It’s a rude awakening for the San Diego State baseball team. This season, weekday games have resumed, like in the pre-pandemic years.
On Monday, SDSU finished a brutal 15-inning game that dragged into Tuesday. What makes it even worse is they lost 8-5 in their final matchup against Hawaii. Naturally, a lot of their pitching depth was drained. Most notably, Jadon Bercovich pitched six stellar innings, only allowing one hit and striking out seven. This weekend, there may be some pitch count concerns. His 71 pitches in the outing were over double the rest of the season combined.
Tuesday gave the Aztecs a chance to redeem their 13-3 loss against UCI back in February. In the 3-2 loss this week, SDSU failed to get the offense going. Leadoff hitter Caden Miller managed to get on four times between two hits, a walk and hit by pitch. Even with a stolen base, he only scored once.
From the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament to the end of the ASU series, the Aztecs will have played nine games in ten days. This Aztecs team will be gassed going into a matchup against an ASU team that is struggling.
Sun Devils to Know
1. Conor Davis 1B
Davis is the starting first baseman and three-hole hitter. After transferring out of Auburn, he dealt with a torn ACL. Since he recovered, Davis is the best hitter on the team. He put up a .496/.575/.781 slash line last year. All three of those marks are career highs.
2. Kyle Luckham SP
Another transfer, in his first season at ASU, is Luckham who is quickly becoming one of the most important players. As the ace of their pitching staff, he has a 2.83 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched. He is projected to start on Saturday.
3. Adam Tulloch SP
The starting rotation is key for ASU. Their bullpen has been their weakest spot all season. They will rely heavily on Luckham and Tulloch to eat some innings against a weak SDSU offense. Tulloch has a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings pitched. He is projected to start on Friday.
Keys to the Weekend
1. Patience at the plate
As mentioned above, ASU has quality starting pitchers, followed by a struggling bullpen. In the last three games, the pitching staff has combined for 19 walks and 18 strikeouts. For the Aztecs, this means purposely taking some pitches; maybe hold off on sac bunts. Force ASU to throw as many pitches as possible and work their way to the bullpen.
2. Find some pop
This is obviously easier said than done but is necessary to win. In the last three games, the team managed only two extra-base hits. As a team, they have a measly .260 SLG%. For context, they recorded a .484 SLG% last season. Where is this power going to come from? Poncho Ruiz is the only obvious answer. He is the team’s main slugger with two doubles and a home run, along with a respectable .273 batting average.
3. TJ Fondtain needs another great outing
If you want to look at a player willing to adjust, look no further than TJ Fondtain. In his first two seasons as an Aztec, he played very little. In those short stints, he wasn’t producing much with the bat. This season he pivoted and found himself in a role on the mound.
Boy, has that paid off. As the Friday starter, he owns a 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched. Last week he was given the Mountain West Player of the week honors. In that outing, he was much more efficient with his pitch count and command. This allowed him to throw six innings versus the four in his debut. Another stellar outing will throw any doubts out the window.
Martinez will roll out the same pitching rotation this weekend. Fondtain on Friday, Sauer on Saturday, and Flores on Sunday. Expect to see Ricky Tibbett get some innings as the first man out of the bullpen.
As for the lineup, the outfield is still in flux. Cole Carrigg is the only lock, and that is when he isn’t catching. Keep an eye out for Kenny Labeau making a pinch-hit appearance and staying in the game.