The Aztecs came into the series this past weekend against Air Force fighting for their lives.
One mistake, one loss, would have removed them from contention for the regular-season championship and a chance at the postseason. Due to concerns over spreading COVID, the Mountain West canceled the conference tournament. The regular-season champion gets the MW’s automatic bid. SDSU kept their chances alive by sweeping the Falcons.
As predicted, the series was an offensive battle that put a lot of pressure on the pitching. In total, across three games, the Aztecs scored a season-high 40 runs, while Air Force scored 26. As a team, they had 22 extra-base hits. One important note is that these totals could have been higher if it not for a mercy rule invoked in Game 1.
5-6-7. That’s the story for this game. Those spots in the lineup led the team to a 17-3 victory. Jacob Cruce, Cole Carrigg, and Brian Leonhardt combined for an insane 12-13, 2 BBs, 12 RBIs, and 12 Runs. They had four extra-base hits, including a home run by Carrigg.
Michael Paredes held the lead nicely. He pitched six innings while only giving up two earned runs. Seth Urbon and Jacob Flores combined to pitch the 7th and final inning. This low usage of the pitchers was vital. All season long turnover in the pitching staff has been a problem. Having as many fresh arms available as possible was of the highest importance. Paredes’ performance set the staff up for the rest of the series.
This was easily the closest game of the series, with SDSU walking away with a 13-10 victory. Games this tight are difficult enough on their own, but delays in the action made securing the victory that much more challenging for the Aztecs. The first game was pushed back due to bad weather. With all the offense from both teams, each game of the doubleheader took a long time to play. At 8 pm local time, Game 2 was stopped because it was getting dark and there were no lights at Falcon Field. It was completed the following day before Game 3.
Troy Melton took the mound for the Aztecs. His season looks a lot different from the last time he faced Air Force. In his first outing against them, he pitched seven innings and surrendered only one run. It was easily one of his best games of the season. He left that game with a 3.14 ERA. After Saturday’s game, his ERA ballooned to 6.06.
Teams have been successful against Melton using this approach: Be patient. Your pitch will come. Against the Falcons, hittable pitches came. In four innings pitched, he gave up six hits, four earned runs, and three walks. Most notably, he threw 96 pitches in those four innings before exiting the game.
Lucky for Melton, he was working with a lead. Right off the bat, the offense tallied two doubles, two singles, and three walks to score five runs in the first inning. The Aztecs had a similarly patient approach at the plate. As a team, they walked nine times to go along with 16 hits. They even scored two runs in the two innings that were pushed back to Sunday.
It would be criminal not to talk about the game and series that Wyatt Hendrie had. For the third time this season, he earned the MW Player of the Week Award. This game gave a little taste of what he did all series. In Game 3, he was 3-5 with three doubles and a walk. On the series, he was 8-for-13 with five doubles, seven RBIs, and seven runs.
This is just another outstanding showing for Hendrie. With the MLB draft quickly approaching, his name will be called. This will be the second time Hendrie will be drafted. In 2019 the Cubs drafted him in the 10th round. He is poised to be called sooner in the upcoming draft.
Behind Hendrie, the Aztecs jumped out to a 13-1 lead over the Falcons only to see their lead evaporate to 16-13 heading into the final two innings. As they have done most of the season, SDSU dug deep and plated four more runs while holding Air Force scoreless to secure the 20-13 win and the series sweep.
Next weekend the Aztecs will take on New Mexico in Albuquerque. The stakes are as high as ever. SDSU is currently second in the conference behind Nevada. Nevada’s magic number to clinch the regular-season title is two. The Wolf Pack play a four-game series at home against the last-place San Jose Spartans beginning Friday.