First pitch is today. The Aztec’s Baseball season starts on the road against Arizona State. Head coach Mark Martinez met with EVT recently to speak about some players to look out for this year.
Is experience the best teacher? Will the returners’ gained experience help the Aztecs this season?
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “Playing time, you can’t substitute playing time. Even though you’re struggling through a tough patch, whether it’s Cole Carrigg, Poncho Ruiz, or Caden Miller and all those type guys are marquee dudes. They scuffled a bit last year, and they were also trying to carry a group, which is hard to do, and when you’re a sophomore, you also have tunnel vision; you’re worried about yourself and not too much about the team. I get it, especially when things start to go the wrong way. Again, those guys responded well and had great summers. We were young last year, but no excuses; we still got to go out and win.”
CF Cole Carrigg
The most familiar name Martinez mentioned was Cole Carrigg. The 6-foot-3 junior, ranked 12th out of the nation’s Top 150 outfielders per D1baseball.com, was also named to the Mountain West preseason all-conference team. Carrigg is a big reason why the Aztecs were chosen this year to finish the season third in the Mountain West coaches poll. Coming off a hitting average of .388 last year, Carrigg looks to become added to the list of Aztecs that get drafted to the MLB.
“Well, I think he’s a swiss army knife,” Martinez stated. “He’s played pretty much every position on the field with the exception of maybe first base, and I’d probably plug him in there at some point maybe. For program purposes, he’s going to have to play center field, he’s one of the best center fielders that I’ve ever seen in my 30 years of coaching, the guy eats up more ground than anybody. Let’s not forget about the guy who was roaming around there last year; last year was pretty darn good, too, and that’s Irvin Weems. To have two guys like that in the outfield, one of our Aztec guys, Anthony Johnson, he calls it the ‘No Fly Zone.’”
Martinez spoke on Carrigg’s draft stock, “Cole is projected as one of the top players in the country to get drafted. He’s very capable of that, he’s extremely athletic, a switch-hitter, he can run, he can throw, he’s got ‘pop’ from both sides of the plate. How he fits in the draft next year is up to him.” In order to help his draft prospects and the team, Martinez plans on giving Carrigg spot starts at catcher.
C Pancho Ruiz
Junior Poncho Ruiz is coming into this season ranked 24th among the nation’s top 50 catchers, according to D1baseball.com. Ruiz started in 54 of the 55 games last year, leading the Aztecs with 43 runs scored and 30 walks. With nine of his 54 starts as a designated hitter for his team played a role to help Ruiz to a batting average of .309 last year. The junior is looking to become a key aspect to the Tec’s and what they can bring to the Mesa.
“With Poncho behind the plate, he’s an experienced guy, played for two years,” Martinez said. “He’s gone through his ups and downs at that position, it’s a hard position to play, and he’s growing up to it, he’s getting after it, he’s gotten way better.”
A program that is strong in the middle of the field should be strong defensively.
With Ruiz, a Southwestern College JC transfer, Xavier Gonzalez playing shortstop, and veteran Caden Miller at second base, SDSU should be much improved compared to 2021.
“A little cliche to start your program from the middle out and have some of your marquee guys playing those positions goes well, and you build a group around them with some really good players as well, “ Martinez explained.
“I’m looking forward to how that shapes up and where they fit in the lineup, we don’t know yet; we’re still kind of messing around with it, but pitching-wise, real good. Catching, shortstop, second base, center field is pretty darn good.”
SDSU Freshman class
A less familiar name for Aztec fans to become acquainted with is true freshman Xavier Cardenas. Like his teammates, he had his name mentioned by D1baseball.com. The publication named him the preseason Mountain West Freshman of the Year. Cardenas was the crown jewel of SDSU’s recruiting class of 2022. Perfect game rated him a 10, which according to its rankings, means they view Cardenas as a “potential very high draft pick and/or elite level college prospect.” He was the 15th-best prospect in the state of California and the 138th-best player nationally.
“He has a big arm, and he’s also a ‘projectee’ type guy,” Martinez said. He came in not throwing a lot of strikes, did not really have a secondary pitch, and he has really embraced that, those work habits and trying to win a role.”
One other notable freshman that will be mentioned numerous times this season is true freshman Isaac Araiza, a big kid from Yuma, Arizona. Martinez says, “He’s a really likable kid outside the chalk, and when he is on the mound, he’s kind of a bulldog and gets after you. He is another guy that we’re really looking big things for.” Martinez, with confidence, described how much the freshman class can play a part in starting or setting the tone of the program. The culture of the program requires the players to “bring your hard hat and lunch pal” every day, and Martinez is seemingly happy with the newcomers this year.
“Our freshman this season came in the summer and did summer school, they’re in the weight room five days a week, and that’s a blue-collar approach. To understand that this is an important piece, I’ve always said that ‘The freshman class is obviously the foundation of your program, the pinnacle of your program, or your dudes that have been in it for two-three years, maybe sometimes four.’ In order to have a good baseball program, they have to experience that as a freshman group, and I really believe that this group has done a great job, and they’re a great foundation of what we’re doing. I’m excited about this group as well moving forward.”
Other Notable Aztecs
Aztec fans should also look forward to seeing guys like Brady Lavoie, a local kid who transferred from North Carolina State. He made two starts in his nine contests with the Wolfpack. “He’s been nothing but bright sunshine; he’s been awesome. A great leader in the clubhouse, a physical dude, can hit the ball over the wall, play first or outfield. He can also run for a big guy which is kind of cool, Martinez said”
Martinez said TJ Fondtain, who be the Friday night starter and designated hitter, was a “must-see amazing hitter” Fondtain has one of the most power behind his swings on the west coast, “big league like,” Martinez added. Charlie Rhee is another lettered player who will be looking to make stuff happen out in the outfield for the Aztecs. Playing almost every position as well, Rhee looks like the guy to make an impact on the defensive end. Maddox Haley, Shaun Montoya, Tyler Glowacki, Drew Giannini has caught the coaches’ being a freshman that has coach’s eyes.
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Martinez mentioning almost the whole roster during the interview is good sign of what is to come on the Mesa, “Looking forward to playing someone else this week, we are tired of playing each other, but we are looking forward to testing to see how we look,” Martinez said. “I can tell you that it is still a ‘work in progress,’ but at the same time, I really feel like our guys are meeting the standard of what we expect in our program. Its a good group, they’re hungry, they’ve been embarrassed. That’s what happened to us in 2016, and hopefully, have the repeat performance we had in 2017 with this group.”
San Diego Christian College Alum
Bachelors of Arts in Communications with emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism.
22 years old