San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Writer’s Roundtable: Baseball Preseason Predictions

Jenna Meyer
The Aztecs are scheduled to play games during the week, unlike the 2021 season that only allowed the team to play weekend series.

San Diego State baseball will open their season in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 18 against TCU. 

This year’s schedule will return to a typical schedule with midweek non-conference matchups and weekend series leading up to the return of the Mountain West Conference Tournament that will be hosted at Tony Gwynn Stadium at the end of May. 

I checked in with two leaders of The Daily Aztec sports section — Sports Editor Jason Freund and Assistant Sports Editor, Andrew Finley — to hear their thoughts and preseason predictions leading up to the new season.

Jenna Meyer: SDSU was predicted to win the Mountain West title in 2021 and often leads the Mountain West Conference. Who do you think the team to beat will be in the upcoming season?

Andrew Finley: “I think the Aztecs are a really young team this year and Nevada won the Mountain West Conference last year so obviously they are going to be very competitive. San Diego State also struggled against UNLV when playing them at the end of the year. So Nevada and UNLV are top teams to beat but I think teams that they need to beat are San Jose State and New Mexico who were at the bottom last year. A young San Diego State team needs to take advantage of those less competitive Mountain West opponents to give more of a cushion when they face Nevada and UNLV.”

Jason Freund: “Well, it’s got to be the first place team. It has to be Nevada, kind of like with your major league baseball is taking your the potter’s for example the team to beat is going to be the Dodgers. They were in first place and in this case scenario in the Mountain West, Nevada did finish in first place just above the Aztecs with a 22-9 conference record. However, their overall record was a different story. They were 25-20 as opposed to San Diego State’s 30-16. However, much of that can be due to the fact that the Aztecs were only 1-6 against Nevada and the Aztecs won just the first game 15-7 on April 10. Nevada is going to be a very scary team especially considering that they’re bringing back four all Mountain West players and I believe even a couple second-team picks as well and are finished to pick within the top 50 of collegiate baseball.”

JM: In your opinion, who are your “players to watch” for the upcoming season? 

AF: “Well like I said earlier, this is a super young team with only two seniors and five juniors. First of all, Troy Melton, the golden spikes nominee for last season, had a down year. I think consistency and a non-COVID season where the baseball players are already on the field and practicing will be beneficial for Troy Melton being the face of that rotation. I’m also looking at Brian Leonhardt. He was in the heart of that lineup last season and coming back for his junior season. I’m also looking at sophomore Caden Miller. He showed a lot last year and I could see him batting leadoff for the Aztecs this year. Those are the three guys I’m watching this year but most importantly Troy Melton. I see a bounce-back season for Troy Melton.

JF: “​​I mean, there’s a lot of players to pick from. We’re bringing back a lot of players from last year, we saw five Aztec’s in total get drafted in the Major League Baseball draft from 2021. I believe we’re going to have another strong crop this year of a graduating seniors and people who leave early but I think one person I want to focus on in particular and look at in particular in terms of potential is Brian Leonhart, who served 36 games as the designated hitter last year. I think we are starting to see his power numbers slowly increase as the years progress as we saw in 2019. I think if he takes the next step when it comes to his power development, he can become a very steady presence in his offense and in this lineup for the Aztecs and maybe even draftable when it comes time for July.”

JM: The team will be facing a full schedule this spring, opposed to last year’s modified COVID-19 schedule with doubleheaders and Sunday afternoon games. Do you think the schedule with mid-week games and full weekend series will affect the team?

AF: “It’s a really interesting question because it has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde kind of feel because on one hand, if your team is a bit streaky, this can be great for them. Last year, they only played on weekends and if you played really well one weekend, you’ve got a whole weekend to wait until you play again, and maybe that mojo is gone by then. But on the flip side, if you had a bad weekend, you would have had a whole week to clean that up. I think it all depends on how they start off the season. If they start off the season hot, it can be very beneficial for the Aztecs to play more consistently. If they come out cold, it is going to be hard to recover.”

JF: “Well, first on the positive side, it’s going to help the team bond a lot more as they are going to be traveling a lot and playing just as frequently as before but now there going to be playing in midweek games and a lot more weekend series. This is going to help this team bond throughout the season, throughout all the struggles, and throughout all the positive things that come out of this. This team is going to be able to play together a lot more frequently and that’s going to help them chemistry-wise. Playing wise, it’s a different story because now you’re playing more frequently, you’re on the road more and traveling to different states and different cities. These players are going to be very fatigued, especially trying to consider balancing out things like classes and going to practice every day. This team is going to be very worn out. Last year was great, but I think this year is kind of the ‘prove it’ year.”

JM: In the past year, SDSU Athletics as a whole and within the Football and Men’s Basketball programs has been competitive with many teams from the PAC-12 conference. Baseball will be faced with four PAC-12 opponents in University of California Berkeley, University of Utah Arizona State, and Stanford. How do you think Baseball will compete?

AF: “Well, I think San Diego State has one of the best athletic programs in California so that bodes well for them playing and being competitive with PAC-12 teams. They are a Power 5 conference but in recent years, we’ve seen regression in Football and Basketball. In Baseball, we are seeing that the Pac-12 is a powerhouse. We are seeing many Pac-12 players get drafted into the Major League every single year. I think it is good to stay competitive with the Pac-12. It’s very on-brand for San Diego State that we don’t back down from a challenge. It’ll be really interesting to see how well they are able to compete with them though.”

JF: “Well, you never want to count the Aztecs out. People have counted the Aztecs out before with football and the Aztecs won those games. They counted out with basketball and they won those games. You know the saying “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…” I don’t think you can count the Aztecs out especially the first two opponents. I think they have a really strong chance against Cal Berkeley, Utah, and Arizona State. Both are good teams and good programs, but the Aztecs can certainly hang with them. Now Stanford, on the other hand, is a much different story. Stanford is much more of a powerhouse, especially within the baseball program. If this team can take one, maybe two games against Stanford, this is going to prove this is a real, legitimate Aztec baseball team, one that we can see go far in the postseason and playoffs. I really think they have a good shot and I think they’re gonna show well, it’s just can they win those games. I’m not gonna say no at all, but you never know.”

To stay updated throughout San Diego State’s Baseball season and journey to the Mountain West conference tournament, make sure you are following @AztecsGotGame and host @jennaameyer on Twitter. 

About the Contributor
Jenna Meyer, Staff Writer

Jenna is a third-year communication student from Seattle, Washington. This is her first year writing and reporting for the Daily Aztec. She hopes to work in the realms of broadcast journalism or as an in-game host for professional sports. Jenna follows Major League Baseball, specifically the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, as well as San Diego State baseball. She enjoys spending time on campus and in student organizations such as SDSU Women in Sports and Sports Business Initiative. Follow her on Twitter @jennaameyer.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Writer’s Roundtable: Baseball Preseason Predictions