Tony Gwynn Stadium- San Diego State University Campus
Fans were finally allowed to watch the team in person this weekend and the team responded with some of the most exciting baseball all season. Two walk-off victories, then a 15-run mercy rule. They have won seven straight series and finally swept a series.
Fans not only got to see live baseball but truly experience the game. The live streams do not do the team justice, rather they put on a comedy-baseball show every game. From the classic baseball taunts toward the pitcher to always sitting on the bench in the 7th, to imitating Dobby from Harry Potter, the Aztec dugout is always up to something.
On top of that, the fans got in the action. To attend the game, the fans had to be on a pre-approved list which mostly consisted of the player’s family members that live in California. These fans were hungry to see their family play. They heckled the umpires on bad calls, cheered on big hits, and mocked the New Mexico players. Even though there were roughly 40 fans in attendance, they brought welcomed energy that the scouts, media, and cardboard cutouts never could.
The three keys to watch this series were:
- Wyatt Hendrie Top catcher
- Watch the Longball
- Aztec Pitchers Need to continue to find the zone
Hendrie had earned the MW player of the week and was named to the Buster Posey award watchlist nomination this season. He continued to stay hot in this series. He went 5-for-8 with a double, walked five times, and never struck out. On defense, he did have an error but still looked very good. The pitching staff does test him at times with some outside pitches that he is able to corral.
The long ball came through in the 15-run mercy game for the Aztecs. Mike Jarvis immediately set the tone with a solo shot. Later in the game, Matt Rudick added to the onslaught with a 3-run homer in the 4th to give the Padres a 14-0 lead. The Aztecs are tied for 14th in total runs in the NCAA, but the long ball is just one weapon in the arsenal for the team. They have just 14 home runs on the season, with Hendrie and Rudick being the only multi-home run players.
This looks like a whole new pitching staff. Just 10 walks in the series are still a huge improvement. In the last two series, they are attacking the strike zone more than ever. As mentioned in the preview article before the SJSU series, the pitching staff was averaging 5.69 walks per game. The decrease in walks has yet to translate into a decrease in runs. They are throwing strikes, but that is giving opposing batters more balls to drive. The good thing is they are forcing the batter the beat them instead of staying patient and taking a free bag.
Michael Paredes hadn’t given up more than 3 runs all season. In this game, he was tagged for six earned runs. In the 3rd and 4th inning, the Lobos pounced on him. In the 3rd back-to-back doubles scored one, then a wild pitch and passed ball scored the other. In the 4th, home runs by Harry Fullerton and Jarrett Gonzalez tacked on another four runs. Paredes left the game with a 7-4 score and Brian Leonhardt would give up two runs to make it a 9-4 game. That score would hold until the bottom of the 9th. That’s when the no-quit attitude of the Aztecs kicked in.
The Aztecs started the 9th at the top of their order. Jarvis tripled, Rudick singled him in, and Hendrie singled to chase pitcher Riley Egloff out of the game. Brian Leonhardt had hit into two double plays and struck out in the game. This time around, he walks to load the bases.
At this time, the fans start to realize there is real hope. Jaden Fein, one of the deadliest hitters in the NCAA, is at bat with bases loaded. He doesn’t disappoint the fans. He knocks in two and brings the winning run to plate. After another run gets knocked in, TJ Fondtain comes in as a pinch hitter.
Coming into this plate appearance, Fondtain had just one hit in his collegiate career. Now he is tasked with the biggest at-bat for the Aztecs all season. He rips a ball that goes just under the second baseman’s glove, two score, Aztecs win.
WALKOFF!!! TJ Fondtain with a bases loaded hit to win the game. That was his fourth at bat all season. Aztecs were down 9-4 going into the 9th pic.twitter.com/ptAJG92mGH
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) April 2, 2021
The Aztecs came back from a 5-run deficit to take the lead in the 9th. That whole time they did not record a single run while scoring six runs. That win is exciting enough for most people. Later in the day, they would do it again.
Every game, scouts flood in to watch Troy Melton pitch. This is the type of game they want to see out of him. His pitches had movement, he was finding the zone, and he looked calm throughout the start. When those three items are present, his results speak for themselves. Seven innings pitched, three hits, three runs (2 earned), and two walks.
In this game, the Aztecs had four errors that resulted in two unearned runs. Those two unearned runs became a big deal when they managed just four baserunners from the 5th inning to the 9th. It seemed like New Mexico had all the momentum.
In extra innings, a runner starts on second on base, just like the MLB did last season. Small ball ensued as the Lobos sac bunted to move the runner to third. With the infield in, a chopper to Jacob Cruce failed to score the run, and the Aztecs earned their turn at the plate.
Like the Lobos, the Aztecs wanted to go the small ball route of immediately moving the runner to third with a sac bunt. Instead, Mason Foxcroft walked on four pitches. So Caden Miller attempts to bunt the runner over to third. A perfectly placed bunt allowed all runners to advance safely.
This time Mike Jarvis had bases loaded with no outs. On such a good team, this is one of the guys you want up in this situation. A little over two weeks, Jarvis had an all-time low .271 batting average. Since then, it has risen by .102 to .373. It’s tough to argue that any Aztec has been on a hotter streak.
He finds the 5.5 hole and completed the second walk-off win of the day for the Aztecs.
ANOTHER WALK OFF! In the bottom of the 10th Mike Jarvis singles to secure another series victory for SDSU pic.twitter.com/TMrR3Dgwe4
— East Village Times (@EVT_News) April 3, 2021
To top off the day, the team finally got to sing their fight song to a group of fans eager to hear it.
The Aztecs seemed to have enough stressful games after Saturday. Immediately, Jarvis got the lead with a solo shot. Then in the second, the team was patient, so patient that with bases loaded slugger Wyatt Hendrie walked in a run.
The walks are one of the most interesting parts of this game. In a 15-run game, it’s expected that they load up on hits. In fact, those hits came from a patient approach. The Aztecs had nine walks and six of them came within the first three innings. They recorded 15 hits this game, and four of which were extra-base hits—Jarvis with two and Jaden Fein and Rudick with one.
The hitting gave a stress-free environment for the pitching staff to do its work. Rickey Tibett worked five innings while allowing five hits, two walks, and struck out six batters. Kohl Simas and Kelana Sauer each worked a scoreless inning to give the Aztecs a 7-inning mercy rule. The mercy rule takes effect in the 7th inning or later when a team has a +10 margin.
As a whole, this was a huge weekend for the program. They proved that they are in any game, no matter the score or inning. Their pitching continues to show their ability to find the strike zone and force opposing offenses to hit the ball. Most of all, the team likes to have fun. The stadium was electric, with the team and fans both out enjoying baseball.