Aztecs win five-hour slugfest in walk-off fashion

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Then-freshman infielder Brian Leonhardt steps on home plate to score a run during the Aztecs 9-8 loss to San Francisco on Feb. 16, 2019 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

by Andrew Finley, Staff Writer

A day removed from a 14-7 victory, San Diego State baseball found itself in another high scoring affair on Saturday, Feb. 20 versus the University of San Diego. 

The marathon game – with a 1 p.m. first pitch – didn’t reach its end until senior shortstop Mike Jarvis touched home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning, scoring the game’s final run at 5:57 p.m. 

The Aztecs (2-0) would end up with 19 runs on 15 hits and nine walks while getting hit by a pitch four times. The Toreros (0-2) ended Saturday’s game with 18 runs on 17 hits and 10 walks while getting hit by pitches three times. 

Head coach Mark Martinez said the high-scoring match up was a mix of good offense and overall poor play on the field.

“That was a very ugly, ugly baseball game,” Martinez said. “We haven’t played for a while, we have a lot of guys that are what we call ‘red lining’ right now–trying way too hard. It wasn’t very clean baseball, and that turns into a five-hour marathon and extra innings.”

 SDSU starting pitcher Kohl Simas got off to a rough start, giving up four runs on four hits–including two doubles and a triple– and a walk in the first inning. Wild pitching from USD freshman pitcher Carter Rustard gave the Aztecs some runs back in the home half of the inning, leaving the Toreros with a 4-2 lead going into the second inning. Simas would be taken out after just 1.2 innings pitched, giving up five earned runs on four hits and four walks.  

The Aztecs would explode for eight runs in the second inning after trailing 5-2 going into it. Junior outfielder Matt Rudick would start off the barrage with a two run home run. Two batters later, sophomore catcher Wyatt Hendrie would drive in an RBI triple which tied the game at five runs apiece. The following at bat, sophomore outfielder Jaden Fein would bring Hendrie plateword on an RBI single. The Aztecs would top off the eight run inning with a two-run RBI double by freshman infielder Caden Miller and hold a 10-5 lead. 

The Toreros would spar back with a massive third inning, highlighted by a pair of home runs– a grand slam by USD senior third baseman Adam Lopez and a two run shot from graduate student infielder Thomas Luevano. USD would end up scoring nine runs in their half of the third and take a 14-10 lead…and at that point there were still six innings to go. 

The barrage of runs would stop for the most part until the seventh inning, with both the Toreros and Aztecs scoring two runs apiece between the fourth and sixth innings. 

With USD leading 17-12 in the bottom of the seventh, Kien and senior Jacob Cruce would each hit two-run singles to put the Aztecs within one run. USD would score another run in the top of the eighth and hold a 18-16 lead. 

With two men on in the bottom of the eighth, sophomore DH Brian Leonhardt came up to the plate with two outs. After battling into a pitcher-friendly count versus USD freshman pitcher Eddy Pelc, Leonhardt would poke a grounder through the 5.5 hole. Both of the runners would score and tie the game at 18 apiece. Leonhardt said his team’s determination to win is what kept them in the game. 

“Doesn’t matter how many runs we’re down,” said Leonhardt. “You can get us down 15 (runs), I still feel like we can come back and win.” 

Both teams would come up empty in the ninth inning and the game went into extra innings. 

A new rule in baseball–collegiate and professionally– is that each extra inning would start with a runner on second. Coach Martinez said this was a new experience for his team. 

“We got to experience the old California tiebreaker,” said coach Martinez. “Putting the runner at second base.”

Heads-up plays on the field by sophomore infielder Max Foxtroft and the catcher Hendrie got the pre-placed runner for the Toreros in a pickle, eventually getting him out to end the top half of the inning and allowing the Aztecs to get their turn at a walk-off victory. 

Fein–who had four RBIs on the game–would come up to the plate with runners on second and third with two outs in the inning. The Toreros opted to make a pitching change and called on sophomore Jack Dolack. That move proved to be costly, as Dolack’s first pitch bounced around the catcher, allowing Jarvis to score on a wild pitch, tying the bow on what was a wild five hours of baseball at Tony Gwynn Stadium. 

If the score didn’t make it obvious, this was not a very good day for pitchers on either side. Both USD and SDSU used six pitchers. The difference in the game, however, was the pitching at the end of the game. Between the sixth and 10th inning, Aztec pitchers freshman Nate Hanson, sophomore Aaron Edon and junior Tre Brown allowed just two runs while USD used four pitchers and allowed seven runs to score, including the game-deciding wild pitch in the 10th. 

Despite all the ugliness today’s game produced, coach Martinez said this game was ‘mission accomplished.’ 

“My big deal to the team was we have to be mentally tough enough to come out and find a way to win today,” Martinez said. “I think this is one of the tougher games I’ve been a part of and our guys responded at every turn.

“It’s a testament to what we preach here-mental toughness and grit.” 

Up next…

The Aztecs take a trip down the I-163 for a rematch against the Toreros at Fowler Park tomorrow at 2 p.m.

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