Season to start in ‘Grand’ fashion

by Staff

The Aztecs may have to rely on their hitters to get them through the 1997 season.

The 1997 San Diego State baseball team begins its season this weekend with a three-game series at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz., with a cast of many newcomers.

Although the Aztecs have a shortage of familiar faces, they certainly do not have a shortage of talent. SDSU returns juniors Jason Phillips, Andy Bevins and Stewart Smothers, all of whom batted at least .330 last year.

Wyoming transfer Rob Coddington batted .401 last year for the Cowboys on his way to being named the All-Western Athletic Conference Eastern Division Catcher. Junior College All-American Alex Pelaez should provide additional firepower for the Aztecs.

The SDSU pitching staff is a revamped unit that features 11 new faces. Of the four returning hurlers, senior left-hander Justin Brunette should emerge as the top starter.

Aztec pitchers, who led the WAC in opponents’ batting average against last year, face a formidable challenge this weekend against Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon returns a high-powered nucleus of right fielder Freddie Jackson, who batted .402 with 21 stolen bases last year, second baseman Dan Williams, who batted .353 with 16 home runs, and infielder Ben Menke, who batted .317 with 53 runs batted in as a freshman.

The Antelopes return 18 players from last year’s 23-32 team.

“(We) are better prepared for this season than for any of my previous 16 campaigns. This year’s edition has experience, depth and maturity,” Grand Canyon head coach Gil Stafford said.

SDSU head coach Jim Dietz is optimistic going into the series.

“This team is hungry to succeed,” he said.

For the new players, nerves will be tested early and often.

“It will be interesting to see how the (new players) will react to their first Division I game on the road in a hostile environment,” Phillips said.

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