Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Great Night for SDSU Baseball

Certain games in baseball give you the feeling that something special is happening with a team.  Such a game took place last night at Blair Field, as the Aztecs walked a tightrope from Long Beach to Seal Beach and back again, somehow emerging with a 4-3 win over Long Beach State to improve to 23-11 on the season.  The Aztecs dialed up one clutch pitch and defensive play after another, overcoming their own miscues and some tough relievers in the Beach bullpen.  They showed remarkable resiliency after giving up the lead in the 8th inning.  And freshman Brandon Meredith took another big step forward, not just with his bat but with his glove as well.  

Blair Field is a hallowed ground for youth and college baseball in Long Beach, and it's also quite a pitcher's park.  348 down each foul line, with lots of foul territory, heading out to 400 feet straight away, with a 10-foot concrete fence.  You don't expect to see many homers there, which is what made Brandon Meredith's two-run shot to open the game even more impressive.  He worked a 3-1 count, got a fastball grooved to him, and launched it to straightaway center, the ball bouncing on the top of the fence right at the 400 sign before heading into Recreation Park beyond the fence.  2-0 Aztecs.  

Goldy Simmons started for SDSU and struggled badly with his command.  Simmons turns his back slightly to the hitter as he reaches the top of his windup, and combined with a 6'5" frame, those mechanics seem to lead to some erratic pitches.  When Goldy was on target, his fastball crackled and popped the corners, but when he missed it was usually by feet, not inches.  Somehow, Simmons danced through 3+ innings, stranding two runners at third base and six overall.  James McLaughlin pitched long relief from there, allowing the tying run (which was credited to Simmons) in the 4th but nothing more over 3 1/3 IP.  

The Aztecs, meanwhile, were robbed of one or more runs in the 5th when freshman outfielder Brennan Metzger made a leaping, lurching grab in the gap to deny Erik Castro an RBI double.  There was no denying Cory Vaughn in the 6th though...he took a fastball and blasted it well out of Blair Field, bouncing onto Deukmejian Way beyond the park boundaries.  3-2 SDSU after six innings.  

From there, it was one Houdini act after another for the Aztec pitching staff.  In the 6th, a leadoff single followed by a sac, but the runner left at second base.  In the 7th, very speedy outfielder Jordan Cassas hit a leadoff double and was moved to third with one away.  Chase Thomas came in, and the left-hander got cleanup man T.J. Mittlesdaedt to pop out to catcher, before Andrew Leary entered the fray.  LBSU first baseman Steve Tinoco looked to tie things up with a hard single to right field, but Meredith dove to his right and grabbed the ball on a shorthop right before it got past, then scrambled up and beat Tinoco to the bag to end the inning.  Great Play!

Things got even dicier in the bottom of the 8th, as Leary allowed a leadoff single, and Beach then executed a perfect butcher boy play, with reserve catcher John Hill singling to put runners at the corners with nobody out.  Taylor Krick followed with a flyball deep enough to left field to score the run, but Brandon Decker dropped the ball, tying the game at 3 and giving LBSU runners at first and second with nobody out.  Leary, in a clutch moment, dialed up three straight outs to preserve the tie.

In the top of the 9th, the Aztecs once again leaned on their igniter, as leadoff man Pat Colwell drew a walk.  Then, with Decker at the plate, LBSU's catcher tried to throw behind Colwell and pick him off, but his throw sailed down the right field line.  Colwell got up and went to 2nd base, and then a wild pitch from Beach closer Charlie Ruiz put him at third with one away.  With the infield in, Brandon Meredith delivered again, lining a fastball cleanly over shortstop and into left-center field for the go-ahead RBI single.  4-3 Aztecs, with Addison Reed coming on in search of his 11th save in as many tries.

But on this night, nothing would come easy.  Reed was squeezed by the home plate umpire in both of the first two at-bats of the 9th.  Ahead 0-2, he could not get the call and wound up walking leadoff man Devin Lohman, who then stole 2nd base.  Mittlesdaedt's grounder to deep short was then thrown away by Ryan O'Sullivan, the error putting the tying run at 3rd and winning run at 2nd base with nobody out.  But Reed did not falter.  He got Tinoco on a comebacker to the mound, freezing the runners, then struck out Metzger on a slider in the dirt.  With two away, Hoime's fading foul ball down the first-base line was tracked down by a stumbling Meredith, who fell but managed to grab the ball on his way down to the earth.  Aztecs win it 4-3!!  LBSU stranded 13 runners on the night, including 4 at third base, and they had another runner thrown out between 3rd and home.  

SDSU will board a bus in a couple of hours to head to UNLV.  They will do so with a 23-11 record and all the confidence in the world after pulling out another big road victory, improving their road record to 8-1.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow Craig! Great writing. I feel like I just watched a terrific see-saw game.


    PadreBruce aka Buckeyedad