SDSU happily took three of the four games over UCSD in the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament.
Their fellow San Diegans, USD, took two out of three games over Cal State Fullerton in their series.
Coming into this series, I laid out three keys to follow in the four-game series for SDSU.
- How will UCSD’s pitching handle D1 play?
- Can SDSU’s bullpen bounce back?
- How hot will Jaden Fein be?
Looking at how UCSD’s pitching will handle D1 play, I would say they held their ground. It’s one thing to step up and start to face D1 competition. It’s another thing to face the SDSU offense, which is very potent.
Cameron Leonard started the first game and only allowed two earned runs and three runs total. In five innings, he surrendered four hits, walked one, and struck out one. Brandon Weed started the first game of the Sunday doubleheader. He got hit the hardest of any UCSD pitcher. In five innings, he gave up five earned runs on ten hits and walked two batters. Luke Mattson was their star pitcher out of the bullpen. He was the winning pitcher in the second game when he pitched two innings and only gave up two hits. His only flaw is that he wasn’t the strikeout threat that he typically was in previous years.
As a group, the UCSD pitching staff looks worse because of the number of errors. UCSD gave up 24 runs in this series, but only 17 of them were earned runs. The defense behind the pitching staff had 10 errors. This serves as a good taste of what D1 will look like. Their pitching staff wasn’t as dominant as it typically was. Now they also know that errors are going to hurt a lot more. Fixing those little mistakes will help the pitching staff and obviously lower the number of runs on the board.
The next key to look at was if SDSU’s bullpen would bounce back. As a group, they were a lot better. In 24.1 innings, the pen had 13 runs, 11 earned runs, 20 hits, 32 strikeouts, and 22 walks. The fourth game looked to be a bullpen game by design. In that game, they had five different pitchers, and none of them went over 2.1 innings. The only concerning item is the high number of walks. As a whole, the command did improve, but they are nearly averaging a walk per inning.
One player to highlight is Kelena Sauer. In the second game of the series, he pitched 2.2 innings dominate innings. He struck out five of the eight batters he faced. His sweeping curve was fooling batters like no others. He throws from a 3/4 arm angle which is rather rare for a righty. That arm angle helps make his curve look a lot more deceptive. On the season, Sauer has 4.0 innings pitched, one hit, one walk, and six strikeouts.
Kelena Sauer has five strikeouts through 2.2 innings pitched. UCSD leads SDSU 6-3 pic.twitter.com/mIvNQ7riTp
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) February 27, 2021
The final key was the question of if Jaden Fein could keep up his hot bat. This question does apply to the team as a whole because Fein is one of their best hitters, yet he still bats in the five-hole. Fein answered this question for me over the four games. He earned MW conference player of the week for a second straight time after slashing .526/.500/.789. He was a perfect 5-5 with runners in scoring position and had a three-run-homer and double. In the first game on Sunday, he had five four hits in that game alone. Even his singles are solid hits, as you can see here.
Single by Jaden Fein in the bottom of the 6th inning. UCSD has a 6-3 lead of SDSU pic.twitter.com/5TN0LLmVPA
— Evan (@EvanOfficial_) February 27, 2021
- Troy Melton had 7 strikeouts in 4.2 innings. He gave up four runs and hasn’t found his form yet in the first two starts.
- Christian Winston earned the win in Friday’s game by pitching three innings with no hits allowed.
- Three errors lead to three unearned runs for Aztec pitching. Many of the errors were mental lapses that should be easily correctable.