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Ruiz’s three-run homer sparks comeback win


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March 18, 2023 (San Diego) - Poncho Ruiz belted a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday, lifting San Diego State to a thrilling 4-2 triumph over UConn at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Maddox Haley also ripped an RBI single in the decisive frame, as the Aztecs (5-9) overcame a 2-0 deficit to put the brakes a four-game losing streak.

Seven different players contributed at least one hit in SDSU’s eight-hit attack, including Brian Leonhardt, who kick-started the belated rally by legging out a single on the left-infield grass near the pitcher’s mound to lead off the eighth.
After a foul out, UConn reliever Zach Fogell was replaced by Justin Willis, who promptly struck out Irwin Weems. However, Shaun Montoya followed with a double down the right-field line, advancing Leonhardt to third.
Ruiz then stepped to the plate and blasted a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left to put the Aztecs in front for good. Moments later, Tino Bethancourt drew a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch before racing home on Haley’s base hit to right-center on another 3-2 offering to complete the comeback.
Robert Brodell (3-2) picked up his third victory in relief this season, offsetting one hit and one walk with a pair of strikeouts in 1 2/3 scoreless innings after taking over for TJ Fondtain with one out in the seventh.
Kelena Sauer entered in the ninth and retired the Huskies in order, fanning the first two hitters en route to his third save of the year.
The teams were locked in a pitcher’s duel, with Fondtain posting seven strikeouts through six innings, while his opposing number Andrew Sears fanned eight batters in 5 1/3 innings of work.
UConn (10-5) finally dented the scoreboard with two unearned runs in the seventh, capitalizing on three Aztec errors, including a dropped foul ball that enabled Ryan Padilla to stay alive and belt a leadoff homer to left. Following a popup to second, Ryan Hyde reached on Fondtain’s wild throw to first on a grounder towards the right side and took second on the miscue.
After Paul Tammaro singled, Brodell entered and issued an intentional walk to David Smith, while Dominic Freeberger struck out. With the bases loaded, Ben Huber reached on a bobbled grounder to the right side of the infield near first base, allowing Hyde to cross the plate. However, Brodell induced a fielder’s choice grounder to prevent further damage and set the stage for SDSU’s comeback.
Both unearned runs were charged to Fondtain, who scattered six hits and a pair of walks but did not factor in the decision.
Conversely, Willis (0-1) was tagged with the loss after surrendering three runs on three hits and a walk against only one out in the fateful eighth.
Bethancourt had two hits to tie the Huskies’ Padilla for game-high honors.
San Diego State resumes its weekend series with UConn on Saturday, starting at 6 p.m. 

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