The San Diego State baseball team was riding an emotional high after a weekend sweep against UNLV in Las Vegas before suffering a 6-2 loss at the hands of No. 19 USD Monday evening, dropping its record to 17-17 after holding a winning record for the first time since March 10.
Still, SDSU was 7-2 in its last nine games, and seemed ready to regain that winning record in a Tuesday night matchup with Long Beach State at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
However, it was not to be as the 49ers would strike late to break open a game that had previously been a nail-biter.
The game began with SDSU and CSULB mirroring one another with scoring efforts in the first inning.
The 49ers’ Jeff McNeill led the contest with a triple to center field and was subsequently driven in by a grounder to shortstop off the bat of Matt Duffy. Aztec freshman center fielder Greg Allen opened the SDSU half of the frame with a triple of his own and sophomore second baseman Tim Zier would drive him in with a fielder’s choice to shortstop.
CSULB played some small-ball in the second to gain a 2-1 lead when Johnny Bekakis singled, stole second base and was driven home on a two-out single by Josh Guerra.
Sophomore pitcher TJ Kendzora, who started the game for SDSU, was clutch when the 49ers had runners in scoring position, escaping multiple scoring situations for Long Beach as he pitched six innings of two-run baseball — an impressive mark considering he surrendered seven hits.
Despite the fact their offense was again stagnant, the Aztecs managed to keep the game tied into the seventh, with their second run coming from a sacrifice fly from sophomore outfielder Cody Smith that scored Zier.
Two runs wouldn’t be close to enough, though, as Long Beach broke it open with three runs in the seventh and four in the eighth. Senior outfielder Chris Wilson, who was recently named Mountain West Conference Co-player of the Week, blasted his sixth home run of the season in the seventh inning for SDSU’s third score, but it was for naught as the 49ers amassed nine runs on the night.
“Losses happen,” freshman catcher Seby Zavala said. “But we’ve just got to learn from them and come out as a better team afterwards.”
With the loss, the Aztecs drop to 17-18 on the season. They do, however, hold a 6-3 mark in conference play, and will resume play against MWC-leading New Mexico as they begin a three-game series at 6 p.m. on Friday at Tony Gwynn Stadium.