After dropping its first three Mountain West Conference games in a series to New Mexico, the San Diego State baseball team completed a much-needed three-game sweep of Air Force this weekend with a 5-3 win to even its record in MW play at 3-3.
With the victory the Aztecs improved their record to 14-15, and gained sole possession of third place in the conference.
SDSU wasted no time getting on the board as the team took advantage of Air Force starter Evan Abrecht for two quick runs, which came in the first inning courtesy of RBI singles from senior utility Chris Wilson and freshman left fielder Spencer Thornton.
The Aztecs would play small-ball and utilize an Air Force error to extend their lead in the fourth. After a single by freshman third baseman Ryan Muno, junior catcher Jake Romanski’s grounder to second was thrown away, which put runners on second and third. Freshman infielder Matt Munoz then came to the plate and slapped a single to left, which scored Muno. Freshman center fielder Greg Allen followed with a squeeze bunt that helped Romanski cross the plate for SDSU’s fifth and final run of the afternoon.
The Aztecs’ junior starting pitcher Ryan Doran had a very strong outing, shutting out the Falcons for six innings before finally surrendering a run in the seventh. Doran posted seven strikeouts in as many innings, and allowed five hits while walking only two.
Just when it seemed the game was won, Air Force began to threaten. SDSU pitcher Mike Hachadorian came out of the bullpen to start the eighth and retired the first two hitters he faced only to allow consecutive extra-base hits, which yielded the Falcons’ second run. He would escape the inning without further damage, and it was 5-2 with eight innings in the books.
Air Force made things interesting in the ninth as SDSU junior Justin Hepner came to the mound to wrap things up. The right-hander retired the first hitter he faced, but went on to allow four consecutive singles, making it 5-3 with loaded bases. The crowd was buzzing with apparent restlessness and unease as it appeared the Falcons would mount an improbable comeback. But Hepner would come through with two clutch strikeouts to end the game, recording his fourth save of the season in the process.
The win concluded a reassuring weekend series that has the Aztecs back in contention for a conference title. Friday’s 18-13 victory was especially notable, as it saw an SDSU offense that has been stagnant and inconsistent throughout the season come alive.
Despite the fact that Air Force holds just a 6-20 record this season, offensive explosions of such dominant nature must instill a sense of confidence into a clubhouse that has seen its ups and downs this season.
The Aztecs will continue play at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Tony Gwynn Stadium as they host baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in the final contest of a five-game homestand.