Thursday, March 7, 2013

This Weekend: Aztecs (7-5) at Arkansas (7-5)

No trip, no opponent, no setting will test San Diego State more than what awaits the Aztecs this weekend.

SDSU travels into SEC country for four games against Arkansas, a team that reached the College World Series last season and opened this season ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Razorbacks play at Baum Stadium, where they averaged 7,924 fans a game last season. That ranked second only to LSU in average attendance.

"I don't know if you can prepare them for what we're going to go through," said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. "SEC flavor, big crowds, hootin' and hollerin.' It's going to be tough for our guys to tune that out, but we'll see. ... "We don't get that environment very often on the West Coast, so you're going to be tested."

Arkansas is in the midst of a four-game losing streak after falling twice to Arizona State and once to Gonzaga and UOP at the Coca-Cola Classic in Surprise, Ariz., so the Razorbacks are expected to be extra focused coming into the series that begins Thursday evening in Fayetteville.

"They're going home and looking to get things back on track," said Gwynn. "For us, we have to put runs on the board and give our pitchers something to work with. If we can do that, I like the way we're playing."

This week's schedule (San Diego time), probable pitching matchups and other items of interest:

Thursday — SDSU RHP Michael Cederoth (1-1, 2.60) vs. Arkansas LHP Colin Poche (1-0, 0.00), 3:05 p.m.

Friday — SDSU RHP Philip Walby (1-1, 1.12) vs. Arkansas RHP Ryne Stanek (1-1, 2.84), 1:05 p.m.

Saturday (DH) — SDSU RHP Ryan Doran (2-1, 3.32) vs. Arkansas RHP Trey Killian (1-1, 1.29), 9:35 a.m. p.m.

SDSU TBA vs. Arkansas LHP Randall Fant (0-0, 2.25), TBA

AZTECS LINEUP
Catchers Jake Romanski (5-of-14) and Brad Haynal (5-of-8) have cut down 10-of-22 would-be base stealers. Romanski is on a hot streak at the plate, batting .529 (9-for-17) in last week's five games. The senior's nine-game hitting streak leads the team. Sophomore center fielder Greg Allen has two four-hit games already this season. He leads the team in hits (18), runs (13) and stolen bases (5). First baseman John Spirk is batting .360 during a seven-game hitting streak. Spirk is batting .455 (5-for-11) with runners in scoring position, second on the team to second baseman Tim Zier's .467 (7-for-15). Freshman third baseman Ty France clubbed the team's only home run last week against Seton Hall.

AZTECS ON THE MOUND
Sophomore Michael Cederoth has recorded six strikeouts in each of his three starts. Junior Philip Walby lowered his ERA to 1.12 last week with five shutout innings against Seton Hall. Senior Ryan Doran picked up his second win after limiting the Pirates to two runs over 7.2 innings. Freshman closer Bubba Derby ranks among the national leaders with four saves. He has made six relief appearances, covering nine innings with 13 of the 27 outs recorded by strikeout.

NOTABLE
— Arkansas dropped from No. 2 to No. 19 in the nation after losing four straight games last weekend. The Aztecs and Arkansas met last season at Tony Gwynn Stadium, with the Razorbacks winning three of the four games in the series.
— The Razorbacks are averaging .285 as a team, with an offense led by OF Tyler Spoon (.391, 2 HR, 15 RBI), Brian Anderson (.357, 7 RBI), Joe Serrano (.306, 5 RBI) and Jake Wise (.256, 9 RBI).
— The Arkansas pitching staff has a team ERA of 1.82, which ranks eighth in the nation. Junior Ryne Stanek is among the nation's top prospects after going 8-4 with a 2.82 ERA last season.
— SDSU remains on the road after returning from Arkansas, playing a Tuesday game at UC Irvine before opening Mountain West Conference play with a three-game series at Fresno State.

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