Aztecs win third straight series, take two against Fresno State

San+Diego+State+baseball+redshirt+sophomore+catcher+Wyatt+Hendrie+finishes+his+follow-through+on+a+swing+during+the+Aztecs+series+against+San+Diego+on+Feb.+19-21%2C+2021.

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

San Diego State baseball redshirt sophomore catcher Wyatt Hendrie finishes his follow-through on a swing during the Aztecs’ series against San Diego on Feb. 19-21, 2021.

by Reese Savoie, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego State baseball took its conference series against Fresno State this past weekend at Tony Gwynn Stadium. 

After falling 3-2 to the Bulldogs (3-4, 1-2 Mountain West Conference) in game 1 of the series Saturday, the Aztecs (7-3, 2-1 MWC) came away with two back-to-back victories, clinching their third consecutive series win this season. 

Here are three observations from this past weekend’s homestand. 

1. Explosive presence on the plate

The Aztecs saw another successful offensive run against the Bulldogs, most notably in game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader. 

The Scarlet and Black racked up 17 runs, shutting out their opponent and ending the game in the seventh inning out of a mercy run-rule. 

11 of those runs came in the second inning alone, with the Aztecs cycling through their entire batting rotation (and then some) and bringing 16 players to the plate. 

Redshirt senior shortstop Mike Jarvis, redshirt junior catcher Wyatt Hendrie and redshirt sophomore outfielder Jaden Fein smacked four RBIs apiece. 

The game also saw senior outfielder Matt Rudick and redshirt sophomore infielder Caden Miller each collect three runs, leading the team in scoring in Saturday afternoon’s contest. 

Three appeared to be the magic number, with Jarvis and redshirt senior Ryan Orr leading with three hits each. 

Sunday’s game wasn’t too different. 

The Aztecs were down 2-0 early on but appeared to wake up in the third inning with the collection of five runs. 

The Bulldogs briefly reclaimed their lead in the top of the fifth, scoring five runs and putting themselves on top 7-6.  

Fresno’s short but sweet advantage was immediately extinguished by the Aztecs, who answered back and put up an additional five in the bottom half of the inning. 

Fein went 4-for-4 in the third game, with two RBIs and one run. 

After a successful hitting barrage this weekend, the now-three-time 2021 Mountain West Player of the Week’s average improved from .529 to .587, leading the team by almost 200 points.

2. A tale of two starters 

Despite splitting Saturday’s doubleheader, SDSU’s performance on the mound was one to celebrate in both contests. 

Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Michael Paredes started game 1 for the Aztecs, tossing six strikeouts and allowing only one run and four hits in six innings. 

Head coach Mark Martinez said that Paredes is no stranger to hard work on the mound. 

“Down to the strike zone, he competed his tail off,” he said. “That’s (Paredes) in a nutshell. It’s what he does: he shows up every day, he’s gonna compete really hard, he’s gonna pound the strike zone and he doesn’t let things rattle him.” 

Melton started on the bump in the second game, pitching a complete seven-inning shutout. 

He allowed only four hits and struck out nine, matching his career-high.

This was the longest Melton has remained in a game so far this season. His last two starts saw the duration of his time on the mound lasting an average of 4.2 innings apiece. 

Melton opened each series against San Diego and UC San Diego, respectively. However, the triad against Fresno State did not see Melton entering the game until the second contest. 

Martinez said this gave Melton the opportunity to gauge the performance of the Bulldogs’ batting rotation in game 1 in order to find the most success heading into the second part of Saturday’s doubleheader. 

“It gave him an opportunity to kind of chart the game and get a feel for how he was going to attack the Fresno State hitters,” he said. 

Aside from being able to preview the competition, Melton dedicated Saturday’s success to his ability to slow things down and have faith in his own ability. 

“I was kind of just overthrowing everything in my first two starts (against USD and UCSD), so today was about just calming down a little bit and trusting everything,” Melton said. 

Melton and Paredes share more than just a pair of good games against Fresno State. 

The two are also good friends, and that chemistry is evident in their ability to play off of one another. 

“Even though we lost the (first) game, I really felt like (Paredes) set the tone and gave a great roadmap to be successful against a really good offense,” Martinez said. “He passed the baton on to (Melton), and I thought (Melton) did a really good job of putting together that game plan heading into the second game.” 

Melton agreed. 

“I think that’s the standard for both of us. We’re competitive with each other, but also he’s probably my best friend on the team so it’s a cool dynamic that we have,” Melton said of Paredes. 

“I watched what (Paredes) did and tried to replicate it a little bit and tried to put my little twist on it, so I think he did a good job of setting the tone and I tried to carry the baton,” he added. “I think I did a pretty good job.”

3. Experience, mental endurance equate to success

The Aztecs were able to climb their way to victory after giving up five runs in the middle innings of Sunday’s contest. 

This is not the first time this season the Scarlet and Black have been able to fight their way back on top. 

Martinez said the team’s tenacity can be credited to the squad’s veteran leadership. 

“I think it’s a testament to our experience,” he said. “It’s an experienced club, and they’ve kind of been through the wringer a little bit and understand how to manage that, and I think that lends itself to battling each inning.” 

SDSU returned almost all of their roster from the 2020 campaign, save a few athletes lost to injuries and the MLB Draft. 

This experience shined in the weekend series — most notably in Jarvis’ performance. 

“He’s a great leader,” Martinez said. 

“Both USD and UCSD mentioned, ‘Man, that guy is kind of the model of what you want in a Division I shortstop.’ He’s leading and he’s vocal, and it has nothing to do with him going 4-4 or anything like that. It’s just how he moves traffic, prepares our guys and plays solid defense.” 

Jarvis was originally recruited as an infielder and was later moved to centerfield. 

This is his first season playing shortstop consistently since transferring from Saddleback College in Orange County. 

Martinez said that Jarvis’ success at this position is a testament to his athleticism. 

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Martinez said. “We had Carson Matthew, who was a guy we recruited to come in and play short, tear his ACL early in the fall and naturally I said, ‘That’s an athletic position. Let’s move (Jarvis) back in.’ He shook off the rust from that position and he’s done a great job.” 

Aside from talent and solid leadership, the team’s series win can be credited to their mental stamina. 

This is a focal point for Martinez. 

“(The team) understands that each game is basically nine little games in itself, and we try to win those innings,” he said. “They bought into that. They find a way to not worry about giving up a (2-0 deficit) in the first (inning). Their whole mindset coming into the bottom of the first is, ‘We’ve got to find a way to win this inning.’ And if we don’t, then we go to the next.” 

Fein agreed. 

“When we get punched, we come back even harder, we punch back even harder,” he said. “When things get chippy, we rise to the occasion. We love playing with that energy and that passion; I think we really thrive off of that. It’s been huge for us in a number of games that I can think of, especially today.” 

This same mindset should carry over into next weekend’s homestand against UNLV. The Aztecs will kick off the series with a doubleheader on Saturday, March 13. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.