Sunday, May 26, 2013

Aztecs win! Aztecs win! Aztecs win! Aztecs win!

SDSU captures the 2013 Mountain West Conference Baseball Championship

In an age where information must be conveyed in 140 characters or less, what the San Diego State baseball team accomplished this week at the Mountain West Conference Championship can be communicated in eight:


SDSU defeated No. 16-ranked New Mexico 9-4 this afternoon in the winner-take-all finals, setting off a celebration as jubilant Aztecs players piled on top of one another on the mound at Fresno State’s Beiden Field.

Showing off the hardware after the hard work.
The Aztecs claimed the MWC Championship and the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals. It is SDSU’s first regionals berth since 2009 and the 10th postseason appearance in school history.

SDSU will find out where it’s headed and who the opponents are in its four-team regional when the entire 64-team field is announced Monday morning at 9 on the “Selection Show” televised by ESPNU. The 16 regional hosts were announced this afternoon. UCLA and Cal State Fullerton are the closest West Coast sites and one of the two is a likely destination for the Aztecs.

After losing their second game in the tournament Thursday to UNLV, the Aztecs had to win four straight games — against Fresno State, UNLV and twice against New Mexico — to claim the championship. And they did.

“The last four games, we can’t swing the bats any better,” said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn as the Aztecs were being presented with the championship trophy. “Pitching and defense had been our strength all season long, but we had trouble putting runs on the board. The last four games, it just doesn’t get any better.

“These guys earned it. We had to come from the loser’s bracket, but they put it together, and here we are.”

The task facing SDSU (31-29) when it arrived in Fresno six days ago was improbable — perhaps highly so — because it meant getting past a New Mexico team that led the country in offense and all but owned the Aztecs.

New Mexico (37-20) came into the tournament leading the nation in batting average (.338) and runs per game (8.56). They finished 10 games ahead of SDSU in the regular season, winning five of the six contests between the teams. Three of the losses came from being swept at home by the Lobos last weekend.

None of that mattered this weekend.

SDSU hung on for an 8-7 victory Saturday night, forcing Sunday’s decisive game. Players who had stepped up all weekend to bring the team through the loser’s bracket would be asked to do it one more game. And they did.

The final score hid what happened in the eighth, an inning-ending play at the plate that preserved a 5-4 Aztecs lead and prevented momentum from leaving them for the Lobos.

Remember this: Sheehan to Zier to Romanski.

It is now a part of Aztecs lore.

SDSU led 5-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, but New Mexico rallied for a run to make it 5-3 and still had two runners on base with two outs. New Mexico’s Jared Meek then doubled down the right-field line. One run scored to make it 5-4 and Alex Allbritton was being waved home.

SDSU right fielder Danny Sheehan chased down the ball and hit second baseman Tim Zier with his throw. Zier’s relay throw was a strike to catcher Jake Romanski, who blocked Allbritton off the plate as he made the tag.

Ty France
Most Outstanding Player
16-for-21, 8 RBI, 9 RS
How buoyed were the Aztecs by the play? They came out and scored four runs in the ninth inning — starting with freshman third baseman Ty France’s home run to left field.

The home run punctuated an amazing tournament for France, who was 16-for-21 over six games with eight RBIs and nine runs scored. He was named Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.

The ninth also included a two-run homer by Romanski and a run-scoring double by DH Brad Haynal, removing any doubt about a New Mexico comeback.

The five-run bulge may it easy to close out the game for reliever Ethan Miller, who set down the Lobos in order. He struck out New Mexico All-American D.J. Peterson to end the game.

That rewarded the efforts of starter Philip Walby, who was pitching on short rest after starting and winning the tournament opener Wednesday against Air Force. Walby went the first five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and a strikeout.

Ryan Doran, who went the distance in Friday’s win over Fresno State, relieved Walby and pitched the sixth, seventh and eighth, allowing two runs on four hits with four strikeouts.

The Aztecs trailed 2-1 through four innings before a three-run fifth — highlighted by France’s two-run double and a run-scoring single by Matt Munoz — gave them a 4-2 lead. SDSU added another run in the sixth to make it 5-2 when Danny Sheehan singled home teammate Greg Allen.

“Pitching and defense has been what we’ve live by all year, and now our offense is coming around,” said Doran. “We’re going to be a scary team to face in a regional. We’ve got to stay true to our pitching and defense. Like I’ve said all year, that’s what’s going to win championships.

“But our offense, I can’t be any more appreciative of those guys. They’ve stuck with us and we’ve stuck with them. That’s what we do. A team wins this game. Not one guy.”

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Aztecs force winner-take-all game for MWC title

Mike RoBards
There wasn't much drama Saturday afternoon in San Diego State's 6-2 victory over UNLV at the Mountain West Conference Championship.

SDSU saved all that for its game later in the evening against New Mexico, where the Aztecs hung on for a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat 8-7 victory over the Lobos at Fresno State's Beiden Field.

It forces a winner-take-all game Sunday at 1 p.m., where an NCAA Regionals berth will be awarded to the winner. The game can be viewed online at

Matt Munoz
New Mexico (37-19) scored three runs in the first inning — two of them coming on D.J. Peterson's two-run homer — and it appeared the Lobos would have their way with the Aztecs, just as they did five of the six times the teams met during conference play this season.

But SDSU (30-29) battled back and took an 8-5 lead through seven innings — much of the damage coming on Matt Munoz's three-run homer in the fifth and Ty France's solo homer in the seventh. France had himself quite a day, going 6-for-7 in the two games with four RBI and four runs scored.

Ty France
Critical was reliever Mike RoBards getting out of one bases-loaded jam in the eighth, when New Mexico scored a run to cut the lead to 8-6, then doing it again in the ninth, when he walked in a run before the Aztecs turned a game-ending double play.

RoBards (4-1) went the final 5.2 innings in relief of starter TJ Kendzora, allowing eight hits and three runs with six walks and four strikeouts. SDSU had 15 hits against the Lobos, with Munoz collecting four hits to go with his three RBI. Tim Zier added three hits.

The Aztecs looked to freshman closer Bubba Derby to get them to the MWC finals. The right-hander made his first collegiate start in SDSU's elimination game against UNLV, getting the win against the Rebels. Derby (4-3) allowed two runs on five hits over five innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Ethan Miller went the final four innings, checking UNLV on three hits to get the save.

SDSU had 17 hits in the game, with three each from France and Danny Sheehan leading the way. Zier, Munoz, Jake Romanski and Evan Potter each had two hits.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stayin' Alive — Aztecs beat Fresno State 4-0

San Diego State third baseman Ty France got right to the point after Friday’s 4-0 win over Mountain West Conference Tournament host Fresno State kept the Aztecs' tournament title hopes alive.

With their backs to the wall in the elimination game, the Aztecs handed the ball to senior right-hander Ryan Doran. He delivered a complete-game shutout, limiting the Bulldogs to seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. It was what the team has come to expect from Doran, who improved to 8-3 while lowering his team-leading ERA to 2.53.

SDSU (28-29) plays UNLV (37-19), which lost 7-1 to New Mexico in today's late game, for another elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. If the Aztecs beat UNLV, they would then play New Mexico (37-18) for the MWC Tournament title. SDSU would need to beat the Lobos twice to win it.

Against Fresno State, Doran allowed base runners in seven of nine innings, but only one advanced as far as third base and only one other made it as far as second.

Doran received all the run support he needed when the Aztecs scored a third-inning run with two outs. France and Brad Haynal singled and then Jake Romanski walked to load the bases for Evan Potter, whose grounder to third was fielded cleanly but dropped by Bulldogs first baseman Trent Garrison. That allowed France to score.

SDSU added a run in the fifth and made it 4-0 in the sixth on a two-out, two-run double by Greg Allen.

France had three of the Aztecs' nine hits in the game.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

UNLV hands Aztecs 6-3 loss in MWC Tournament

Everything was going according to plan for San Diego State through the first half of today's Mountain West Conference Tournament game against UNLV. The Aztecs led by two runs, ace Michael Cederoth was on the mound and the Rebels were on the ropes at Fresno State's Beiden Field.

That's when the wheels fell off. The Rebels rallied for five runs in the fifth inning on the way to a 6-3 victory over SDSU. The third-seeded Aztecs (27-29) now must come out of the loser's bracket if they are to win the tournament title and the automatic NCAA Regionals berth that comes with it.

SDSU plays an elimination game Friday at 3 p.m. against the winner of the morning's elimination game between fourth-seeded Fresno State and fifth-seeded Nevada. Second-seeded UNLV plays top-seeded New Mexico, a 7-3 winner over Nevada on Thursday night. Fresno State eliminated Air Force with a 6-4 win in today's early game.

The Aztecs struck quickly against UNLV, scoring a run in the first inning when leadoff hitter Greg Allen doubled and scored on a single by teammate Tim Zier. SDSU made it 2-0 when Brad Haynal singled to bring teammate Ryan Muno home from second base.

Cederoth (3-8) yielded just three singles through the first four innings. But he allowed the first five hitters he faced in the fifth to reach base — the comeback punctuated by Brandon Bayardi's grand slam. Ethan Miller came on in the sixth to relieve Cederoth, who allowed seven hits in five innings with seve strikeouts and two walks.

Allen and Muno each had two hits apiece for SDSU, which collected just seven hits overall. Haynal had two RBI.

SDSU (27-29) w

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Aztecs beat Air Force 15-6 in MWC Tourney opener

The Aztecs likely left eight to 10 wins on the table this season because of the offense's inability to get hits at key moments.

SDSU had no such problem in this afternoon's opening game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, pounding Air Force pitching during a 15-6 victory in Fresno.

"We did a better job of hitting with runners in scoring position," said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. "That's kind of been our bugaboo all season. We did a lot of things right today and, hopefully, we keep it going."

Third-seeded SDSU (27-28) meets second-seeded UNLV (36-18) on Thursday at 3 p.m. Top-seeded New Mexico (35-18) plays at 7 p.m. against fifth-seeded Nevada (25-30), a 4-3 winner in 12 innings over tournament host Fresno State (21-32). Air Force (15-38) plays Fresno State in Thursday's early game, with the loser eliminated from the double-elimination tournament.

The tournament champion receives the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Against Air Force, SDSU junior right-hander Philip Walby (4-3) allowed two runs in the first inning, then settled in. Walby went eight innings, allowing five runs with four strikeouts and one walk.

SDSU's 16-hit attack was led by second baseman Tim Zier, who was 4-for-5 with two RBI, and first baseman Ryan Muno, who was 2-for-5 with four RBI. Teammates Greg Allen and John Spirk each added two hits and two RBI.

Aztecs head into Mountain West Tournament

Third-seeded San Diego State (26-28) opens the Mountain West Conference Tournament against sixth-seeded Air Force (13-37) this afternoon in Fresno.

The winner of the double-elimination tournament receives the conference's automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Tournament.

Regular season champion New Mexico (35-18) comes in as the top-seeded tournament favorite. The No. 2 seed went to UNLV (36-18). Third-seeded Fresno State (21-31) is the tournament host. Fourth-seeded Nevada (24-30) rounds out the field.

Here's a glance at how this sets up for the Aztecs:

Junior right-hander Philip Walby (3-3, 3.60 ERA) out of this past weekend’s series against New Mexico in order to save him for the Falcons. Walby and sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth (3-7, 3.87 ERA) are both power pitchers who can dominate any team, especially when they keep walks to a minimum. Cederoth is expected to start the team’s second game, which, barring an upset, will be against No. 2 seed UNLV. It is an opportunity for college baseball fans to see a pitcher who touches 100 mph and is expected to be a first-round draft pick in 2014. Senior right-hander Ryan Doran (7-2, 2.78 ERA) was the team’s most effective pitcher and would get the start against No. 1 New Mexico if things play out as planned. Doran does not have the velocity of Walby and Cederoth, but he knows how to pitch and the results speak for themselves. Sophomore left-hander Mike RoBards (3-1, 3.47 ERA) emerged as a midweek starter and adds depth to the tournament rotation. Right-handers Ethan Miller (4-3, 3.76 ERA) and Justin Hepner (1-1, 3.82 ERA) are the key middle relievers who will be called upon to build the bridge between the starters and freshman closer Bubba Derby (3-3, 3.82 ERA, 10 SV). Derby emerged during the season-opening sweep of cross-town rival USD, saving two of the three games in the series. He is mature beyond his years, goes right after hitters and is among the nation’s top young closers.

The offense has been the biggest reason for the team’s .500 season. The players batted a collective .264 and produced five runs a game. Most critical was the lack of timely hits, especially in some early-season pitching duels where one hit may have made the difference between winning and losing. The team scored three runs or fewer its first 11 losses and 22 of 28 losses overall. The offense did have its moments and, if it gets hot this week, could take the team to the tournament title. There is not a lot of power (just 13 home runs), but good speed (79 stolen bases). Key hitters in the lineup are second baseman Tim Zier (.333, 37 RBI, 14 SB), first baseman Ryan Muno (.321, 4 HR, 39 RBI), catcher Jake Romanski (.316, 27 RBI), center fielder Greg Allen (.283, ), third baseman Ty France (.263, 3 HR, 27 RBI) and DH/catcher Brad Haynal (.236, 3 HR, 24 RBI).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Six Aztecs earn all-Mountain West honors

Ryan Doran
Tim Zier
Six San Diego State players were named to the all-Mountain West Conference team, led by first-team selections Tim Zier and Ryan Doran.

Zier batted .350 in conference play. The junior second baseman was among the top eight in the conference in seven categories, including batting average, hits, triples, runs scored and stolen bases.

Doran was 5-1 in conference with a 2.44 ERA. The senior right-hander ranked third in the conference in ERA and strikeouts.

Senior catcher Jake Romanski, sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth, sophomore first baseman Ryan Muno and freshman right-hander  Bubba Derby all earned second-team honors. Romanski's defense, along with a .270 average and 19 RBI in conference, set him apart. Cederoth led the conference in strikeouts (72 in 60.2 IP) and his .211 opponent batting after was third- lowest. Muno batted .343 in MWC play with 30 RBI. Derby led the conference with 10 saves.