Aztecs’ Jaden Fein a hero against Fresno State

Credit: Go Aztecs

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Credit: Go Aztecs

The SDSU Aztecs baseball team played some of their most exciting baseball to date in recent games. The team is showing heart and determination like never before.

This series easily could have been a sweep for the Fresno State Bulldogs. In their two losses, they had a four-run lead in the 7th inning and a seven-run lead in the 5th. In both cases, the Aztecs dug deep and recorded huge innings to get themselves back in the game.

A theme throughout this series and the season as a whole is Jaden Fein’s bat. For the fourth time this season, he earned the Mountain West Player of the Week award. This is the first time ever that a position player has received a Mountain West weekly award four times in one season.

He earned the award by going 9-for-15 with a home run, three doubles, and six total RBIs. His best performance came in the third game of the series. In the Aztecs’ 21-14 victory, he was a perfect 6-for-6 on the day. He finished a triple shy of the cycle and led the team with five runs scored.

The team needed his offensive production, as the pitching couldn’t hold the Bulldogs. The 30 runs scored against them this series falls one run shy of the damage USD did to start the season. A total of 12 different pitchers were needed to get through the 27 innings of play.

In the first game, Michael Paredes was tasked with stopping the Bulldog offense. In five and a third innings, Fresno State tagged him for five runs. The runs will be a sore spot, but one of the most important factors is the lack of walks he allows. Even in a game in which he is getting hit heavily, he only gave up one walk. This has been one of Paredes’ strengths all season, with only eight walks in 53 innings pitched for the Aztecs.

The first big inning of the series came in this game, as what was alluded to earlier. The game looked out of reach after Fresno State scored four runs to give them a 9-5 lead going into the eighth inning. The first big play of the inning came from Poncho Ruiz. When he came in as a pinch hitter, he hit a three-run blast.

Ruiz has started to earn more playing time as the season progresses. After only appearing once in March, he has played in six games in April and earned substantially more at-bats. He would start the second and third games of the series at catcher and designated hitter, respectively. His biggest calling card is the power he brings to the plate. He’s used his big frame to drive two home runs in his mere 23 at-bats.

Credit: SDSU Athletics

A fatal error by Matt Ottino would keep the inning alive and allowed the Aztecs to plate four more runs. Fresno tried to mount a comeback but only managed to get two runs back.

The second game was perhaps the tamest of the three. Troy Melton was the starter for the Aztecs and one of the highlight players for the series. Last time he played the Bulldogs, he shut them down. This time around, they got a few big hits to do all the damage. The offense never had an answer to those runs. They managed just two hits after the fourth inning. In the eighth inning, they had a chance after a hit by pitch and a few errors put runners on base, but nothing came from it.

In the final game, things quickly went south for the Aztecs. After a silent first inning, the Bulldogs would put up six, three, three, and two runs in the next four innings. At this point, it was a comfortable 14-5 going into the sixth inning. Then SDSU once again showed they never go down without a fight.

The offense exploded in the inning with six hits and four walks to put up eight runs. Cole Carrigg and Caden Miller reached base safely twice in the inning. That key eight-nine punch in the lineup would be responsible for seven of the team’s 21 runs. Despite the great inning, the Aztecs were still down by one.

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The Aztecs managed to score one in the eighth to make it a tie game going into the ninth. In the inning, the Aztecs once again exploded for their third seven-plus run inning of the series. This time they used some serious pop to get their runs on the board. Wyatt Hendrie scored two with a home run at the start of the inning. Later in the inning, Matt Rudick came to the plate with bases loaded. He lined a bases-clearing triple. Those three runs give the game a football-eque 21-14 run.

The Aztecs narrowly escaped a sweep this weekend. They were talented enough to turn it into a series win. This marks their eighth series victory of the nine total chances. Next weekend, they will look to make it nine series victories when they play Dixie State at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

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