Despite a season-high 13 hits, San Diego State University’s baseball team was unable to avoid a weekend sweep after UNLV rallied with six runs in the eighth inning to escape with a 10-8 victory on Sunday in the series finale at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
The Aztecs, who saw their record slip to 4-11, 0-3 in Mountain West play, were led by Cole Carrigg, who matched his season highs with three hits and two RBI, while Brian Leonhardt (Eastlake) went yard for the second time this year with a two-run home run in the fourth inning that knotted the score at 4-4.
SDSU tallied two markers in the fifth to grab a 6-4 lead after Caden Miller scored on a wild pitch, while Tyler Glowacki (Santana) singled home Carrigg, who roped a base hit to right moments earlier and took second on a throw from the outfield.
The Aztecs were seemingly in control at this juncture, as reliever Avery Jones retired the first six batters he faced before inducing an inning-ending double play in the seventh following a leadoff walk and a strikeout.
However, the momentum shifted abruptly when Jones yielded consecutive singles to Joey Walls and Edarian Williams to start the eighth. Jonny Guzman was summoned from the bullpen, but Eric Bigani greeted the SDSU hurler with a three-run homer on a 1-2 pitch, putting the visitors in front to stay.
In all, the Rebels (9-7, 3-0 MW) sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning as Diego Alarcon added a two-run double while Hank Zeisler followed with an RBI single to extend the margin to 10-6.
The Aztecs quickly answered with two runs in their half of the eighth after pinch hitter Deron Johnson (Poway) smoked a double of the top of the fence in right-center field, while Kenny LeBeau drew a walk. Nick Rupp took the mound and received a flyout from Miller; however, Carrigg stepped to the plate and smashed a double to deep center, driving in Johnson and LeBeau, which narrowed the gap to 10-8.
Poncho Ruiz (Mater Dei Catholic) followed with a walk, but Rupp avoided further damage thanks to a pop foul near the bag at first.
SDSU had one last chance in the ninth when Glowacki walked and moved to second on Irvin Weems’ sacrifice. However, Rupp extinguished the threat by inducing a pop up and flyout for his second save of the season.
Despite allowing the two Aztec runs in the eighth, Noah Beal (2-0) was credited with the victory after giving up three hits and a walk in 3.0 innings of work. On the flip side, Guzman (0-2) took the loss after yielding Bigani’s blast in the top of the frame.
Series openerSDSU dropped last Friday’s MW opener, 5-2, to UNLV, which parlayed some timely hitting to snare the series opening victory. The Rebels vaulted in front to stay in the top of the seventh inning by scoring two runs with two outs before blasting a pair of solo home runs in the eighth and ninth innings to provide some added insurance.
The Aztecs were limited to just five hits on the night with Carrigg and Johnny Giannola finishing with two apiece.
The hosts opened the scoring in the first inning when Carrigg reached on an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and promptly raced home on Giannola’s triple down the left-field line.
Making his first appearance of the 2022 campaign, Aztec starter Troy Melton posted four strikeouts against one walk in two scoreless innings.
SDSU regained the lead in the sixth at 2-1 after Miller crossed the plate on Giannola’s double to left. Earlier, Miller led off with a walk and took second on Carrigg’s single before stealing third base.
However, a potentially big inning fizzled for the Aztecs, as Carrigg was picked off first, while Giannola and Ruiz, who drew a walk, were left stranded at second and third bases, respectively.
In the fateful seventh frame, the Rebels loaded the bases off T.J. Fondtain after Walls hit a leadoff single and stole second before Williams walked and Bigani was hit by a pitch. Reliever Ricky Tibbett (Eastlake) entered and quickly struck out pinch hitters Austin Pfeifer and Jason Sharman. After tossing three straight balls, the Aztec right-hander worked the count full to Charles, who promptly roped the next pitch up the middle for the go-ahead runs.
Close callThe Aztecs coughed up a 3-0 lead in Saturday’s second game as the Rebels scored four unanswered runs over the final four frames.
SDSU starting pitcher Kelena Sauer struck out a career-high nine batters but did not factor in the decision after going the first five innings while allowing one earned run.
Ruiz had three hits and two RBI to lead the Aztecs’ nine-hit attack. Carrigg had two hits and scored twice while Ruiz scored once.
Preseason picksThe Aztecs were pegged for a third-place finish in the 2022 Mountain West preseason poll, as selected by the league’s seven head coaches. Also, Melton earned a spot on the preseason all-conference team.
The Aztecs received a total of 25 points, trailing preseason favorite Nevada (36 points), which received six first-place votes, and second-place UNLV (29 points), which netted the remaining first-place vote. Fresno State landed in the fourth spot just behind SDSU with 23 points, while Air Force (15 points) was a distant fifth, followed by New Mexico (11 points) and San José State (7 points).
During the 2021 season, Melton posted a 4-5 record with a 6.14 ERA and a team-high 83 strikeouts, topping the Aztec staff with 15 starts while ranking second with 73.1 innings pitched.
A native of Anaheim, Melton finished among the Mountain West leaders in several categories last year, including strikeouts (second), innings pitched (fourth), opposing batting average (eighth – .291), wins (tied for 10th) and ERA (11th). The Aztec junior also issued one walk or less in eight of his appearances.
MLB4 tournamentSan Diego State opened its 83rd season of baseball competition when it traveled to the desert for the MLB4 Tournament, Feb. 18-20, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The three-day event took place at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the shared spring training home of the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Aztecs battled TCU in front of a national television audience via the MLB Network on in the tournament opener, falling 5-3 to the 17th-ranked Horned Frogs.
SDSU came up with a 4-3 win in its second game against Houston and dropped a 6-3 decision to the California Golden Bears in the tournament finale.
The Aztecs returned 16 letter-winners from last year’s squad that posted a 30-16 overall record and a 22-14 mark in the Mountain West. Among its regulars from last season, the Aztecs welcomed back designated hitter/left-handed pitcherBrian Leonhardt, infielderCaden Miller, utility playerCole Carrigg, starting pitcherTroy Meltonand fellow right-handerRicky Tibbett.
SDSU was the lone school in the MW to win 30 games in 2021, capturing series victories in 12 of 15 weeks during the regular season. The Aztecs finished second in the conference race behind Nevada.
Miller (.345) and Leonhardt (.305) both contributed to a prolific SDSU offense that finished second nationally in 2021 with a .335 team batting average and ranked third with 9.1 runs per game.
Leonhardt tied for third in the conference with 47 RBI.
SDSU’s Tyler Glowacki Named MW Baseball Freshman of the Week
From staff reports
San Diego State University’s Tyler Glowacki collected Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors, the league office announced on Monday.
In four starts, Glowacki led the Aztecs with a .375 batting average (6-for-16), six hits and a .500 on-base percentage.
Against Hawai’i on Feb. 28, the SDSU outfielder set career highs with three hits and two runs scored, though the Scarlet and Black dropped an 8-5 decision in 15 innings. In that contest, he singled and scored the tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning that sent the contest into extra innings.
An alumnus of Santana High School, Glowacki closed out the week with a 2-for-4 effort in the series finale against. Arizona State University on March 6, driving in the go-ahead run with a sharp single to center field in the sixth inning to help the Aztecs claim a 4-3 victory and snap a four-game losing streak.
In addition, Glowacki made three putouts without an error on the week for a clean 1.000 fielding percentage.
With his award, Glowacki received his first conference weekly certificate and SDSU’s third of the season after Alex Rodriguez garnered Freshman of the Week accolades on Feb. 21 and T.J. Fondtain merited Pitcher of the Week distinction on Feb. 28.