Baseball scores late to beat Iowa in first game of Tony Gwynn Legacy

Junior+outfielder+Matt+Rudick+makes+contact+with+a+pitch+during+the+Aztecs%27+8-4+win+over+Cal+State+Fullerton+on+Feb.+18+at+Tony+Gwynn+Stadium.

Luis Lopez

Junior outfielder Matt Rudick makes contact with a pitch during the Aztecs' 8-4 win over Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 18 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

by Luis Lopez, Staff Writer

San Diego State baseball kicked off its slate of games for this weekend’s Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament with a 4-1 win against Iowa on Friday, Feb. 21.

The win puts the Aztecs at a 4-1 record and adds to their non-conference résumé to begin the season. Sophomore first baseman Jaden Fein gave the Aztecs a go-ahead RBI single to break a 1-1 tie in the 7th inning. Fein’s single sparked what would be a big offensive inning, with sophomore first baseman Jacob Cruce getting a pinch-hit double to bring in another two runs to make it 4-1.

Here are three observations from Friday’s game.

1. Michael Paredes bounceback game

In last week’s season opener against Virginia Tech, sophomore pitcher Michael Paredes had a rough outing, pitching only 3.1 innings while allowing four runs on seven hits.

Head coach Mark Martinez felt opening day combined with the trip to South Carolina played a factor in his struggles last week.

“Opening day start, there’s a lot of motion going on,” Martinez said. “A big, long road trip, a lot of things factored into that big outing last weekend.”

Turns out a little home cooking was all Paredes needed to get back to his best self on the mound.

Paredes pitched six innings, allowing only one run with seven strikeouts.

For Paredes, he felt it was his fastball’s effectiveness as a first pitch that helped him succeed against the Hawkeyes.

“Last weekend it was kind of the other way around,” Paredes said. “I (would fall) behind, and it felt good to switch it up and just jump ahead and make sure I get that first pitch right, because that’s the most important pitch.”

Martinez said Paredes’ demeanor led to the win.

“He came out with purpose, he came out with intent,” Martinez said.

2. Late-inning fireworks for SDSU’s offense

The Aztecs have been somewhat of an offensive team to begin the season, and while it took until the seventh inning to continue the trend, the Aztecs managed to get runs on the board.

SDSU was held to one run through seven innings, with the run coming off a fielder’s choice in the second inning.

Iowa’s starting pitcher, sophomore Jack Dreyer, went 6.2 innings pitched with five strikeouts.

He only allowed one run, but Dreyer had another two runs charged to him after leaving the game in the seventh with two runners, junior shortstop Anthony Walters and sophomore shortstop Wyatt Henry, on base.

It was one of those two runners that Fein would drive in with an RBI double to give the Aztecs the lead late.

Fein says that his mindset in that crucial at-bat was to simply bring the next man up.

“Just getting to the next guy, (Walters) and (Henry) did a great job of getting me up, doing their part, keeping the inning alive, and just rolling off that momentum,” Fein said.

Cruce would follow Fein’s heroics with some of his own, getting a pinch hit double to put that last bit of insurance for the Aztecs.

Martinez gave credit to Dreyer but knew that his team’s consistent approach is what led to the production after the pitching change.

“Honestly we kept battling the entire game, we were maintaining our focus but we weren’t getting upset,” Martinez said. “(Dreyer) was beating us a little bit, but we maintain the focus, turn it over and all of the sudden we maintain the same focus and put together some really good at-bats.”

3. Improved Aztec defense

Fans at Tony Gwynn stadium may not have been chanting “de-fense Az-tecs de-fense,” but rest assured the team’s defense was certainly worth chanting over.

Friday’s win saw them significantly improve from their 8-4 win against Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday, which the Aztecs committed six errors.

The Aztecs only committed one error on the night along with their first double play of the year.

The improved glove work was something Paredes was excited to see.

“It makes all the guys on the mound really happy, making sure we’re all on the same page,” Paredes said. “Just going out there and working on our stuff on our off-days after a game like (Tuesday), it’s a good sight to see.”

Martinez said he really enjoyed watching some bench players make plays.

“We had some nice plays at the end, guys that came off the bench, (sophomore infielder) Devin Lopez made two really nice plays there in the ninth inning,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he expects defense to be one of the teams calling cards going forward.

“We’re going to hang our hat on pitching and defense, so we’re going to win a lot of games,” Martinez said. “To play a lot better defensively and play with a little more intent on the defensive side, it’s nice to see.”

The Aztecs will continue the Tony Gwynn Legacy tomorrow, giving the home start to sophomore pitcher Troy Melton against Nebraska at 6 p.m.

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