SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Sometimes it's best not to try to figure out the game of baseball and just enjoy the moment when things go your way.
San Diego State had its struggles much of the game Sunday afternoon against UNLV before rallying in the ninth inning for a 5-4 walkoff win at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The victory enabled the Aztecs (4-2, 12-12) to win the Mountain West Conference series against the Rebels (2-4, 17-7) and remain atop the conference standings.
"It was real big to get that win because Vegas is a hot team," said SDSU second baseman Tim Zier, who drove in the tying run in the ninth. "It's real big to win to our first two series (including last week at Freno State) and show we're here to play."
The Aztecs trailed 4-3 coming into the ninth. To that point, they had allowed three unearned runs in the game and collected just three hits -- all in the fourth inning.
Their fortunes began to change in the final inning when Danny Sheehan was hit by a pitch from UNLV reliever Brady Zuniga with one out. Evan Potter followed with a single between first and second to put runners at the corners. Greg Allen then walked to load the bases.
Zier made it 4-4 when he hit a ball up the middle that UNLV shortstop T.J. White gloved but could only throw to first, allowing Sheehan to score and the other runners to move up.
Ryan Muno was then walked intentionally to set up a force at any base. Jake Romanski came to the plate and immediately got in an 0-2 hole. But a subsequent curveball from Zuniga (1-1) came in too tight, hitting Romanski in the left arm to force home the winning run.
"I couldn't really move out of the way," said Romanski. "I didn't want to move out of the way. I was trying to do anything I could right there to get the win for our team. ... It gives us some momentum and confidence going into New Mexico (this weekend)."
It did not seem like SDSU's day most of the afternoon. UNLV scored first when T.J. White doubled off Doran in the third inning and Brandon Bayardi singled him home to make it 1-0.
The Aztecs were held hitless by UNLV starter John Richy through the first three innings before they got going in the fourth. A one-out walk to Muno got things started. Romanski then singled for the team's first hit. Singles by Ty France and Matt Munoz each drove in a run to give SDSU a 2-1 lead. The three singles represented the Aztecs' only hits until the ninth inning.
SDSU made two defensive mistakes in the sixth that led to three unearned runs, enabling UNLV to take a 4-2 lead. A walk and a single put runners at first an second with one out. An errant pickoff throw by catcher Romanski bounced in front of first baseman Muno and went down the right-field line allowing one run to score and the other runner to move to second. UNLV's Justin Jones then reached base (going all the way to second) on a fly ball misplayed by center fielder Greg Allen for an error. After a strikeout, the Rebels' Collin Yelich hit a two-run single to right field to give UNLV the two-run lead.
The Aztecs got one of the runs back in the seventh inning when Munoz reached on one error, moved to third on another error, then scored on Sheehan's sacrifice fly to center field to make it 4-3. SDSU got the potential tying run to third base, but couldn't get it in.
SDSU starter Ryan Doran pitched the first 5 2/3 innings for the SDSU, allowing one earned run with five strikeouts and one walk. Relievers Ethan Miller and Bubba Derby (2-1) finished up for the Aztecs.
SDSU hits the road now for a three-game series Thursday through Saturday at New Mexico, which shares first place in the conference with the Aztecs.