SDSU baseball loses critical series to rival UNLV

by Brandon Truffa, Staff Writer

San Diego State baseball (31-18, 17-10 Mountain West) lost two out of three against conference rival University of Nevada, Las Vegas (22-24, 8-16 MW) at Tony Gwynn Stadium this weekend.

This was the second meeting between the Aztecs and Rebels this season. In late March, SDSU traveled up to Las Vegas and swept its rival in three games. The Aztecs scored seven runs in each game that series.

This weekend’s series was SDSU’s final conference series at home this season and was a major opportunity to string some conference wins together in order to catch MW leader University of Nevada, Reno.

Head coach Mark Martinez was disappointed with his team’s inability to score runs when the Aztecs needed it the most.

“Our offense is not doing what they need to do to win games,” Martinez said. “If we don’t score when we have opportunities, we’re going to lose.”

The series kicked off on Friday night, when the Aztecs collected their fourth straight victory.

Junior right-hander Bubba Derby was given the start and turned in a wonderful performance. Derby only gave up one run on three hits with six strikeouts.

Derby’s six-strikeout performance pushed his strikeout total to 101 on the season, which leads the MW.

The Aztecs’ offense was not quiet Friday night either, as it was led by the bat of junior outfielder Spencer Thornton.

Thornton’s leadoff triple in the sixth inning set up freshman second baseman Alan Trejo to bring Thornton home on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.

They never looked back from there, tacking on three more runs courtesy of a UNLV error with the bases loaded and a seventh-inning RBI single from junior shortstop Danny Sheehan.

Saturday’s matinee was less fortunate for the Aztecs, as they fell 3-2.

SDSU junior right-hander Mark Seyler held his ground for seven full innings, surrendering just two runs on six hits with six strikeouts.

Seyler walked one batter in the eighth before he was pulled for junior relief pitcher Brian Heldman. Heldman entered with a 2-1 lead and gave up a two-run home run, which would eventually be enough to secure the 3-2 victory for the Rebels.

The two runs for the Aztecs came off the bats of junior third baseman Ty France and junior catcher Seby Zavala. Zavala and France hit back-to-back RBI doubles in the fifth inning to score the team’s only runs.

It was a disappointing loss for the Aztecs, who missed ample opportunities to score and left 12 runners on base.

The Aztecs looked to pick up the offense in Sunday’s rubber match and come out with a series victory.

However, it was not to be.

Zavala put SDSU up 2-0 with his fourth-inning two-RBI double.

Sophomore left-hander Marcus Reyes pulled his weight on the mound through the first five innings, forcing UNLV to leave eight runners on base.

Reyes was yanked in the sixth after the Rebels loaded the bases.

Junior right-hander Zack Oakley appeared in relief to face one batter, then the Aztecs brought in senior left-hander Mitch Bluman, who gave up a bases clearing triple to the first batter he faced, freshman infielder Payton Squier.

UNLV would tack on one more insurance run in the inning.

The Aztecs would get one back in the seventh inning off of a squeeze play from Sheehan, but the Rebels’ defense snatched what little SDSU could muster off its bats and the Aztecs dropped the decision 4-3.

Martinez elaborated on how the team needs to be more aggressive at the plate in order to produce more runs.

“Right now, we don’t have anybody stepping up and getting a big hit, or having tough at-bats,” Martinez said. “We’re having soft at-bats.”

SDSU now enters a critical part of the season. The Aztecs have seven games left on their regular-season schedule, and three of them are against MW rival Air Force Academy.

“We’ve got to win three games at Air Force to secure the second seed in the Mountain West,” Martinez said. “We need to sweep at Air Force.”

Sunday’s loss meant Nevada clinched the regular season title, meaning SDSU can finish no higher than second place.