Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Aztecs end losing streak with win over Santa Clara

San Diego State employs sophomore center fielder Greg Allen in the leadoff spot to get things started, but Allen came up in a couple situations Wednesday afternoon that helped the Aztecs finish off Santa Clara 7-4 and end a five-game losing streak.

Greg Allen boosts his
batting average to .333.
Santa Clara won Tuesday's first game of the two-game midweek series 12-3, but Allen stepped up Wednesday with four hits and four RBI in the victory. His two-run single in the fourth inning gave SDSU a 4-1 lead. Allen had another two-run single i a three-run seventh inning that boosted the Aztec advantage to 7-1.

It was a lead SDSU (4-5) needed when Santa Clara (4-5) responded with three runs of its own in the bottom of the eighth on a three-run homer by Matt Ozanne. The Aztecs put any thoughts of a Broncos comeback to rest when they brought in freshman closer Bubba Derby with one out in the eighth.

Derby walked the first hitter he faced, Casey Munoz, but then he struck out Zach Looney and catcher Brad Haynal threw out Munoz trying to steal second to get out of the inning.

Derby retired the Broncos in order in the ninth. He struck out C.J. Jacobe looking, then got Kyle DeMerritt on a grounder to third base before striking out Stephen Takahashi looking to end the game. Derby earned his third save of the season.

Ethan Miller picks up
his second win in relief.
SDSU collected 12 hits in the contest, with Jake Romanski (three hits) and Haynal (two hits, two RBI) joining Allen with multiple-hit games. It was Haynal's two-run double in the first inning — after singles by Allen and John Spirk — that staked the Aztecs to an early 2-0.

Senior right-hander Travis Pitcher made his first start of the season for SDSU, but was relieved with two outs in the second inning by senior right-hander Ethan Miller after Santa Clara had cut the Aztecs' lead to 2-1 and put two more runners on base.

Miller (2-0) struck out Kert Woods to end the second inning, then pitched four more shutout innings before giving way to junior right-hander Justin Hepner in the seventh. Miller allowed just three hits over 4.1 innings with five strikeouts and one walk.

The Aztecs return home for a three-game weekend series Friday-Sunday against Seton Hall at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Pirates are off to an 0-5 start following two losses to North Carolina and three losses to East Tennessee State. The first 500 fans at Friday night's opener will receive Tony Gwynn Jr. replica jersey shirts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tuesday/Wednesday: Aztecs travel to Santa Clara

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — One of the good things about baseball is that when you struggle in a game or a series an opportunity to put it behind you comes quickly.

TJ Kendzora
After being swept by Oregon State in a four-game series over the weekend, San Diego State (3-4) travels to Santa Clara (3-4) for games Tuesday and Wednesday against the Broncos. Santa Clara lost two of three games over the weekend to Illinois-Chicago. The Aztecs hold a 15-14 edge in the all-time series. The teams have not met since 2010, when SDSU won three games in a four-game series played at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

SDSU junior right-hander TJ Kendzora (0-0) and senior right-hander Travis Pitcher (0-0) will be the starting pitchers Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, against the Broncos. It is the first start this season for each pitcher, although they combined to make 17 starts for the Aztecs last year. Kendzora has logged one inning of relief so far. Pitcher has totaled 3.2 innings in two relief appearances. Santa Clara is expected to start senior right-hander Tommy Nance (0-0) in one of the games, but the Broncos haven't named their other starter.

Travis Pitcher
The Aztecs will be looking to get the offense going again after scoring just two runs against Oregon State. SDSU is batting a collective .233. Catcher/DH Brad Haynal leads the team with a .357 (10 for 28) batting average is the only active player hitting over .300 on the team, although center fielder Greg Allen (.286) and second baseman Tim Zier (.286) are only a hit away.

The Santa Clara roster includes two local players — junior outfielder Casey Munoz (Cathedral Catholic) and junior right-hander DJ Zapata (Mission Hills). Munoz has started seven games in right field for the Broncos, batting .424 with eight RBI. Zapata (0-1) has made three relief appearances totaling three innings.

The Aztecs return home for a three-game weekend series Friday-Sunday against Seton Hall at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Pirates are off to an 0-5 start following two losses to North Carolina and three losses to East Tennessee State. The first 500 fans at Friday night's opener will receive Tony Gwynn Jr. replica jersey shirts.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oregon State completes sweep of SDSU with 7-1 win

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Oregon State rode an early four-run lead against San Diego State to a 7-1 victory over the Aztecs, completing a four-game sweep of the series on a windy Sunday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The No. 6-ranked Beavers (8-0) limited SDSU to two runs in the series, which included shutouts in the second and third games of the series.

SDSU freshman right-hander Cody Thompson, making his collegiate debut, allowed five hits and five runs with four walks and no strikeouts before he was relieved by Ethan Miller with one out in the third inning.

The Beavers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, loading the bases with two outs before Jeff Hendrix delivered a two-run single up the middle. SDSU third baseman Ty France's first-inning single off Oregon State starter Clay Bauer scored teammate Tim Zier from second base, ending a 21-inning scoreless streak for the No. 22-ranked Aztecs (3-4) and making it 2-1.

Oregon State loaded the bases in the third inning on doubles by Dylan Davis and Danny Hayes and a walk to Hendrix before Kavin Keyes drove in two runs with a double to left-center. Miller hit a batter after replacing Thompson, then walked Andy Peterson to force in a run that made it 5-1.

The Beavers added single runs in the sixth and ninth innings to complete the scoring.

Oregon State pulled Bauer two outs into the second inning. He was replaced by right-hander Bandon Jackson, who scattered four hits over the next 4.1 innings before allowing Steven Pallares and Avondre Bollar to reach base leading off the seventh. The Beavers went to the bullpen again. Right-hander Scott Schultz came on and induced first baseman John Spirk to hit a double-play grounder, then got out of the inning on Danny Sheehan's ground ball to second base.

The Aztecs leave town for the first time this season when they travel to Santa Clara for games Tuesday and Wednesday against the Broncos. The team then returns for a three-game weekend series against Seton Hall at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The first 500 fans at Friday night's opener will receive Tony Gwynn Jr. replica jersey shirts.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Aztecs shut out again by Oregon State

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego State suffered its second straight shutout loss against No. 6-ranked Oregon State, falling 5-0 on Saturday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The teams were locked in a pitchers duel for the second straight game, with the contest scoreless through the first five innings. At that point, SDSU starting pitcher Ryan Doran had allowed three hits — singles in the first and fourth innings and a double in the second. Oregon State counterpart Andrew Moore allowed just one hit — a two-out double by Jake Romanski in the second inning — through five innings.

Oregon State (7-0) broke the game open in the sixth inning, scoring four runs on four hits and an error. Four of the first five batters in the inning singled off Doran (1-1), who departed with the score 1-0, the bases loaded and one out.

Aztecs reliever Justin Hepner walked the first two batters he faced, forcing in two runs to make it 3-0. SDSU catcher Jake Romanski then made a pickoff throw to third base, but the ball went through the glove of third baseman Ty France for an error. That allowed the Beavers' Jerad Casper to score and make it 4-0. Oregon State added one run in the eighth off the Aztecs' Travis Pitcher to complete the scoring.

No. 22-ranked SDSU (3-3) never could get anything going against Moore (2-0), who allowed just one other hit — a single to Tim Zier in the seventh — while striking out two without allowing a walk over 8.1 innings. Moore retired 13 straight batters in between Romanski's second-inning double and Zier's single. Oregon State's Tony Bryant came on to get the final two outs for the Beavers.

Oregon State pitchers have walked just one batter over 27 innings in the series' first three games. The Beavers won Friday night's game by a 2-0 score. It is the first time Oregon State has posted back-to-back shutouts since they did it to Rice at the 2006 at the College World Series.

SDSU and Oregon State conclude the four-game series Sunday at noon at Tony Gwynn  Stadium. The Aztecs are expected to send freshman right-hander Cody Thompson to the mound for his first collegiate start.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Oregon State edges Aztecs 2-0 in pitching duel

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego State junior Philip Walby earned a spot as the Aztecs' No. 2 starting pitcher during the fall when the hard-throwing right-hander displayed improved command and presence on the mound.

Walby's development was evident Friday night against Oregon State during a pitching duel won by the No. 6-ranked Beavers, who defeated the Aztecs 2-0 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The game was scoreless into the eighth inning before Oregon State pushed across a pair of runs on two-out hits by Danny Hayes and Dylan Davis. Oregon State (6-0) remained unbeaten while handing No. 22-ranked SDSU (3-2) its second straight loss.

Aztecs senior right-hander Ryan Doran (1-0) is scheduled to start Saturday at 1 p.m. in the third game of the four-game series.

Walby (0-1), who did not allow a hit until the sixth inning, pitched 7.2 innings against Oregon State. He allowed just two hits while walking two with nine strikeouts. Both walks came in the first inning, but Walby got a double-play grounder to get out of the inning. He hit two batters in the third inning, but got out of that predicament with a strikeout, ground out and a popup.

Walby then sailed along until the eighth, when the Beavers' Max Gordon led off with a single. Gordon was sacrificed to second and went to third on an infield out before Hayes scored him with a single to left field. Hayes advanced to third base moments later on a two-base throwing error by SDSU catcher Brad Haynal. Hayes then scored on a double by Davis.

Oregon State starting pitcher Matt Boyd (2-0) matched Walby inning-for-inning, and then some. Boyd kept the Aztecs off the scoreboard for 8.1 innings before teammate Scott Schultz came on to get the final two outs for the shutout.

Boyd, who allowed five hits, struck out nine and walked one, allowed jut two hits over the first six innings.

Both Aztecs hits came in the third inning — a double by Avondre Bollar and a single by John Spirk — but failed to produce a run. In the seventh, Haynal hit a two-out single to left field and advanced to second when the ball was misplayed. Teammate Ty France followed with a walk and Steven Pallares had an infield single to load the bases. The Beavers got out of the inning, however, when Bollar hit a grounder to shortstop that was used to force out Pallares at second base.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Aztecs' win streak ends in 8-1 loss to Oregon State

DH Brad Haynal had three hits for the Aztecs against Oregon State.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego State's three-game winning streak to open the season came to an end in Thursday night's home opener at Tony Gwynn Stadium with a 8-1 loss to No. 6-ranked Oregon State.

The No. 6-ranked Beavers (5-0) broke open a one-run game in the seventh inning, scoring five runs off the Aztecs' bullpen. Oregon State benefited from one error while collecting five hits off Aztecs relievers Ethan Miller and TJ Kendzora.

"This was hard, with all the momentum we had from last week beating our crosstown rival," said DH Brad Haynal, who led the Aztecs with three hits. "As good of a team that they were, we thought we would come out here and keep it rolling. Just couldn't get it done tonight.

"Tomorrow's a new day. We're still a team and looking forward to getting some tomorrow. These guys are good, but we'll be better. We know what we did wrong tonight. Hopefully, we can go home, sleep it off and come back tomorrow and fix it."

The four-game series resumes Friday at 6 p.m. at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Junior right-hander Philip Walby is scheduled to start on the mound for the Aztecs.

No. 22-ranked SDSU (3-1) had a chance to grab the lead in the second inning when Matt Munoz was hit by a pitch from Oregon State starting pitcher Dan Child (2-0) and Jake Romanski followed with a single to right field. One out later Mitch Bluman reached on an error by Oregon State left fielder Michael Conforto to load the bases. But Evan Potter hit into an inning-ending double play to end the threat.

SDSU sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth (1-1) limited Oregon State to just two hits and struck out six over the first six innings, but five walks played a part in the Beavers taking a 2-0 lead.

Oregon State scored the game's first run in the third inning when Andy Peterson came home on Conforto's sacrifice fly to left field. Two walks pushed Peterson to third after he had singled with two outs. The Beavers scored again in the sixth when Danny Hayes led off with a walk, moved to second on a wild pitch and later scored on Jake Rodriguez's sacrifice fly to left.

The Aztecs had an opportunity to get even in the bottom of the sixth when they loaded the bases with no outs on back-to-back-to-back singles by Greg Allen, Tim Zier and Brad Haynal. Child struck out Ty France before the Aztecs made it 2-1 on a fielders choice by pinch hitter Steven Pallares. Romanski's fly out to right field ended the inning before SDSU could score again.

Oregon State's five-run seventh represented more runs in one inning off the SDSU bullpen than the staff allowed all weekend at USD. The bullpen allowed but two runs in 12.2 innings against the Toreros.

The Beavers added one run in the ninth inning of left-hander Brandon Thomas to complete the scoring.

"We had opportunities early and we didn't cash them in," said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. "We executed really well last weekend. This first game here we really didn't execute. First and second, nobody out and we couldn't get a bunt down. Bases loaded and we hit into a double play. Hopefully, these guys will learn from this game."

This week: Oregon State (4-0) at Aztecs (3-0)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Although it has been six years since Oregon State won back-to-back NCAA championships — becoming the first school from the Northwest to win the College World Series — the Beavers remain among the nation's elite programs.

Oregon State (4-0) comes to town ranked No. 6 in the nation by Baseball America, so the Beavers pose another strong early-season test for SDSU (3-0).

This week's schedule, probable pitching matchups and other items of interest:

Thursday — Oregon State RHP Dan Child (1-0, 3.60 ERA) vs. SDSU RHP Michael Cederoth (1-0, 1.80), 6 p.m.

Friday — Oregon State LHP Matt Boyd (1-0, 1.69) vs. SDSU RHP Philip Walby (0-0, 2.70), 6 p.m.

Saturday — Oregon State RHP Andrew Moore (1-0, 1.69) vs. SDSU RHP Ryan Doran (1-0, 3.00), 1 p.m.

Sunday — Oregon State TBA vs. SDSU RHP Cody Thompson (0-0), 12 p.m.

The most noticeable difference between last week's series against USD and this week against Oregon State will be the absence of sophomore first baseman Ryan Muno, who suffered a broken hand in Tuesday's practice and will be out of the lineup for at least the next 3-4 weeks. Senior John Spirk and junior Mitch Bluman will serve as a right-lefty platoon in place of Muno. ... Sophomore center fielder Greg Allen (.528), junior second baseman Tim Zier (.429, 7 RBI), sophomore DH Brad Haynal (.385, 3 RBI) and freshman third baseman Ty France (.333) sparked the offense against USD.

Harding-throwing RHPs Michael Cederoth and Philip Walby both kept USD off balance in the first two games of the series, but will look to limit walks in their outings this week after allowing five walks apiece against the Toreros. ... Freshman closer Bubba Derby earned two saves against the Toreros with ninth-inning theatrics on both occasions. Derby extricated himself from a second-and-third, no outs situation on Saturday. He came into a bases-loaded, no outs situation on Sunday and got out of that as well — striking out the side to do it. ... The four-game series against the Beavers provides an opportunity for freshman RHP Cody Thompson to make his collegiate debut.

— It is Aaron Harang jersey night on Thursday, with the first 500 fans in attendance receiving a replica jersey shirt from his era at SDSU. Harang, a Patrick Henry High graduate, pitched for the Aztecs from 1997-99. He reached the major leagues with Oakland in 2002, spent most of his career with Cincinnati, pitched for the Padres in 2011 and this year begins his second season with the Dodgers.
— Oregon State is 7-6-1 all-time against the Aztecs, although just 2-5-1 at Tony Gwynn Stadium. SDSU posted one of the year's most lopsided wins last season in an 18-2 home victory over the Beavers. Spirk, catcher Jake Romanski and outfielder Avondre Bollar each collected three RBI in the game. Cederoth was credited with the victory after three innings of one-run relief.
— The Beavers opened the season last week in the Palm Springs Tournament with a win over Utah Valley and Gonzaga and two victories over UC Riverside.
— Baseball America's Aaron Fitt reports that Oregon State LHP Ben Wetzler could return to the mound in a limited capacity this week after missing the opening weekend with a tight back. The junior was 8-2 last season with a 3.10 ERA.
— SDSU's sweep of USD earned the Aztecs a spot in the national rankings this week, checking in at No. 22 in Collegiate Baseball newspaper's Top 30.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ryan Muno sidelined with broken hand

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego State sophomore first baseman Ryan Muno suffered a broken right hand in practice on Tuesday and initial concerns were that he could be sidelined up to two months.

Ryan Muno
Muno visited his doctor Wednesday morning and was encouraged afterward to report that the doctor said he could return in as soon as 3-4 weeks if everything goes well. There was some discussion of having surgery, but it was decided to allow the injury to heal on its own.

Muno said he had a displacement of the fifth metacarpal (the bone of the little finger). His doctor numbed the area around the injury and then "popped it back into place," said Muno. He was fitted with a specialized brace/cast that will keep the bone in place for proper healing.

"It's definitely not a good time to get hurt," said Muno, "but there's a lot of guys behind me who will pick me up. ... It's just a matter of getting better and getting back out there."

Muno batted .308 (4-for-13) with two RBI in SDSU's season-opening sweep of USD over the weekend. The sophomore from La Quinta was second on the team last season with four HR and had 19 RBI.

The Aztecs plan to use senior John Spirk and junior Mitch Bluman in a righty-lefty platoon at first base in Muno's absence. Spirk made 27 starts last season and batted .234 with four HR and 21 RBI. Bluman, a left-handed pitcher who made 18 appearances on the mound last season, was not used as a hitter last year. He has impressed coaches with the bat during fall and spring practices to earn a chance in the field and at the plate.

"We'll be fine," said SDSU associate head coach Mark Martinez. "We'll have some good players who will pick up where Ryan left off."

SDSU's home opener is Thursday at 6 p.m., when the Aztecs open a four-game series against Oregon State.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Zier, Derby earn Mountain West Conference honors

San Diego State second baseman Tim Zier and right-hander Bubba Derby have earned Mountain West Conference baseball Player and Pitcher of the Week honors for games for their performances in the Aztecs' season-opening series at USD.

Zier, a junior from Escondido High, batted .429 (6-of-14) and collected seven RBI in the three-game series. He had SDSU's first RBI in each game. Zier also was perfect in the field on 15 chances with five putouts and 10 assists.

Derby, a freshman from Monrovia, earned two saves in the three-game series. In his collegiate debut, Derby protected a 4-2 lead after allowing the first two hitters in the ninth to reach second and third with no outs. He struck out the next batter before getting a ground ball to first that turned into a double play to end the game. In Sunday's 5-3 victory, Derby was called out of the bullpen in the ninth with a two-run lead, the bases loaded and no outs. He struck out the next three batters, the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in the USD lineup, to preserve the win. In two innings of work, Derby allowed two hits and struck out four batters.

Aztecs ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — San Diego State's three-game, season-opening sweep of USD over the weekend earned the Aztecs recognition from Collegiate Baseball newspaper, which ranked the Aztecs No. 22 in its Top 30 poll — full poll here — released Monday.

The Aztecs (3-0) opened the season Friday with an 8-1 win over USD at the Toreros' new Fowler Park. SDSU followed that with a 4-2 win on Saturday and a 5-3 win on Sunday. Junior Justin Hepner earned a four-inning save in the first win and freshman closer Bubba Derby picked up saves in the other two victories.

The top hitting performances in the series were turned in by center fielder Greg Allen (.538, 5 runs), second baseman Tim Zier (.429, 7 RBI), DH Brad Haynal (.385, 3 RBI), third baseman Ty France (.333) and first baseman Ryan Muno (.308).

The SDSU bullpen allowed just two runs in 12.2 innings of relief work.

The Aztecs play their home opener Thursday at 6 p.m. at Tony Gwynn Stadium when they open a four-game series against Oregon State (3-0), which is ranked No. 9 in the nation by Collegiate Baseball. The Beavers opened the season with three victories — against Utah Valley, Gonzaga and UC Riverside — in the Palm Springs Tournament. They play UC Riverside again Monday before heading to San Diego.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Aztecs complete sweep of USD with 5-3 victory

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — How sweep it is.

San Diego State's 5-3 victory over USD on Sunday afternoon at Fowler Park completed a three-game, season-opening sweep for the Aztecs.

SDSU freshman closer Bubba Derby got out of a bases loaded, no outs jam in the ninth inning by striking out the side — USD's second, third and fourth hitters in the batting order, no less — to save the game and put an exclamation point on the weekend.

Bubba Derby
"And I thought last night was crazy," said Derby, who got out of a similar predicament in Saturday night's game. "It was intense. I just had to keep my composure and do what I had to do and throw strikes. The coaches were counting on me in a crucial situation, so I didn't want to let them down.

"The guys worked so hard this weekend and to let something like this happen was not on my things to do.

Derby started each batter he faced with two strikes.

"That's the name of the game," said Derby. "Just throw strikes."

SDSU junior second baseman Tim Zier, who collected six hits and seven RBI in the series, said this team, while still young, may be coming of age this season.

"This opening series showed a lot of character for our team," said Zier. "Hopefully, we can keep it going as we go forward. ... This builds a lot of confidence as a team and shows that we all pick each other up."

SDSU coach Tony Gwynn didn't know how realistic it was to expect three wins this weekend against the No. 12-ranked team in the nation, but he knew the Aztecs were prepared for success.

Tim Zier
"I felt like our guys were ready," said Gwynn. "This weekend proves that. They didn't really get caught up in all the hype. They just concentrated on doing what they needed to do.

"We're going to improve. We're going to pitch better. We're going to play better defense. We're going to swing the bats better. I just really came away from this weekend impressed with the way these guys hung together.

"That ninth inning was a great example, bases loaded, nobody out. We bring a freshman in to get us out of a jam and he comes in and throws strikes. We preached to these guys that execution is the key thing and that's what we did this weekend. We were able to execute, they weren't and we come away with three Ws."

For the first time in the series, the Aztecs didn't get their offense going at the start of the game. USD left-hander Max McNabb pitched to the minimum over the first two innings.

The bottom of the SDSU batting order got things started in the third, however, when catcher Jake Romanski and right fielder Avondre Bollar opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Center fielder Greg Allen walked one out later to load the bases for second baseman Tim Zier.

Zier brought home two runs with a single to left field. The throw from the outfield was off target, Allen moved up to third base and then came home on another throw when Toreros catcher Dillon Haupt tried to get Zier moving up to second base.

SDSU made it 4-0 in the fourth when Ty France reached on an error to open the inning, then came around to score on Bollar's two-out triple to the gap in right-center.

Senior right-hander Ryan Doran (1-0) kept USD in check through four innings before the Toreros pushed two runs across in the fifth inning. Doran went six innings before being relieved, allowing two runs, six hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

The Aztecs added an insurance run in the sixth when third France doubled in DH Brad Haynal to make it 5-2. USD got the run back in the seventh off reliever Travis Pitcher. Justin Hepner retired the Toreros in order in the eighth inning. Hepner, who got a four-inning save in Friday's 8-1 win, ran into trouble when he returned in the ninth, however.

Hepner allowed a leadoff single, hit a batter, then walked one, loading the bases with no outs. The Aztecs went to the bullpen at that point and summoned Derby. The right-hander got himself out of a similar jam — runners at second and third with no outs — in Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Toreros.

Derby went right to work, getting two quick strikes on USD's Louie Lechich. An inside fastball followed for a ball before Derby struck out Lechich on an offspeed pitch. Next up was USD All-American third baseman Kris Bryant. Again Derby got ahead 0-2 before striking out Bryant as well. First baseman Connor Joe represented the Toreros' last chance. Derby started him with two strikes.

At this point, USD coach Rich Hill called time and called Joe and the players on the bases over for a brief meeting. Joe then got back in the box. And Derby promptly struck him out to end the game.

The Aztecs return to action Thursday night at 6 p.m. when they open a four-game series against Oregon State at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thrilling finish highlights Aztecs' 4-2 win over USD

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A San Diego State fan walking along the concourse during Saturday night's SDSU-USD game at the Toreros' Fowler Park said: "We don't lose night games here."

And he was right.

SDSU defeated the Toreros for the second straight night — the wins coming in the only two night games ever played at USD.

This was a 4-2 victory that didn't go into the books until a little ninth-inning drama played out, however.

Bubba Derby
After nearly five innings of outstanding relief, senior Ethan Miller handed over a two-run lead in the ninth to freshman closer Bubba Derby, who was making his collegiate debut. It would have been memorable occasion for Derby regardless, but this wasn't exactly how he had it scripted when the right-hander took the mound to finish the game.

Here's how it unfolded:

USD's Dillon Haupt opened the inning with a single and teammate Louie Lechich followed with a double. Just like that the Toreros had the tying runs sitting at second and third base, respectively.

But Derby kept his composure. He struck out Chris Woolley for the first out.

Then came the play of the game. Austin Bailey hit a grounder toward first that hugged the line and somehow stayed fair. SDSU first baseman Ryan Muno fielded the ball and stepped on the bag for the second out. It seemed USD would pick up a run on the play, but pinch runner Grant Melker stayed at third. Lechich broke from second, however, creating a crowd at third base. So Melker had to come home. Muno's throw to catcher Jake Romanski was on target, Romanski's tag was on Melker and just like that the game was over.

"That's the game of baseball, right?" Derby said after being mobbed on the mound by his teammates following his first save. "I tried to stay as calm as possible. In situations like that, when the game is on the line, you've got runners at second and third, no outs, you've got to do what you can. ..."

"My heart just leapt. It was probably one of the most nerve-wracking moments I've ever had to pitch in. When that last out was made, I felt like I won some kind of championship."

Ethan Miller
SDSU coach Tony Gwynn said with Miller pitching so well it was not an easy decision making a pitching change in the ninth.

"He was really rolling and I really struggled there with whether to take him out or leave him in," said Gwynn. "But we decided to make Derby the closer, so we put him in there to see how he does. Right away you were ready to start pulling your hair out. But you know what, he really settled down and made some really good pitches at the end."

The teams conclude the three-game series Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fowler Park. SDSU plans to send senior right-hander Ryan Doran to the mound against USD left-hander Louie Lechich.

Saturday's game began much the same as Friday night's 8-1 victory over the No. 12-ranked Toreros, with the Aztecs getting something started from the first batter.

In fact, SDSU opened the game with four straight hits off USD right-hander Michael Wagner, scoring two runs in the first inning for the second straight night. Center fielder Greg Allen led off with a sharp double to right field and second baseman Tim Zier followed with an RBI single. After first baseman Ryan Muno singled, DH Brad Haynal singled to left field to score Zier.

SDSU added another run in the fifth when Allen hit a one-out single to left, stole second base and then scored on Zier's single to left-center. Muno followed with the inning's third straight single, but the Aztecs were not able to expand further on their 3-1 lead.

Junior right-hander Philip Walby started for the Aztecs and did not allow a hit in his  3.1 innings of work. That USD pushed a run across in the third inning was due more to the four walks Walby issued in the inning than anything the Toreros did with the bats.

USD didn't get its first hit of the game until third baseman Kris Bryant's two-out double that one-hopped the wall in the fifth inning. Senior right-hander Ethan Miller, who relieved Walby with one out in the fourth, allowed the hit and then an RBI single to first baseman Connor Joe that made it 3-2. But Miller didn't budge after that.

An insurance run in the seventh for the Aztecs provided a little more room for Miller, who allowed three hits with six strikeouts and no walks over 4 2/3 innings.

"I felt good," said Miller. "I had been preparing. (Reliever) Bryan Crabb and I had worked real hard together. We've been here for four years and have experience on our side, so it helped a lot. Bryan was in the dugout talking me through it. ... Hopefully, we can get on a roll here and start winning some games. It feels really good.

"They're a really good team, they're ranked pretty high, so it's a good test for us to see where we're at. And it's nice because of all the hard work we've put into it."

The efforts of Miller and Derby, along with four shutout innings by Justin Hepner in the opener, meant the bullpen had allowed but one run over 9 2/3 innings of work in two games.

Allen again led the hitting, collecting three hits (making him 7-for-10 in the series) while scoring three runs. Muno also had three hits. Zier had two hits and two RBI.

"Things are going good right now," said Gwynn. "Guys are making good decisions, stepping up and getting it done. Hopefully, we can continue that."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Aztecs open season with 8-1 win over USD

SDSU's Greg Allen awaits the first pitch from USD's Dylan Covey.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — USD opened beautiful new Fowler Park to much fanfare and a sellout crowd of more than 1,700 Friday night, but it was the Aztecs who made themselves at home in a season-opening 8-1 victory.

SDSU junior second baseman Tim Zier had three hits and three RBI, sophomore DH Brad Haynal had three hits and two RBI and junior center fielder Greg Allen added four singles to lead the Aztecs' 14-hit attack. Sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth pitched the first five innings for the win. Junior right-hander Justin Hepner came on in relief and shut out USD over the game's final four innings.

"It felt great," said Zier. "That's probably my favorite win in my career so far. Just to come here and take tonight away from them was a lot of fun.

"I was impressed with everybody. We really calmed the game down and just played our game and didn't let the fans or the lights or anything get the best of us."

The teams continue the three-game series Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Fowler Park. Junior right-hander Philip Walby (Scripps Ranch High) is the scheduled starter for the Aztecs against USD junior right-hander Michael Wagner.

Allen opened the game with an infield single off USD starting pitcher Dylan Covey, beating shortstop Logan Davis' throw by a half step. Allen scored all the way from first moments later when Zier carved a ball just inside the third-base bag for an RBI double. Haynal, excited to get back on the field after missing all but four games last season with a broken leg, followed with an RBI double of his own to deep right field. That gave the Aztecs a 2-0 lead just four batters into the game.

The Aztecs added a run in the second inning on an RBI single by Zier. They made it 4-0 in the third when Haynal stroked his second double of the game, this one lined to the wall in left-center, then scored on a single by sophomore left fielder Matt Munoz.

Cederoth wasn't as sharp as he would prefer, walking five batters over the first three innings. But Cederoth followed walks with timely strikeouts — six in the first three innings — to get himself out of any potential predicaments.

USD didn't get its first hit off Cederoth until one out in the fourth inning on Dillon Haupt's single to center field. Lucas Hagberg's two-out single put runners at first and second, but USD's Austin Bailey grounded out to second base to end the threat.

USD threatened again in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs on a hit batter, single and walk. But the Toreros managed just one run to make it 6-1. Cederoth escaped by getting USD third baseman Kris Bryant on an infield popup before Haupt hit a grounder that freshman third baseman Ty France turned into an inning-ending double play.

SDSU added another run in the sixth to make it 7-1 and completed the scoring in the ninth when Haynal capped his return with an RBI triple.

"Allen and Zier really set the table," said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. "They really moved the ball around. They weren't set on hitting it any one way. ... Brad Haynal, for sitting out a whole year, I thought he was extremely sharp."

Cederoth departed after the fifth having allowed one run with six strikeouts and five walks.

"My defense was awesome," said Cederoth. "There were some areas where I needed some defense and it was there. Ty France's unbelievable glove, (catcher) Jake Romanski with his arm. That was unbelievable. To have those guys back there, I knew that I could just throw strikes. I didn't have to do too much. That really helped knowing those guys were there behind me.

"Every aspect of the game we played today — hitting, pitching, defense — all just collected and won it for us."

Hepner, who struck out the first four hitters he faced, limited the Toreros to two hits while striking out five on the way to earning a four-inning save.

"You couldn't help but come into this game looking at it as a big game, in the sense that, new ballpark, national TV audience, big crowd," said Gwynn. "I thought (Cederoth) handled it pretty good. And I thought our guys handled this whole situation pretty good. We came out and did the things we wanted to do."

Now they just have to do it again. And again.

"We feel real good about how we played tonight, but we can't get caught up in it," said Gwynn. "Tomorrow's another day. ...

"As I told them tonight, tomorrow the realization will hit them that they've got 55 more (regular season games). So you just maintain the course. It's about execution. The guys who execute are probably going to be the guys who win."

Opening Day is Here — Play Ball!

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The eagerness and anticipation for the 2013 college baseball season has finally come to this: Opening Day.

So here we go.

The Aztecs travel eight miles across town to meet USD, which is celebrating the opening of Fowler Park. A great atmosphere is expected. All three games have been sold out and the first two contests are being televised by FOX. There will be radio broadcasts for all three games, including XTRA 1360 AM. Navigate through to follow the games live on gametracker. Check back here on the blog during and after games to get the in-game information and postgame recaps.

This weekend's schedule and probable pitching matchups (with last season's record):

Friday — SDSU RHP Michael Cederoth (4-4) vs. USD RHP Dylan Covey (6-3), 7 p.m.

Saturday — SDSU RHP Philip Walby (1-3) vs. USD RHP Michael Wagner (5-2), 6 p.m.

Sunday — SDSU RHP Ryan Doran (3-6) vs. USD LHP Louie Lechich (0-0), 1 p.m.

Expect sophomore CF Greg Allen (.312, 2 HR, 31 RBI) to be the first batter at Fowler Park, followed by junior 2B Tim Zier (.318, 32 RBI) and sophomore 1B Ryan Muno (.308, 4 HR, 19 RBI). In the middle of the order, look for redshirt sophomore Brad Haynal (.375) and senior Jake Romanski (.289, 23 RBI), trading off at catcher and DH, and freshman third baseman Ty France. Sophomore RF Avondre Bollar (.231, 6 RBI) and junior SS Evan Potter (.190, 12 RBI) will bat toward the bottom of the order, along with the left fielder, a position expected to be manned by either Steven Pallares (.203, 7 RBI) or Matt Munoz (.301, 19 RBI).

Sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth has stepped into the Friday starter role for the Aztecs. Cederoth started 11 games for SDSU last season, going 4-4 with a 4.14 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 67.1 innings. He showed plenty of grit after suffering a broken jaw late in the season at Texas A&M, returning to the mound just two weeks later, pitching four innings to close out UNLV and get the victory in the MWC Tournament. Cederoth is one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the nation, regularly hitting 95-96 mph with his fastball while topping out last season at 101 mph.

— This is the 75th season of Aztecs baseball. SDSU has a 47-26-1 record in openers, including winning three of its past six opening games.
— The last time SDSU and USD opened the season against each other was in 2008. In SDSU's 11-2 victory that evening at Tony Gwynn Stadium, Stephen Strasburg outpitched Brian Matusz in a matchup of future major leaguers.
— SDSU leads the overall series against USD, which dates back to 1962, with a 65-52-3 record. The Toreros have won the past four meetings, including two games last season at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
— Second baseman Tim Zier and catcher Jake Romanski come into the season with five-game hitting streaks from the 2012 season. Zier had a 21-game streak last season that was the longest since Quintin Berry's 27-game streak in 2005.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meet the Aztecs: Part V — The Starting Rotation

Bubba Derby (closer) — Justin Hepner — Michael Cederoth — Philip Walby — Ryan Doran

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Let’s get it started.
The Aztecs return nine pitchers who started 53 of the team’s 60 games last season, making it one of the program’s most experienced groups in years.
That total includes 29 starts combined from the three pitchers who comprise this season’s weekend rotation — sophomore right-hander Michael Cederoth (Steele Canyon High), junior right-hander Philip Walby (Scripps Ranch High) and senior right-hander Ryan Doran (Servite High).
 “I love our starting rotation,” said Aztecs pitching coach Eric Valenzuela. “I don’t know how many programs are blessed to have two power arms at the top like we have with Cederoth and Walby and our strike-thrower, Greg Maddux-type of Sunday guy with Doran is pretty neat.”
Michael Cederoth
Cederoth (4-4, 4.14 ERA, 62 SO in 67.1 IP) is among the hardest-throwing pitchers in the country. He was clocked as high as 101 mph last season and his fastball sits in the 95-96 mph range.
He is eager to take the next step in his development, which means being more consistent with his pitch location. It also includes leading the staff as the team’s Friday starter.
“It’s a great opportunity, especially with the group we have right now,” said the 6-foot-6 Cederoth. “It’s an honor because the talent we have on this team is ridiculous.
“And to be the No. 1 starter on this team is really cool. To start it off every series on a high note is a big responsibility, but I think I’m up for it.”
Walby (1-3, 5.60 ERA, 15 SO in 36 IP), with a fastball that ranges from 92-96 mph, has improved vastly over a year ago. His performance in the fall, which included improved command, earned him the Saturday role.
Doran (3-6, 4.50 ERA, 53 SO in 88 IP) returns in the Sunday spot after leading the team in starts (13) and innings last season. He doesn’t throw as hard as Cederoth and Walby, but puts the ball where he wants it better than anyone.
“It’s going to give teams trouble after what they’ve seen for two days,” said Valenzuela, “with a completely different kind of pitcher on Sunday where he can get them to swing the bat. He throws a lot of strikes and mixes up his pitches.”
There are several candidates for weekday starts, but that will be dependent on how things unfold during the weekends.
“If weekend starters can get deep into games,” said Valenzuela, “you’re going to be left with a lot of innings out of your bullpen for Tuesday games.”
Ideally, the Aztecs would be successful enough in a series that they can get by without taxing a potential Tuesday starter much and he can concentrate on being a Tuesday starter.
Junior right-hander Justin Hepner (Carlsbad High) had the best numbers — mostly out of the bullpen — among the returners, going 5-3 with seven saves, a 2.94 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 52 innings over 22 appearances. Hepner made three starts and could be in line for more this year.
Other candidates for spot starts include senior right-hander Travis Pitcher (El Dorado High), who made 10 starts last season, junior right-hander TJ Kendzora (El Toro High), who started seven games, and senior right-hander Ethan Miller (Ayala High), who started twice.
With several new pitchers on the staff, it’s possible another candidate emerges as well.
The weekday situation will shake out as the season progresses. It all comes down to how well Cederoth, Walby and Doran do when they’re handed the ball.
“Our rotation is prepared to be the leaders of our team,” said Doran. “Pitching and defense wins championships, right? And that is what we are after. ...
“I haven’t been around a staff before that’s as tough, as talented and as competitive in my four years of playing college baseball.”

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Meet the Aztecs: Part IV — The Bullpen

The SDSU relief corps has a good mix of veterans and newcomers.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — There have been times over the past decade where San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn has watched one — or more — of his pitchers struggle on the mound, but had few options to remedy the situation.
Too many injuries or not enough depth have tied Gwynn’s hands when the situation called for a call to the bullpen.
That won’t be the case this season. The Aztecs will be relieved.
“We’ve got arms. We’ve got arms,” said Gwynn. “I’m thrilled about that. It’s a happy problem.”
“The leash is going to be a little shorter this year. If you’re out there walking the yard, or struggling to throw strikes, we can go get somebody else.”
Aztecs pitching coach Eric Valenzuela is pleased with the mix of veterans and newcomers.
“We’re in a good situation because we have a lot of guys who are deserving to get innings,” said Aztecs pitching coach Eric Valenzuela. “I haven’t been in this situation the past three years. I think everybody’s ready from top to bottom.
“We have some older guys who have some experience and we have some young guys who are deserving of some innings We’re going to see how it all shakes out.”
Bubba Derby
One of the young players who has emerged is freshman Bubba Derby. The right-hander  from LaSalle High has earned the job as closer.
“Derby has really come along as the guy we want at the end of games,” said Valenzuela. “He’s a freshman, inexperienced at this level, but he’s pitched in a lot of big games in high school and done some really good things.
“He’s just very tough. We’re not afraid to throw him into the fire immediately. He has the stuff to win innings — whether it’s one or two or three innings — and he has the mentality of doing it.”
Derby is looking forward to the challenge.
“it doesn’t matter what spot I’m going to be in, there’s going to be pressure,” said Derby. “It’s just a matter of being able to block that out and just do what I do.
“I’ve pitched for good teams and I’ve pitched in front of a lot of scouts before, so I’ve really learned to block everything out. It’s just me and the catcher.”
Setup roles are expected to be filled by seniors Travis Pitcher (El Dorado High) and Ethan Miller (Ayala High) and juniors Justin Hepner (Scripps Ranch High) and TJ Kendzora (El Toro High). The right-handers also will be the first candidates for spot starts in weekday games.
Gwynn said senior Bryan Crabb, a right-hander from Coronado High “has become a 3/4 guy now and he’s getting a lot of movement and getting outs. He’s going to be a factor down there, too.”
Hepner had the most success among the returners, posting a 5-3 record with seven saves, a 2.94 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 52 innings over 22 appearances (three starts).
“The key for success for the team as a whole is to just keep doing things right and rely on each other and believe in ourselves,” said Pitcher. “This season is going to be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”
As for the bullpen, Pitcher said: “We look great from top to bottom and we didn’t really lose much from last year as far as players and talent go. Our expectations for ourselves are high.”
Three left-handers junior Mitch Bluman (El Camino Real High) and sophomores Mike RoBards (Oceanside High) and Brandon Thomas (Knight High) will fill key situational roles. Bluman also has been swinging the bat and could be a good left-handed option off the bench.
Freshmen looking to make their mark include right-handers Mark Seyler (Agoura Hills High), Zack Oakley (Yuba City High), Dylan McDonald (Eastlake High), Cody Thompson (Alemany High) and Tyler Sapp (Yucaipa High) and left-hander Collin Orellana (San Marcos High).
Oakley is among those making his first trip around the block, but he already has a good sense about the staff.
“We’ve got some flamethrowers who are going to be tough to beat,” he said. “We also have some finesse guys who teams think they should hit, but will walk away scratching their head.”
Added Oakley: “I really feel like we’ve come together as a group and our team chemistry is great. ... When you have a group of guys out their playing with their friends and pulling for one another, it makes the game fun and a whole lot simpler. I’m very proud of this group.”

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meet the Aztecs: Part III — The Outfield

The outfielders (left to right): Justin Gheorghe, Avondre Bollar,
Matt Munoz, Spencer Thornton, Steven Pallares and Greg Allen.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The most dedicated ballplayers are expected to run through a wall if that’s what it takes.
Well, not literally. After all, they do put a warning track in front of the outfield wall.
Of course, there are always those who get carried away — LIKE THIS GUY.
Anyway, San Diego State sophomore center fielder Greg Allen, like his teammates, has been climbing the walls waiting for the season to get here.
Said Allen: “Our pitching staff is great. Our infield is great. We’ve just got to do our job.”
The first opportunity arrives with Friday night’s season opener at USD.
Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn is eager to see his outfielders in game action. If nothing else than to resolve the lineup’s only unresolved position — left field.
An arm injury to sophomore center fielder Spencer Thornton, who is still recovering from last summer’s Tommy John surgery, necessitated shifting Allen from right to center. Sophomore Avondre Bollar is in right. That leaves left, where auditions have been ongoing since the fall.
“I’ve got three guys who were in the infield last year playing the outfield for the first time,” said Gwynn, referring to sophomores Matt Munoz (San Dimas High), Steven Pallares (Santiago High) and Tanner Reibenspies (Chaminade High).
A recent arm injury has sidelined Reibenspies. That leaves Munoz, who hit .301 with 19 RBI last season and has looked the best at the plate, and Pallares, who has played best in the field.
“Both of those guys will get some game time in left field,” said Gwynn. “You’re not going to really know how they do until you get them out there in game situations and see how they react.”
How quickly freshman Justin Gheorghe (North High) adjusts to the college game could bring some needed depth to the outfield, but that remains to be seen.
Gwynn has no such concerns with Allen (Hilltop High), who batted .312 last season with 2 HR, 31 RBI and 11 SB.
“Greg Allen is one of the most complete players you’re going to get,” said Gwynn. “This kid covers a lot of ground, a lot of ground.”
Bollar (Thousand Oaks High), who batted .231 with 6 RBI in limited at-bats last season, has stepped up his game.
“He has been really good for us here in the fall and into the early spring,” said Gwynn. “We need to see him carry it over into the season.”
Getting the left-handed Thornton (Los Osos High) back into the lineup would provide a big boost. He was one of the team’s biggest run producers last season, batting .297 with 27 RBI, and is eager to contribute again.
“We can save a ton of runs by playing efficiently out there,” said Thornton, “and giving the pitchers confidence that if someone hits a ball in the air we will have a guy under it ready to make a catch for an out.”
Said Allen: “Our team speed and the range we have will go a long way in cutting off some of those base hits. Strong arms (help) as well.”
Any concerns in the outfield?
“No,” said Gwynn. “Just, hopefully, guys will stay healthy.”
Here’s one tip: Avoid run-ins with the wall.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Meet the Aztecs: Part II — The Infield

Shortstop Evan Potter and second baseman Tim Zier are veterans now.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — It has been said that the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores. The Aztecs have discovered it’s even better when they get to be juniors.
Catcher Brad Haynal recalls looking out from behind the plate during a game two years ago and “everyone in the infield, including the pitcher, was a freshman. We were playing like the No. 5-ranked team in the nation. It was overwhelming.”
Inexperience in the infield made for some long days. There were games where it seemed more balls were kicked   than caught and as many plays were muffed as made.
“When you play as a freshman, like they did, you have to expect that there’s going to be mistakes,” said Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn.
It’s a much different story this season, where junior shortstop Evan Potter (Grossmont High) and junior second baseman Tim Zier (Escondido High) are now three-year starters.
“I think the strength of our club is up the middle with Zier and Potter there,” said Gwynn. “They work really well together.”
Said Potter: “We are very sound defensively. I hope to become a leader and an example for the younger guys on how to play the game right.”
Zier, who batted .318 with 32 RBI and 10 stolen bases last season, was among those selected to the Mountain West Conference preseason all-conference team.
“He’s a solid offensive guy,” said Gwynn. “He’s going to hit second. He can do everything. He’s your prototypical No. 2 guy.”
Potter is in the lineup for his defense, although Gwynn said Potter is “coming along” at the plate after batting .190 with 12 RBI a year ago.
“I’d like to see him be a little more consistent with his approach,” said Gwynn. “He’s working at it and trying to get better. We need him to be a threat.”
Ryan Muno
One of the biggest threats in the lineup is expected to be sophomore first baseman Ryan Muno (Mission Viejo High), who hit .308 with four homers and 19 RBI in his debut last season.
“He has a terrific bat,” said Gwynn. “He’s probably going to hit third for us because he’s our best hitter. He’s got some power.
“What I’m trying to get him to do is just slow down. He knows he’s got a pretty good stroke. You have to wait sometimes to get something to hit. He wants to hit everything. He’s learning, ‘Hey, I have to be a little more patient.’ ”
Muno is learning his way around first base after playing third last season, but no one needs to tell him how important defense is to the Aztecs.
"The infield play is extremely vital to our team," said Muno. "We're not necessarily a team that's going to hit a ton of home runs, so it's really important to play defense behind what I think is one of the premier pitching staffs in the country."
A two-year youth movement is over. When a freshman cracks SDSU’s starting lineup now it is because of ability, not out of necessity.
That’s why freshman Tyler France, from South Hills High in West Covina, will be starting at third base.
Tyler France
“He’s pretty polished over there,” said Gwynn, who sees France hitting anywhere from fourth to sixth in the batting order.“I thought he could step right in and have some success.”
France may be young, but he understands one key to success: “Infield play is extremely important because our defense is what is going to win us games.”
Gwynn said France earned the start at third with “his consistency on the defensive side. He’s got good hands and for a freshman he doesn’t get rushed. He’s always under control.
“He’s making it look easy. That bodes well for us for the future. He could be there for the next three years.”
Potter pointed out the infielder’s depth as well, saying “we have guys who are very versatile and can play any position on the infield.”
Sophomore Tanner Reibenspies (Chaminade High) provided the best example of that versatility, starting at all four infield spots last year. His availability is in question, however, because of an arm injury. Reibenspies hit .320 in limited at-bats last season.
The infielders’ versatility is being put to the test coming into the season. Sophomores Matt Munoz (San Dimas High) and Steven Pallares (Santiago High) are auditioning in the outfield to fill a void created by injury.
Both Munoz, who was among the team leaders last season with a .301 batting average and 19 RBI, and Pallares are likely to get some starts in left field while serving backup roles in the infield.
Senior John Spirk (Fountain Valley High), who hit .234, 4 HR, 21 RBI, will get some chances at first base. Freshman middle infielder Danny Sheehan (South Hills High), who displayed some clutch hitting in the fall, also will get an opportunity.
Zier put the past and the present into perspective: “Our freshman year we had no older guys to watch how it’s done. Our freshmen this year can see, now that we are older, how it’s done. It’s like a calming effect for all the new guys on our team.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

Meet the Aztecs: Part I — The Catchers

Jake Romanski — Brad Haynal — CJ Saylor

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Getting a player to wear the catcher’s shin guards, chest protector and mask usually takes plenty of convincing.
Catcher is not the most glamorous position on the field. In fact, you’re not on the field. It is the only defensive position not in the field of play.
There is something transforming about the position, however. As difficult as it might be to convince someone to catch, once they’ve had a taste of it, getting a catcher to remove the gear is almost impossible.
Brad Haynal, who was a shortstop at Rancho Bernardo High, remembers coming off the field following the last game of his sophomore season and being pulled aside by an assistant coach, who said, “Get yourself some catcher’s gear because you’re going to be our catcher.”
Haynal’s first reaction?
“I was scared,” he said. “I didn’t want to.
“But during summer ball and winter league I got more comfortable and it turned out I had a knack for it.
“They say if you can play shortstop, then you can play anywhere. I’m thankful. I definitely see myself playing catcher the rest of my life.”
Jake Romanski’s opportunity to start as a freshman at Norco High was tied to becoming the team’s catcher.
“I could not see myself playing any other position — nor do I want to,” said Romanski. “You’re in every play of the game. Once you have that feel of the game being in every play, it is not very exciting to play another position.”
The Aztecs are excited about their catcher corps, which is the team’s deepest in a decade.

SDSU picked second in Mountain West coaches poll

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The San Diego State baseball team was picked for second place in the Mountain West Conference for 2013 in a preseason poll of the conference's six head coaches.
Tim Zier
Defending MWC champion New Mexico has picked to win its second straight regular season MWC title after receiving five first-place votes. The Aztecs received one first-place vote. Rounding out the spots in the poll were MWC newcomers Nevada and Fresno State, followed by UNLV and Air Force.
The top four teams in the regular season advance to the MWC Tournament, which is being hosted by Fresno State. The tournament champion receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
SDSU junior second baseman Tim Zier was selected to the preseason all-MWC team. Zier is coming off a season in which he hit .318 with 11 doubles and 10 stolen bases.
SDSU opens the 2013 season with a three-game series against crosstown rival USD. The teams kick off the series Friday, February 15, at 7:00 p.m. in the Toreros' new Fowler Park. The Aztecs' home opener is Thursday, February 21, against sixth-ranked Oregon State at 6:00 p.m.

2013 Mountain West Preseason Poll
 Rank Team (first-place votes)   Points

  1. New Mexico (5) . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  35
  2. San Diego State (1) . . . . . . . . . . .  26
  3. Nevada . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   23
  4. Fresno State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   22
  5. UNLV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
  6. Air Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7