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."

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