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Leonhardt shines in Aztecs 9-3 victory over No. 25 UC Irvine

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Leonhardt shines in Aztecs 9-3 victory over No. 25 UC Irvine

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

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

Raymond Gorospe

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

Raymond Gorospe

Raymond Gorospe

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

by Daniel Guerrero, Staff Writer

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San Diego State baseball defeated No. 25 UC Irvine 9-3 on Feb. 19 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Freshman first baseman Brian Leonhardt drove in four RBIs while seven Aztec pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts.

The Aztecs (3-1), have struck out 12 or more batters every game this season as they head into this weekend’s Tony Gwynn Legacy tournament.

Head coach Mark Martinez said the team’s pitching performance aided the win.

“Once again our pitching carried us,” he said. “The biggest moment of the game was bases loaded and no outs and we find a way to get out of it. We were scuffling and a great job by our bullpen to come in and kind of save the day.”

Sophomore Casey O’Sullivan got the Aztecs out of the bases loaded, no out situation in the top of the fifth inning when he came on to relieve sophomore Christian Winston, as the team held on to a 3-0 lead.

O’Sullivan struck out the first two batters he faced and got the final batter to ground out to shortstop to end the inning and strand all three inherited runners on base.

O’Sullivan said his goal was to limit the damage in the inning.

“I was hoping to either strand all the runners that are on there were on there or let at least just one come in,” he said. “Just try to minimize as much as I could.”

The Aztecs added five of their nine runs in the bottom half of the fifth inning.  

Senior right fielder Mike Jarvis brought in sophomore left fielder Matt Rudick to score after Rudick got on base via a double with one out in the inning.

An intentional walk was given to junior center fielder Julian Escobedo and senior designated hitter Chad Bible drew a four pitch walk to load the bases for Leonhardt, who delivered a two-run double to left center field which brought home Escobedo and Jarvis.  

Leonhardt said knowing Irvine’s pitching tendencies helped him get a hit in the situation.

“I was just going to try to hit something over the shortstop,” Leonhardt said. “The 2-1 count with bases loaded, UC Irvine’s always been known for throwing (breaking pitches) so I sat curveball and that’s what I got and I just hit a line drive over the shortstop.”

Junior catcher Ryan Orr followed Leonhardt with a single to bring in Bible and Leonhardt for an 8-2 lead.

Martinez said the five run inning was a momentum shift following the Aztecs escaping the bases loaded situation.

“We got out of the bases loaded no out deal and the momentum shifted to our dugout,” he said. “We kind of pounced on them a little bit and found way to kind of get some guys on base and had two big base hits during that inning.”

SDSU gave starting pitcher redshirt senior Justin Goossen-Brown a three run lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Escobedo hit an RBI single to right field to bring in Jarvis for the game’s first run and to advance Armenta to third base after the two reached base with one out in the inning.

Bible and Leonhardt drove in runs to give the Aztecs a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Martinez said the early leads help the team play more comfortable.

“Any time you can score first it’s a big confidence boost throughout the lineup,” he said. “You score three runs and it kind of loosens everybody up.”  

The first UC Irvine run came after sophomore relief pitcher Christian Winston’s wild pitch brought home sophomore outfielder James Palmer in from third base.

Winston returned to pitch the fifth inning, but exited after he walked in a run with the bases loaded.

Sophomore Casey Schmitt entered the ball game in the top of the ninth inning and surrendered the third run to the Anteaters before finishing his inning of work to end the game.

The Aztecs will return to play on Feb. 22 when the team takes on University of Utah in the first game of the 2019 Tony Gwynn Legacy.

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