Baseball Preview: SDSU Aztecs vs San Jose State Spartans

Credit: NCAA Logo

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Credit: SDSU Athletics

Saturday, March 27 | 1 p.m. PT | Excite Ballpark

SDSU: Michael Paredes, RHP (2-0, 2.20 ERA, 32.2 IP)

SJSU: Jonathan Clark, RHP (1-1, 2.25 ERA, 12.0 IP)*

Saturday, March 27 | 4:30 p.m. PT | Excite Ballpark

SDSU: Troy Melton, RHP (3-1, 3.14 ERA, 28.2 IP)

SJSU: Spencer Long, RHP (0-2, 4.79 ERA, 20.2 IP)*

Sunday, March 28 | 1 p.m. PT | Excite Ballpark

SDSU: Ricky Tibbett, RHP (0-0, 4.85 ERA, 13.0 IP)

SJSU: Keaton Chase, RHP (0-1, 8.53 ERA, 6.1 ERA)*^

* – 2020 stats; ^ – at Oregon


San Diego State currently sits atop the Mountain West Conference with a 6-3 record in conference play.

UNLV posseses a 6-3 record also, but SDSU holds the tiebreaker over the team from the north. College Baseball nation has SDSU ranked as the No. 17 ranked team in the NCAA.

San Jose is late to come into the season. In February, they encountered COVID-19 protocol issues. Due to safety concerns, they immediately canceled their first four series of the 2021 campaign.

2020 was not a kind season for SJSU as they finished the season a disappointing 5-12. Coming into the 2021 season, the outlook isn’t great.

Despite their current record, they are projected to finish near the bottom of the MWC.

Three keys for Spartans

Jonathan Clark #30 RHP

Clark is one of the best arms out of the pen for the Spartans. The pen will be a big part of a successful SJSU pitching staff. Clark was a strong long-relief option and one of the best pitchers on the team. In 2020 he took a huge step up and posted a 2.25 ERA. That is a big jump from the 5.49 ERA that he posted in 2019. He also greatly improved his strikeouts with 17 Ks in 12 innings pitched. This season he is being stretched out and taking the “Friday” starter role.

Ruben Ibarra #44 1B/DH

Ibarra is the power of the Spartan lineup. He is an absolute slugger that recored eight extra-base hits in 17 games played. He slashed .344/.474/.574 with eight RBIs. An interesting aspect of his game was the 11 walks and 18 strikeouts. It’ll be interesting if the power remains after such a long break from baseball.

Ben Polack #26 RHP

Polack is another pitcher who took a huge step forward going from 2019 to 2020. He increased his K/9 from 5.9 to 11.9 and his BB/9 from 7.4 to 3.4. The ability to hit the strike zone more often naturally leads to a better ERA that sat at 2.70 in 13 innings pitched.

Three keys to watch this series for Aztecs

Will SDSU’s two aces stay hot?

Troy Melton and Michael Paredes are the two true starters on SDSU. Each of them has shown their elite skillset last series. In the last start, Paredes went 7.2 innings while only allowed two runs. Melton went 7 innings, and Air Force managed only one run against him. The Aztecs are yet to find a 3rd starter (Rickey Tibbett is the first time they have named a starter for game 3 before the series), so keeping the bullpen fresh for game 3 is HUGE. Let’s see if they can keep up their streak of good starts.

Limit the errors… again

Going into the UNLV series, I talked about the fielding struggles that SDSU was facing. It was logical that errors came from some cobwebs that settled in the long offseason. Then against UNLV, their defense looked sharp. It looked like this storyline was going to fade. Five errors in three games against Air Force have brought it back to life. At this point, the errors are killing pitch counts and are downright demoralizing. This issue needs to be addressed before the playoffs start.

Enjoy the offensive barrage by SDSU

In the NCAA, SDSU ranks 1st in hits per game at 12.0 per game, 4th in team batting average at .326, and 6th in runs per game at 9.0 per game. Their players have won 4 of the 5 MWC player of the week awards. Jaden Fein with 3 and Wyatt Hendrie with 1. Their great offensive performances have propelled them to those awards. They have a great chance for an offensive storm against an SJSU team that is yet to face competition this season.

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