Baseball welcomes Air Force

by Brandon Truffa, Staff Writer

The San Diego State Aztecs (16-5, 4-2) will host the Air Force Academy Falcons (8-10, 5-4) in a three-game Mountain West showdown this weekend at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

The Aztecs are looking to bounce back after dropping their second series in a row, losing two of three to No. 10 Texas Tech University this past weekend. This upcoming matchup against Air Force poses an excellent opportunity to not only get back in the win column, but also gain some ground on the conference-leading University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack.

SDSU swept the Falcons in three games last season at Tony Gwynn Stadium. It was the only time the two teams met in 2014.

Air Force has had a steady year so far. It currently sits tied for third place in the MW standings, however it has enjoyed success within the conference. Five of the Falcons’ eight total wins have come against MW opponents.

Air Force’s success mainly stems from its offense. In the last eight games, in which they’ve gone 5-3, the Falcons have put up a staggering 54 runs.

Sophomore infielder Bradley Haslam and sophomore utility player Adam Groesbeck lead the Air Force offense.

Over the four games Air Force played this past weekend, Haslam went 10-12 (.833), including a 5-5 performance against Adams State University, earning himself the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honor.

Groesbeck, on the other hand, is currently fifth in the MW in both batting average (.378) and hits (28).

The Falcons have had some struggles in the bullpen, though. Four of the six Air Force bullpen pitchers have an ERA over 5.00.

Air Force’s starting pitching, however, has been fairly consistent, thanks to the success of junior lefty Trent Monaghan and sophomore lefty Jacob DeVries.

DeVries currently places third in the MW in both strikeouts (30) and wins (three). Monaghan also is fifth in conference in wins.

Taking advantage of a struggling bullpen is important for SDSU, especially in a season which has seen the Aztecs’ offense resemble an explosive volcano.

SDSU boasts two of the best hitters in the MW: senior outfielder Stephen Pallares, and junior third baseman Ty France.

Pallares currently leads the MW in batting average (.453) and hits (39). France currently sits one spot behind Pallares in the hits category (30) and fifth in the RBI category (21).

In order to shut down the Falcons’ red-hot offense, the Aztecs will have to rely on the arms of their rotation and bullpen. This should not pose an issue considering the Aztecs’ pitchers are among the best in the conference.

Junior right-handers Mark Seyler and Bubba Derby rank among the top five in the conference strikeouts.

Derby was honored for his success this past week, receiving the MW Pitcher of the Week honor after his 11-strikeout performance in Friday’s 9-0 victory against Texas Tech.

It was not the first time an Aztec pitcher has received this honor. Earlier in the season, sophomore closer C.J. Saylor was honored. Saylor is currently tied for third in the nation in saves with eight.

The series will kick off Friday night at Tony Gwynn Stadium with the first pitch slated for 6 p.m. PST.