It’s been a tough start to the season for the SDSU baseball team.
They dropped two of three games in the MLB4 tournament, which was broadcast nationally. After bouncing back in the Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament with a pair of wins, they went on a four-game skid before winning the final game of the series against Arizona State. Now is a good time for a soft reset for the team. Their first conference game comes on Friday against UNLV.
Despite both teams possessing losing records, they could not be any more different. The Aztecs are dependent on a lights-out pitching staff. In all four of their wins, they held their opponents to less than four runs. While the Rebels have scored six or more runs in ten of their thirteen games.
On the flip side, SDSU has a Mountain West worst .572 OPS. For fans of the Padres, that is equivalent to Jorge Mateo’s 2021 season.
UNLV’s pitching staff has struggled with a 6.18 ERA which is the second-worst mark in the NCAA.
UNLV Players to Know
Ryan Charles OF
Charles was a good hitter last year as a freshman. As a sophomore in 2022, he has turned into a great hitter. He owns a .426/.471/.607/1.078 slash on the season. He has 26 hits on the season and has not gone hitless in a game all season.
Henry Zeisler 3B
The Senior infielder has been on fire of late. In his last four games, he has tallied ten hits, four of those being extra-base hits. He owns a .383/.474/.723/1.197 slash on the year; Zeisler’s OPS is good enough for second-best in the Mountain West.
Josh Ibarra SP
The UC Irvine transfer has been lights out this season. As a member of the starting rotation, he owns a 1.82 ERA. While his ERA has been great there is reason to believe he is not this good of a pitcher. On the season, he has an 8.3 hit per nine innings, 3.9 BB per nine innings, and 1.1 HR per nine innings. Teams are getting on base. Ibarra has been skilled at getting out of trouble.
Keys to the SDSU vs. UNLV Series
1. Big Return for Troy Melton
For the last two years, there has been a lot of prospect hype around Melton. After posting a 6.19 ERA last year, some of that shine faded a bit. Still, D1 baseball ranked him as the 77th best #77 college prospect this season.
On Friday, he will make his first start after missing some time with an injury. Notably, he is taking the spot of TJ Fondtain, who has been the best Aztec pitcher this season. Kelena Sauer and Jacob Flores are still the projected Saturday and Sunday pitchers. This means Fondtain’s role is in limbo for now.
2. Where will Bercovich pitch
Coming into the season, Mark Martinez was very excited about his bullpen. Especially the backend. Jadon Bercovich has been the best pitcher out of the bullpen. The only question is, what role will he serve?
He has an elite fastball that plays well in short stints. He has also successfully handled multiple innings, like his six-inning outing against Hawaii. This is the perfect problem to have if you are Martinez. The solution is to place him in the leverage situations and let his performance dictate how long he pitches with no artificial pitch limits.
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3. Capitalize on Rallies
Big rallies carried SDSU in each game of the ASU series. Each one of those games had a single inning representing at least 75% of their total runs. For a team like SDSU, which struggles offensively, there are not many opportunities to score. When they get a runner on base, they will need to steal, use a hit and run, or sacrifice bunt to get the runner into scoring position. Then use that pressure up with a few key hits.
Evan is a student finishing up a degree in Finance from Northern Arizona University. The ability to break down numbers and find the story behind them has lead to his first of writing for East Village times. He covers baseball which is the sport he grew up playing and has followed even after his playing years.