The San Diego State baseball team (35-17, 15-12) took the rubber match away from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (30-20, 17-10 ) today in a close duel that echoes the Mountain West Conference battle for second and third place, 3-2, at Charlie Smith Field. The victory highlighted the Aztecs’ final home game of the season as well as Senior Day and Mother’s Day.
The Aztecs averted an early Rebel lead and recovered defensively in the top half of the second inning. UNLV threatened when a Morgan Stotts too-hot-to-handle shot that Tim Zier couldn’t get a glove on allowed base runners to reach first and second. A sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third. But Zier got a handle on the next ball to find him at the front end of a 4-6-3 double play that made up for his earlier miscue and the inning was over.
SDSU fed off the rhythm coming in from the field and scored two of their own off the base paths in the bottom of the second frame. With one out, Steven Pallares singled to right and promptly stole second base. Pallares then scored on a Ryan Muno hooking double to right field that found a nice spot in the corner, and Muno’s heads-up base running allowed him to continue to third on a throwing error. Muno crossed the plate via Tyler Adkison’s RBI sacrifice fly to center field, and the Aztecs went up, 2-0.
Junior centerfielder Greg Allen (1-for-4, stolen base, 1 error) misjudged a falling liner to him by T.J. White, the ball rolled all the way to the fence, and white rolled all the way to third and scored the unearned run off an infield fielder’s choice. However, Aztecs starter Michael RoBards (5-4) clamped down and got a swinging strikeout and Allen hauled in a fly ball to get back into the dugout.
SDSU got lucky in the Rebels sixth and escaped with only allowing a run in the frame despite an error and two wild pitches with two outs on the scoreboard. After slapping an infield single deep behind third base, UNLV’s Joey Armstrong advanced to second after a single, advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on the second wild pitch of the inning. But once again, starter RoBards took control and got a strikeout to keep the game tied, 2-2, a similar momentum as the Aztecs’ 2-run second.
Tim Zier then stepped up to the plate as the Aztecs first batter in the bottom half of the frame, and promptly laced a double to left center and advanced to third on a Brad Haynal sacrifice fly. Seby Zavala found an open hole to hit to between third and shortstop, and the Rebels only chance at an out was to throw to first as Zier scored the insurance run and put SDSU up 3-2 for good.
Southpaw RoBards picked up the win and stellar closer Michael Cederoth (2.08) finished the job and shut the door with the save after coming in relief in the seventh inning.
Both teams scattered seven hits apiece in the contest, with no single Aztec getting more than one hit.
AZTECS GAME NOTES: It was a good fight for everyone for the rubber match of the three game weekend series…UNLV won, 6-1 on Friday night, SDSU came back and took the Saturday evening game, 7-3…A foul ball over the top of the screen that hit the press box trickled down the screen and both the SDSU and UNLV ball boys raced out to catch it coming down, with the Aztecs boy the winner as the two collided mid-air like they were fighting for a rebound at nearby Viejas Arena, and the crowd goes wild…Fourth year UNLV head coach Tim Chambers was ejected from the ball game by home plate umpire Carl Coles in the bottom of the seventh inning after arguing a tag play at third base, helmets and bats were flying in the visitor’s dugout afterward…
The Aztecs are in the hunt for either a second or third place finish in MWC play behind Nevada (SDSU and Nevada currently tied for third) and UNLV, with New Mexico having a firm grip on the top spot…it will all be determined after next weekend…The Aztecs head up to Fresno State for games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday against the Bulldogs… SDSU ended it’s home schedule with a 24-5 record, the best since 1983’s 40-4 team…Pitcher Cederoth made his second appearance in two days, running his save record to 19, which is one shy of the SDSU record for saves in a season, let’s hope he gets another to own it.