Three takeaways from SDSU baseball’s shortened season

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Luis Lopez

Senior outfielder Mike Jarvis connects on a pitch during the Aztecs' 4-1 win over Iowa on Feb. 21 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

by Daniel Guerrero, Senior Staff Writer

The 2020 season for San Diego State baseball is one that will be remembered as the season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After just 16 games, the Aztecs’ (10-6) season was stopped by the coronavirus outbreak that has seemingly put an indefinite end to sports around the world.

Despite all the “what ifs” that will forever remain unanswered about the season, there are some things we do know.

Here are three takeaways from the Aztecs’ season that was cut short.

1. The pitching was there, but the defense wasn’t

In a Feb. 21 press conference ahead of the 2020 Tony Gwynn Legacy, head coach Mark Martinez said two things would be consistent throughout the 2020 season: “Pitching and defense.”

The pitching was consistent and managed to keep ballgames close for the Aztecs with a team ERA of 3.73.

SDSU enjoyed breakout performances from sophomore starting pitcher Troy Melton (3-1, 3.22 ERA) and junior relief pitcher Tre Brown (1-0, 1.26 ERA).

Brown said the trust the pitching staff had in each other to get the job done was key in the pitching staff’s efficiency.

“Just the fact that we were able to trust each other,” he said. “That good mentality was really what got us through what we had in a season this year. We just had each other’s backs.”

The defense, on the other hand, was not on the same level.

The Aztecs committed 34 errors in their 16 games, which were the eighth most in Division I baseball.

There were games when the Aztecs won but had multiple errors.

That included a six-error, 8-4 win against then-No. 24 Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 19 and a four-error, 7-2 win against then-No. 17 Long Beach State on March 3.

Losing efforts plagued by errors included an 11-5 loss against Southern California on Feb. 23, when the Aztecs lost a 5-0 lead after committing four errors.

Then, on March 8 — in what wound up to be SDSU’s last game of the year — the Aztecs committed five-errors in a 9-8, 10-inning loss versus then-No. 11/15 Oklahoma that ended on a throwing error by senior second baseman Mike Jarvis.

Martinez said the issues with fielding were ones the Aztecs knew they could address.

“We were making mental mistakes on the defensive end and those are things we felt like we could clean up and get better at,” he said.

2. The Aztecs collected the Mountain West conference accolades

Coming into the season, SDSU featured four players who received all-conference preseason recognition.

In the shortened season, that trend of conference recognitions continued.

Junior Casey Schmitt earned MW Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 24 after collecting two saves in games against Iowa and Nebraska and conference player of the week on March 9 after hitting .500 and driving in nine RBIs in games against top-ranked Long Beach State and Oklahoma.

Melton was named conference pitcher of the week on March 3 after a six-inning shutout performance against Oregon State on Feb. 29.

Fellow sophomore pitcher Michael Paredes was also named MW Pitcher of the Week on March 9 after holding Oklahoma to two runs on five hits in a March 6 road game.

Senior left fielder Ryan Orr was named MW Player of the Week on Feb. 24 after batting .478 with five RBI in games against Nebraska and then-No. 24 Cal State Fullerton.

Orr finished the season batting .295, starting in all 16 games after hitting .243 in 38 games as a junior.

Martinez said the standout performances from the La Costa Canyon High School product was something that stood out to him.

“For me, one of the brighter spots for us was Ryan Orr,” he said. “(Orr) was a guy that had spot starts throughout his career and now his senior year comes around and we put him in an uncomfortable position in left field and he let his bat play and he responded great.”

3. SDSU matched up with its top-ranked opponents

A highlight to the Aztecs’ 2020 schedule was their non-conference games that included nationally ranked opponents and opponents who were recent College World Series champions.

The first tests in the non-conference schedule came early on in the season with the Coastal Carolina Tournament.

Despite playing on the East Coast and having to adjust to the time zone, SDSU took two out of three games in the tournament.

Two of those wins included a come-from-behind 7-5 win against Virginia Tech on Feb. 14, highlighted by a three-run home run from junior outfielder Matt Rudick.

SDSU defeated the host team and 2016 College World Series champions, Coastal Carolina, on Feb. 15 in a game that featured five shutout innings from Melton and a five-out save from Brown.

Brown said taking two of three games in the season-opening tournament is one of the many highlights he’ll take away from the 2020 season.

“I just loved going out to Coastal Carolina and taking it to them,” Brown said.

Other wins against ranked opponents included Cal State Fullerton, Oklahoma and Long Beach State — along with splitting a four-game home series against 2018 College World Series champions Oregon State.

Rudick said despite playing top-ranked teams, the Aztecs didn’t let that change their style of play.

“We couldn’t let that pressure get to us,” he said. “We couldn’t play to the jersey like coach Martinez says.”

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