SDSU looks to continue their offensive barrage as they take on UCSD in four games this weekend.
This matchup is a part of the Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament that looks very different this year.
Anyone that knows San Diego baseball knows the impact that Tony Gwynn has had on it. He was a two-sport athlete while a student at SDSU. Then he played his entire Hall of Fame career for the San Diego Padres. After his playing days ended, he returned to SDSU as the head coach, where he would be until his passing in 2014.
The tournament was starting to become a showcase of some great college teams in the west. The pandemic has limited the prospects of having a large tournament with multiple teams, but Coach Martinez made sure it continued this season.
“In the future, it will be held the second weekend of the year. I talked to Mrs. Gwynn a couple of weeks ago about expanding the tournament and including UCSD as a (host) site – trying to expand it to twelve teams. Honestly, that was the vision of Coach Gwynn. He wanted to have a big tournament at the front end of every college season. Bring in premier programs. Obviously, have the local programs that are Division One – now UCSD is – a showcase with a San Diego baseball feel. That’s the mission.” Coach Mark Martinez said of the tournament.
SDSU and UCSD will take on each other with games on Friday and Saturday at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Then on Sunday, they will play a doubleheader at UCSD, which will also be on ESPN3. The other tournament teams are USD and Cal State Fullerton, which will play all three games at USD.
This will be a special matchup for UCSD. It will be their first season in D1 baseball. It’s a fitting welcome that their first matchup will be against SDSU in the Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament.
Keys for the Series
How Will UCSD’s Pitching handle D1 play?
The biggest strength for UCSD is its pitching. Last season they had three pitchers, Cameron Leonard, Brandon Weed, and Luke Mattson, all named All-Stars by the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
Leonard stepped it up in 2020 when he became a full-time starter. He saw his era drop to 2.30 in 31.1 innings. The previous season he had a 4.42 era in 18.1 innings. He will get the nod in game one against SDSU.
Weed was the 2019 DII West region pitcher of the year. In 2020 he had a 2.17 ERA, 30 strikeouts, and 6 walks in 29 innings. He is projected to start the first game on Sunday.
Mattson is a lethal weapon coming out of the bullpen. He posted a minuscule 0.78 ERA, 35 strikeouts, and only 5 walks in 23 innings last season.
All those numbers jump off the page and quite intimidating for opposing pitching. SDSU showed last week that their offense is on fire right now. This will test UCSD’s pitching and see if they can put up similar numbers against harder opponents.
Can SDSU’s bullpen bounce back?
The pitching staff as a whole struggled against USD last weekend. They gave up 32 earned runs and 41 total runs. In the loss against USD, SDSU blew a 12-3 lead going into the bottom of the 6th inning. The bullpen gave up 9 free passes between the 6 walks and 3 batters hit. There lies the biggest problem. The bullpen wasn’t beat by USD hitting the ball that much. They were beaten by themselves, not hitting the strike zone. If their command improves, it forces the opposing lineup to swing the bat and string together some hits. It will be interesting to see what adjustments the bullpen made coming into this series.
How hot will Jaden Fein be?
Jaden Fein was named MW player of the week for his performance against USD. He is off to a monstrous start slashing .533/.563/.600. It’s unreasonable to expect him to continue with numbers THIS high, but the bat is his selling point. When Baseball America named him Preseason player the year, the whole focus was on the raw power he possesses.
What he truly represents is the depth of the Aztec lineup. He is the #5 hitter in the lineup, and all the batters in front of him have earned their spot. If he is this lethal and batting 5th, then the Aztecs will be a massive offensive threat this season.