With five true freshmen and a junior college transfer starting in the San Diego State baseball team’s season opener, some growing pains were expected early on for SDSU.
But in just their third contest, the Aztecs used key contributions from two newcomers to pick up a 6-1 win against Winthrop on Sunday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
“Our freshmen have done a really good job of just putting the ball in play and moving it around,” head coach Tony Gwynn said. “That’s kind of what I want. I don’t really want us going out there and trying to get too big. I just want them taking whatever (the opponent) gives them. And thus far, I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Freshman pitcher TJ Kendzora picked up the victory in his first career collegiate start after retiring the first 15 Eagles he faced. He allowed one hit, one run, three walks and struck out three batters, in six innings pitched.
“He gave the offense a chance to put some runs on the board,” Gwynn said. “And that’s what you want.”
The Aztecs took advantage of their offensive opportunities early on, scoring four runs in the bottom of the third. The first two scores came on back-to-back RBI singles by junior outfielder Brandon Meredith and junior first baseman Jomel Torres. Then, after a passed ball advanced Meredith and Torres to second and third, freshman shortstop Cody Slader drove in two more runs with a single up the middle.
“It was nice to get the early lead,” Gwynn said. “I thought Slader’s hit with two outs to make it 4-0 was huge. We’re having good at-bats and that’s all you can ask for at this point in the year.”
In Saturday’s contest, which featured two rain delays, SDSU was unable to complete its comeback attempt and dropped a 7-3 decision to No. 4 Vanderbilt.
After three innings of scoreless ball, the Commodores scored their first run in the fourth and notched another in the fifth and sixth to take a 3-0 lead.
The Aztecs found their offensive spark in the bottom of the sixth, scoring runs on junior utility Chris Wilson’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Slader.
In the bottom of the eighth, another Wilson RBI scored senior outfielder Pat Colwell to tie the game at 3-3.
However, four runs by Vanderbilt in the top of the ninth put things out of reach for the Aztecs, and they were unable to pull off the upset.
“We fought hard and played until the end,” Meredith said. “This being a young team, for us to score runs when we’re down early is a good trait to have.”
On Friday afternoon, SDSU was unable to dig itself out of an early hole in its season opener and lost 14-9 to Winthrop.
The Eagles roughed up sophomore pitcher Bryan Crabb, scoring four runs in the top of the first. Despite three runs by the Aztecs in the bottom half of the inning, the damage was done after Winthrop added another four runs to take a 8-3 lead heading into the top of the third. Crabb pitched just three innings and allowed eight runs on nine hits.
“I think he was pressing, trying too hard,” Gwynn said of Crabb. “Anytime you’re the opening day guy, there’s going to be jitters. Not only for him, but I think for everybody. He didn’t pitch as well as I think he’s capable of pitching, but hopefully he learns from that.”
The Aztecs’ next contest will be at 6 p.m. tonight against No. 27 UC Irvine at Tony Gwynn Stadium.