The San Diego State University Aztecs baseball team walked away this weekend, winning two of their three games against Fresno State.
The Aztecs split the doubleheader on Saturday and won the game on Sunday. All of these games had their own sense of flair and drama.
Throughout the recap, I will include the conclusion to the keys for the series that was listed in the preview. If you missed them, here is a refresher.
- Limit the errors
- Have the offense attack from all angles
- Troy Melton and the pitching staff needs to limit the walks
Game 1 Saturday
Troy Melton was not on the mound to start Game 1 of the series in a bit of a surprise. Instead, it was his good friend Michael Paredes on the bump. In six innings of work, he gave up four hits, two walks, one earned run, and struck out six batters. Things got scary for Paredes in the 5th inning. The Bulldogs managed to load the bases for Zach Presno, one of their best hitters. Paredes was able to induce a weak fly ball out of Presno and end the inning.
The 6th inning is when the Aztec bats got some momentum. Matt Ruddick started the inning with a solo shot to right-center. Then Wyatt Hendrie was hit in the head by a breaking ball that bounced off his helmet, and he was fine as he trotted to first. Jaden Fein, the hitting machine, singled, and Brian Leonhardt singled. That gave Ryan Orr a bases-loaded opportunity with one out. Unfortunately, he hit a grounder to third for a 3b-C-1b double play.
In the top of the 7th, an error was ultimately the costly blow. With one out and a runner on first, a ground ball was hit to the third baseman, Cole Carrigg. He didn’t field the ball cleanly and made a throwing error to allow both runners to be safe. Had he turned the double play, the inning would have ended. Instead, two runs would score when Kelena Sauer allowed a bases-loaded single and a bases-loaded walk.
For Fresno State, three runs were all they needed to win that game. For the rest of the series, three runs would make an innings work.
Game 2 Saturday
In this game, Melton looked like the star pitcher that brings scouts to Tony Gwynn Stadium. The decision to start him in the second seems like a demotion after two rough starts. When speaking with coach Mark Martinez, he gave the impression that this was potentially a one-off situation.
“We have been putting a lot on his shoulders. It also gives him an opportunity to chart the game and get a feel for how he was going to start the Fresno State hitters,” Mark Martinez said.
That opportunity to chart the Fresno State lineup certainly paid off for Melton. He pitched a complete game (seven innings) with nine strikeouts, four hits, one walk, and no runs allowed. That performance was good enough to earn him MWC pitcher of the week. When EVT talked to him at the beginning of the season, he talked about how he spent a lot of the offseason working on his changeup.
Troy Melton starts the second game against Fresno State with a pair of Ks pic.twitter.com/ZsWr2VJ6cV
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) March 6, 2021
After the game, when asked about his changeup, he said, “Today, I thought it was really good. The first two starts, I was overthrowing it a little bit. The first two starts, I was kind of overthrowing everything. Today I was just calming down a little bit and trusting everything. So, I thought my changeup my pretty good today, especially against lefties.”
It’s also really easy to pitch when your team is on a scoring tear. The Aztecs won this game 17-0, including an 11 run 2nd inning, which caused a mercy rule to come into effect in the 7th inning. This season when a team is winning by a margin of 10 runs or more, then the game will end when it reaches the 7th inning.
As with most baseball teams and players, they have their traditions and good luck charms. One good luck charm for the Aztecs is a paddle that was gifted to them from the Navy Seals. The two groups have worked together on numerous occasions, and the paddle is a symbol of that connection. Every time an SDSU scores a run, a player with the paddle, this game it was mostly Tre Brown, runs over to coach Martinez, shakes his hand, and has him touch the paddle. Needless to say, Brown got a fair amount of exercise this game. You can see what I am talking about in this clip of Wyatt Hendrie’s home run in the game.
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) March 7, 2021
Game 3 Sunday
Game 3 was a tough fought battle where the Aztecs eventually prevailed in a 12-7 victory.
For this game coach, Martinez, went with a bullpen game. Typically, Khol Simas has started the bullpen games, but today he was the third pitcher out. As a group, the bullpen struck out nine, walked eight, and gave up seven runs (only three earned) on nine hits.
This was close because two of the keys were not followed. The pitching staff was not limiting the walks(8), and the defense had two errors that resulted in four unearned runs. Both errors came from Max Foxcroft, who was starting for Cole Carrigg after he had a couple of errors earlier in the series. Foxcroft was eventually replaced by Fisher Pyatt, who played a clean three innings. This series highlights the need for someone to step up and take the third-base starting job.
In the 6th inning, Aaron Eden came into pitch with no outs and runs on 1st and 2nd. Right away, he walks a batter to load the bases with no outs. That brings the tying run-up to the plate in the 11-7 game. Matt Ottino lined the ball right back to Eden. Eden, in self-preservation, caught the ball and was able to catch the runner at first too far off the bag for a double play. Right after that, he strikes out Andrew Kachel to end the threat.
After that big inning, the team got fired up. Some Fresno State players didn’t like the reaction or some of the language that SDSU was using, so they started to talk back. In the middle innings, the umpires issued warnings to both dugouts, telling them not to further escalate the chatter. That calm remained until the 7th inning.
When Jaden Fein stepped up to the plate, he was immediately hit right in the numbers on his back. Coach Martinez immediately made the connection that his star batter got hit after the two teams were arguing. He started to say, “that (the HBP) came straight from the dugout.” What he is claiming is that the Fresno State coach told his pitcher to hit Fein. Mike Batesole, the Fresno head coach, yelled back, saying to check the tapes and see if he gave his pitcher a sign a to hit him. The umpires told Batesole to stop responding, and when he failed to do so, the home plate umpire ejected him from the game.
On the offensive side, things cannot be going much better. SDSU leads the NCAA in batting average, runs per game, run, and hits. Fein won his third straight MWC player of the week award. His highlights can be found in this video here.
Jaden Fein won three straight MWC player of the week awards to start the season. He is one of the big reasons why SDSU leads the NCAA in batting average, runs per game, runs, and hits.
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) March 9, 2021
Fein went 4-for-4 with a double, the HBP mentioned earlier, and two RBIs in this game. On the season, he is slashing an absurd .587/.600/.739 according to baseball-reference. He has 21 RBIs, five extra-base hits, and three steals on the season.
Another offensive star in this game was Wyatt Hendrie. He hit a home run and had two walks in this game. On the season, Hendrie is slashing .351/.479/.649 with 21 RBIs.
This duo is a scary good tear at the plate. They are one of the main reasons why College Baseball Nation ranked SDSU has the No. 23 team in the NCAA. Check-in next week to see how SDSU fared against UNLV.