at pitching and was impressive, surrendering only one run in nine innings. Martinez noted that he will be a two-way player this season for the Aztecs. 

Omar Serrano #44 RHP

No 2021 Stats

Another incoming freshman, Serrano, will have to fight for playing time. Reports from the fall league were positive for him. In high school, he had a fastball that sat in the high 80s. As his body matures, expect that to rise. 

Credit: SDSU Athletics

Joey Ingrassia #27 LHP

2021 Stats: 7.36 ERA 3.2 IP

Ingrassia did not see much action in his freshman season last year. Yet, there is a ton of hype around him. In summer league play, he reportedly struck out 65 batters in 42.1 innings pitched. Martinez said that really impressed him. He foresees using Ingrassia in a setup/closer role this season.

Jadon Bercovich #40 RHP

Redshirt in 2021

Jadon Bercovich came to SDSU after being the #2 pitching prospect in Nevada, according to Perfect Game. Coach Martinez had a plan for Bercovich and so far has been very pleased with the results. Last year, he sat out to focus on bulking up and developing his delivery. Now he will take on the role of a high leverage reliever or set up man.

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Jacob Brodell #29 RHP

No 2021 Stats

A transfer from Imperial Valley, Brodell is expected to win the closing role heading into the 2022 season. He has a one-two punch of a low-90s fastball paired with a solid slider. He rounds out a bullpen that is expected to do a complete 180 and carry the Aztecs to another successful season. 

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