Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aztecs Baseball Recap from UCLA

The Aztecs now have two last at-bat wins they can point to in the preseason as potential building blocks.  Last night at Jackie Robinson Stadium, a chilly and sloppy game came to a rousing conclusion as SDSU scored nine runs in the final three innings, including 6 in the 9th, to beat the reeling UCLA Bruins 10-6.  Five straight hits in the final inning included 2-run doubles from Brandon Meredith and Cory Vaughn, who are fast becoming the run producers Tony Gwynn hoped they would be.  San Diego State is now 8-6 while UCLA is a hard-luck 3-11.

The Aztecs dealt with some of their familiar issues, such as hitting droughts and fielding miscues, but also showed a real resiliency in waiting out a tough young pitcher and feasting on the weaker part of the UCLA bullpen.  It was my first chance to call a Ryan O'Sullivan pitching start, and I thought Ryan showed a good fastball and at times had a pretty solid breaking pitch.  He was certainly the victim of some bad fortune early on, as there were a number of "almost" plays made behind him, and a couple of real ducksnorts fell for base hits.  He also walked two batters who both came around to score.  In the fifth he gave up three straight solid hits and got lifted.  

Trevor Bauer started for UCLA, a freshman from Hart High, and he was pretty good.  Looked like a low-'90s fastball, good hard slider, a 6'0" right-hander who has a terrier mentality and really locked in as the game went along.  He was herky jerky and a little violent in his delivery, but did get good extension coming toward home plate.  Bauer gave up just two hits in 6 innings and believe me the Aztecs were happy to see him go.  It was his first start after working out of the bullpen.  

In college baseball one thing is clear: if you can keep the game within striking range there are usually a couple of pitchers in the other bullpen who will give you a chance to get back into it.  Sunday's game wasn't out of reach at 5-1...but when USD kept piling on to get to 10-1, that's when the Aztecs were in trouble.  Last night, at 5-1 UCLA in the 5th, the SDSU bullpen held it right there.  Andrew Leary retired all five Bruins he faced, and James McLaughlin was solid in the 7th.  That's the type of pitching midweek that can separate the Aztecs from other teams.  

Still, San Diego State's offense was as cold as the chilly night at Jackie Robinson Stadium.  Finally, after a total gift run was given to SDSU in the 7th (error, wild pitch, passed ball, groundout, LOL), the Aztecs took advantage of some more presents.  Wild lefty Gavin Brooks (from Rancho Buena Vista) gave up a hit, walk, and hit by pitch, then a wild pitch.  Brooks departed for another left-hander, Brendan Lafferty, who then got out of the inning without allowing another hit, although a sac fly cut the lead down to 5-4 UCLA.  

Kegan Sharp gave up a homerun to Cody Decker in the bottom of the 8th (the UCLA ballpark is a little bandbox by the way, it was probably a double at TGS) and it was 6-4 and trouble heading into the 9th.  The Bruins were the preseason pick to win the Pac-10, but a couple of their top pitchers are injured, and the hard-luck team went through a 10-game losing streak that included 6 one-run losses and 8 games in a row against ranked teams (#1 strength of schedule in the country).  On this night, instead of their top closer, the Bruins had to try and have a pair of journeyman seniors finish the game.  

Josh Chasse, a junior outfielder who has to fight for playing time, got things started for the Aztecs with a big walk, fighting back against Lafferty after falling behind 1-2 in the count.  Pat Colwell then hit the first pitch he saw to right field, past the diving second baseman for a hit.  Down 6-4 with two on and nobody out, Tony decided to call for the bunt, and Brandon Decker laid down a good one to the left of the mound.  Lafferty threw late and it was a base hit to load the bases.  I looked down in the UCLA bullpen but couldn't quite see the number.  When the head coach made the call to the bullpen and it was senior right-hander Jason Novak, he of the team-worst 13.50 ERA, I figured there was a pretty good chance for the Aztecs.

With Meredith at the plate, Novak jumped ahead 0-2 then threw a breaking ball in the dirt and to the backstop.  6-5 game, and now 2nd and 3rd with nobody out.  Brandon kept the at-bat alive with a foul or two and then roped an inside pitch inside the 3rd base bag and down the line for a double, plating both runners.  7-6 SDSU, their first lead of the game.  Now, the floodgates were wide open.  Erik Castro gets just his 4th hit of the season, a hard grounder that gets through this time.  Vaughn doubles to deep center, short-hopping the wall to make it 9-6.  And with two outs, Mike Gallego's son Nico throws it away at shortstop to make it 10-6.  After being two-hit through six innings, the Aztecs get five straight hits in the 9th to score six runs and add to the UCLA misery in 2009.

Addison Reed had a big fastball in the 9th, striking out the last two Bruins, their top two hitters back-to-back.  Then it was on to the bus for the long drive back to San Diego, a happy Aztecs team with a big win in their back pockets.  With Strasburg on the mound Friday, SDSU has a chance to build a little winning streak here opening conference action.  We'll have radio coverage on XTRA 1360 this Friday at 6pm.  

No comments:

Post a Comment