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

Aztec Baseball drops series against UConn, takes one win

The Aztecs were outscored 15-34 by the Huskies over the weekend
Fernando Martinez
Infielder Maddox Haley swings at a pitch during a home game against CSU Northridge on Feb. 21, 2023.

The San Diego State baseball team dropped three games in a four-game series against the University of Connecticut Huskies last weekend at Tony Gwynn Stadium. 

After a 10-2 loss against the University of Connecticut in the first game of the series on March 16, the Aztecs looked to bounce back in the second game of the series. Friday night’s game snapped SDSU’s four-game losing streak, defeating the Huskies 4-2.

The game remained scoreless going into the seventh inning until the Huskies (10-5) broke it open with a solo home run to left field. After UConn got runners on the corners, junior pitcher TJ Fondtain was pulled from the game after 102 pitches. 

Senior pitcher Robert Brodell came in as relief, where the Huskies tacked on another run after a fielding error with the bases loaded, giving them a 2-0 lead. The Aztecs (5-9) had three errors that led to opportunities for the Huskies. Coach Mark Martinez said the Aztecs were their own worst enemy.

“We created an opportunity for them to score runs,” Martinez said. “We have to learn how to rise above that and not let the inning get out of hand.”

The Aztecs fought back in the eighth inning with senior infielder Brian Leonhardt getting a pinch-hit single and sophomore outfielder Shaun Montoya hitting a double, followed by junior catcher Poncho Ruiz driving them home with a home run to left field. The Scarlet and Black kept the scoring going as freshman infielder Maddox Haley hit a single to bring sophomore infielder Tino Bethancourt home after he walked and took the lead 4-2. Ruiz said he was aiming just for a base hit, and got the perfect opportunity.

“He threw me five sliders in a row, so I was like ‘I’m just gonna hit it off of him,’” Ruiz said. “Then he hung that slider and I just found barrel on it.”

The Aztecs had an additional chance to get on the board in the third inning with the bases loaded after a leadoff single, a hit by pitch and a walk, but Ruiz grounded out after an eight-pitch battle to end the inning. Ruiz said he wasn’t discouraged by the situation.

“The starter got me out and I was like, ‘I’ll get him next time,’” Ruiz said. “Then the next time, I got the team to the win.”

Both starting pitchers went deep, with Fondtain having his second-longest outing of the season at 6 ⅓ innings, allowing six hits, one run and two walks. Huskies’ starting pitcher Andrew Sears left the game after five and a third innings with 86 pitches, three hits and one walk. Martinez said Fondtain’s outing was a great win for him and the team.

“He commanded his fastball exceptionally well tonight,” Martinez said. “He still hasn’t thrown all his pitches the way he can, but what an unbelievable, gutty performance from him.”

Junior pitcher Kelena Sauer closed out the game with two strikeouts and a popup to secure the win for the Scarlet and Black.

“The bottom line is we got the win and we pitched exceptionally well,” Martinez said. “We just got to do a better job defensively and not be our own worst enemy, honestly.”

The Aztecs were unable to keep the momentum going in Saturday’s game, falling 6-12 against the Huskies.

UConn jumped to an early lead, scoring 10 runs in the first six innings, leaving the Aztecs trailing 10-1. SDSU cut down the lead in the seventh inning, when sophomore outfielder Irvin Weems scored on a wild pitch and Fondtain singled to get Ruiz and Montoya home to make it 10-4.

The Aztecs capitalized on another wild pitch from the Huskies in the eighth, scoring Haley. The Huskies responded by adding two more runs in the top of the ninth, and the Aztecs were able to get one more run as Fondtain crossed the plate off Haley’s single, but were unable to close the gap completely.

The Scarlet and Black could not take advantage of their scoring opportunities, leaving a season-high 11 runners on base. Fondtain and Weems led the team with three hits a piece.

In the final game of the series on Sunday, March 19, UConn slugged their way to a 10-3 victory. Although the game was relatively competitive throughout, UConn eventually pulled away late in the eighth inning, thanks to a grand slam from junior outfielder David Smith.

The grand slam wasn’t the only big hit by UConn. They combined to hit four home runs in the game, the most given up by Aztec pitching in a game all season. These home runs accounted for seven of the Huskies’ 10 runs in the game and really helped them beat the Aztecs.

This type of offensive explosion was the theme of the series for the Huskies and was a big reason why they won three out of four games against SDSU. Aztec pitching allowed 10 runs in two of the games and 12 in another. Their lone win in the series came on a night where Aztec pitching allowed just two unearned runs to cross home plate for UConn, which gave the offense the ability to come back and score late in the game.

“Our hitters are doing our pitchers no favors,” Martinez said. “We’re putting ourselves in holes. “We are putting an enormous amount of pressure on our pitching staff because we can’t create traffic, move runners, or score runs with less than two outs and people in scoring position. It’s really a selfish approach and we have to address it and move on.” 

Meanwhile, Husky starting pitcher, sophomore Jack Sullivan, fooled Aztec batters all game, going 6 ⅔ innings while striking out eight Aztecs and allowing just two earned runs. This was a remarkable story in itself as just a few months ago, Sullivan received heart surgery and was now back on the mound playing the game he loves.

“(Sullivan) is coming off a heart surgery in the offseason, pretty impressive stuff… Talk about a tough kid,” Martinez said. “He gave us fits and pounded the strike zone with all three of his pitches. Give him some credit, but also our approach at the plate is just not very good right now and we’re going to fix that this week.”

The Aztecs came into Sunday’s afternoon game hoping to split the series with the Huskies. Sophomore pitcher Omar Serrano started the game for the Aztecs and was given the tough task to silence the potent Husky offense. Although Serrano gave up a lead-off home run followed by a single to start his afternoon, he battled back, allowing just one more run to cross home plate during his four innings of work and left the game down 2-0. 

“He’s pitched well for us pretty much all year,” Martinez said. “Some days you’re not going to have your best stuff but what I appreciated from Omar today was that he gritted it and got after it.”

In the fifth inning, junior pitcher Ricky Tibbett entered the game for the Aztecs. He got through that fifth inning, but not before allowing two balls to be hit over the left field wall for home runs and doubling the Husky lead to 4-0.

However, in the bottom of that inning, the Aztecs cut the lead back in half. Following two singles from junior Caden Miller and sophomore Irvin Weems, Montoya brought both runners in to score on a single of his own. The Aztec offense was finally able to scratch across a few runs against Sullivan and it looked like they may rally late to steal another game against UConn.

However, this was not the case, as Sullivan and the UConn relievers shut the Aztec offense back down while the UConn offense went back to work in the eighth inning. In the eighth, Martinez turned to freshman relief pitcher Xavier Cardenas III who, with one out, loaded the bases. Martinez then pulled Cardenas out of the game and replaced him with Sauer. 

Sauer proceeded to give up a walk with the bases loaded and then allowed the grand slam to Smith, the very next batter. This made the score 9-2 and put the game out of reach for the Aztecs. Both teams tacked on another run and the final score of 10-3 was reached. 

Following the loss, Martinez had a long meeting with his team in the locker room before they cleaned up the field.

“It’s about doing things right.” Martinez said. “I think that’s buying into a very simple mantra that when you show up here you have a purpose and intent and your training in order for it to translate into real time. Right now, we are making immature decisions. We are picking and choosing when we should be doing stuff right. That’s going to take care of it in short order.”

The Aztecs have now lost five of their last six games. Their Tuesday road game against USD has been postponed due to rain, so the Aztecs will have to wait until their weekend home series, March 24-26, against Air Force to get back on track.

Activate Search
San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Aztec Baseball drops series against UConn, takes one win