Aztecs battle with Air Force and secure third consecutive conference series

Sophomore+Shaun+Montoya+and+the+Aztecs+took+two+games+of+the+three+game+series+against+Air+Force%2C+securing+their+third+consecutive+MWC+series.+

Jenna Meyer

Sophomore Shaun Montoya and the Aztecs took two games of the three game series against Air Force, securing their third consecutive MWC series.

by Jenna Meyer, Senior Staff Writer

The Aztecs welcomed the Falcons of Air Force Academy into town for the second to last weekend conference series from May 6-8.

Game 1

Two of the Mountain West’s best pitchers faced off as SDSU’s Troy Melton and Air Force’s Paul Skenes toed the rubber for Friday night’s contest.

The Aztecs made it on the board first in the bottom of the second, securing two runs following a single from sophomore Cole Carrigg, and walks by junior Brian Leonhardt and sophomore TJ Fondtain. With bases loaded, Carrigg made it home after freshman Tino Bethancourt was hit by a pitch and sophomore Caden Miller hit an RBI single to send Leonhardt home. 

Air Force responded with a run in the top of the fourth to get within one of the Scarlet and Black. The Falcons added an additional run in the top of the fifth and tied up the game following a double down the right-field line and an infield hit to plate the previous runner

SDSU matched Air Force’s efforts and tacked on two additional runs to extend their lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth after a hit from freshman Irvin Weems, a double from sophomore Pancho Ruiz and a single from Carrigg.

The action halted until the bottom of the seventh when the Aztecs gave themselves some insurance courtesy of Fondtain’s two-run double, Ruiz’s single and freshman Alex Rodriguez’s double.

Melton finished his mound appearance with a career-high of 11 strikeouts before Robert Brodell took over in relief. 

Despite Melton reaching a career-high in strikeouts and the Aztecs having an 8-2 lead in the top of the eighth, the Aztecs could not hold on and secure the victory.

SDSU held a convincing lead until the top of the eighth when Air Force took advantage of Aztec errors and three hits, bringing them within reach of the Aztecs 8-6. 

Junior right-handed pitcher Robert Brodell and sophomore right-handed pitcher Kelena Sauer worked in relief for Melton on the mound in the eighth and ninth respectively but were unable to maintain the Aztecs lead.The Falcons scored eight runs between the eighth and ninth inning to overcome the deficit previously set by the Aztecs and secured a late in the game 10-8 victory.

Game 2 

Left-handed pitcher TJ Fondtain received the Saturday start and limited Air Force to just four hits in his time on the mound. 

The Aztecs’ scoring started early with two runs in the bottom of the first following a balk from Air Force’s starter and an RBI single from Carrigg. 

In the bottom of the second, Weems reached base due to a fielding error giving sophomore Xavier Carter the opportunity to score.  

The Falcons had no response to the Aztecs continuous scoring frenzy. 

The Scarlet and Black added another in the bottom of the fourth following freshman Tyler Glowacki’s single to left field, plating Fondtain.

SDSU put three more runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth courtesy of Leonhardt’s double to plate Carrigg and Ruiz followed by a double from Fondtain to bring Leonhardt home, increasing their lead to 7-0

The Aztecs continued to build their lead into the bottom of the sixth after Carrigg singled to first giving Miller and Glowacki the opportunity to score. Following Carrigg’s single, Leonhardt smacked a double to right field, plating Ruiz.

The scoring paused for a brief moment in the bottom of the seventh but picked up immediately in the bottom of the eighth after a triple to right field from Miller plated Weems and Glowacki to increase the Aztecs lead to 12-0.

TJ Fondtain tossed a complete-game shutout allowing the Aztecs to secure game two of the series.

The Aztecs’ dominant lead and Fondtain’s efforts on the mound secured the Saturday win, evening out the series and providing the team with a chance at its third consecutive conference win going into Sunday’s contest. 

Game 3

On this day in 2009, Aztec standout Stephen Strasburg made his final home start, striking out 17 and pitching a no-hitter over Air Force in a 5-0 victory.

Freshman Chris Canada got the Sunday start to close out the weekend with the same visiting Air Force Falcons, both teams hoping to secure the Sunday win to secure the series. 

The Aztecs were able to do that. 

The Falcons took an early lead in the top of the first with two runs following a runner scoring on a sac fly and a double to center field plating the runner.

Caden Miller kicked off the scoring for the Aztecs in the bottom of the first after walking, then stealing second, and was brought home by Ruiz’s RBI single. Fondtain promptly hit a single to advance Ruiz to third followed by a sac fly from Leonhardt to bring Ruiz home and tie up the game. 

The Aztecs tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth after Montoya grounded out to first but gave Fondtain the chance to cross home plate.

Air Force tied it back up in the top of the fifth following a sac fly that allowed junior Blake Covin to score.

The Falcons added not one, but two home runs between the sixth and seventh inning, courtesy of sophomore Jay Thomasen out to right and a two-run homer out of left-center from sophomore Jake Greiving.

The Aztecs were in relentless pursuit of catching the Falcons with bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. A single from Miller brought Rodriguez across the plate, taking the score to 6-4.

With the Aztecs trailing 6-4, Glowacki singled through the right side, advanced to second on a throwing error, and gave Leonhardt the opportunity to score, bringing the Aztecs within one. With runners on second and third, sophomore Max Foxcroft took to the plate and perfectly placed a sac bunt with just enough time for Montoya to score and tie it up. 

Weems was up with two outs and walked, leaving it up to Miller with a runner on first and third. Weems stole second.

Miller popped up to second base, sending the game into extra innings. 

After watching both teams fail to score in the tenth inning, Sauer took over on the mound in the 11th hoping to help the Aztecs close out the game. Sauer prevented the Falcons from any further scoring.

Heading into the bottom of the 12th, Weems led off with a double to center field and Miller walked. With Ruiz at the plate, Weems and Miller advanced to second and third respectively on a passed ball. 

Weems scored on a wild pitch and secured the winning run for the Aztecs in addition to the Scarlet and Black’s third consecutive conference win.

On deck… 

The Aztecs welcome the Wolfpack of Nevada to Tony Gwynn Stadium May 13-15 for the final home series of the 2022 season. SDSU will honor its seniors at the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Following the series with Nevada, the Scarlet and Black will hit the road for the final conference series at UNLV, May 20-22.