Aztecs emerge victorious in weekend finale on a wild pitch
Photo courtesy goaztecs.com
May 8, 2022 (San Diego) - San Diego State’s Irvin Weems scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 12th inning on Sunday to give the Aztecs a thrilling 7-6 victory over Air Force at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
With the win, SDSU (16-34, 8-16 MW) captured its third straight Mountain West series to remain four games behind Fresno State (24-24, 12-12 MW) for fourth place in the conference standings with six games left in the regular season. The top four teams qualify for the MW tournament at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the Falcons (23-25, 11-13 MW) slip into fifth place one game in back of the Bulldogs, who prevailed by a 7-4 count at San José State on Sunday.
In the decisive 12th inning for the Aztecs, Weems led off with a double to near straight-away center field on an 0-1 offering from Air Force reliever Rob Martin (2-3), while Caden Miller drew a walk. Shortly thereafter, both runners advanced on a passed ball, with Poncho Ruiz standing eagerly in the batter’s box. Two pitches later, Weems trotted home on Martin’s errant toss, as the SDSU bench erupted in jubilation.
Weems’ score made a winner of reliever Kelena Sauer (2-6), who was brilliant in his two-inning stint, striking out four batters while yielding only one hit—a two-out single in the top of the 12th. Fittingly, the Aztec sophomore extinguished the Falcons’ final threat after Aerik Joe was caught looking at a called third strike.
In addition, Jonny Guzman was no less spectacular in his three-inning appearance when he recorded four punchouts of his own against only one hit, which allowed the Scarlet and Black to rally from a 6-3 deficit.
Trailing by three runs, SDSU initiated its comeback in the bottom of the eighth when Alex Rodriguez scored on Caden Miller’s single through the left side off reliever Zach Argo. Previously, Rodriguez led off with a double down the left-field line and advanced to third on a wild pitch, spelling the end of starter Dylan Rogers’ day.
The Aztecs continued their rally in the ninth as Brian Leonhardt walked, while Shaun Montoya followed with a single to left field. Moments later, Tyler Glowacki laced a base hit through the right side, plating Leonhardt, while Argo induced a pop up to pinch hitter Deron Johnson. Max Foxcroft then stepped to the plate and executed an ideal squeeze bunt, as Montoya raced home with the tying run.
The contest seemed poised to evolve into a slugfest after each side plated two runs in the first inning. Air Force’s Sam Kulasingham and Blake Covin each singled to lead off the game, while Gabriel Garcia followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Kulasingham. After Covin stole second, Paul Skenes followed with a double to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
However, SDSU answered with a pair of markers in its first trip to the plate, as Miller touched home on Ruiz’s RBI single after drawing a one-out walk and stealing second. Shortly thereafter, Ruiz, who advanced to second on the throw home from the previous play, advanced to third when TJ Fondtain beat out an infield hit and promptly crossed the plate on Leonhardt’s own sacrifice fly to right.
The Aztecs took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Fondtain doubled and subsequently scored on Montoya’s groundout to first.
However, Covin scored on Jake Greiving’s sacrifice fly in the fifth, while Jay Thomasen put the Falcons in front 4-3 with a leadoff home run in the sixth off Aztec starter Chris Canada.
Later in the seventh, Air Force extended its advantage to 6-3 when Paul Skenes led off with a single, while Grieving followed with a two-run blast over the fence in left center off SDSU reliever Ricky Tibbett.
After another single by Braydon Altorfer, Robert Brodell took the hill for the Scarlet and Black and recorded three straight outs to prevent further damage.
Canada matched his career-high with seven strikeouts, offsetting five hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Conversely, Rogers did not factor in the decision, either, after allowing four runs n four hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings.
The Aztecs had six players record at least one hit, including a 3-for-5 performance from Fondtain, while Montoya finished with a pair of base knocks.
For the Falcons, Covin and Skenes led the way with two hits each, while Greiving racked up three RBIs in the loss.
San Diego State closes out its regular-season home schedule next weekend when it plays host to Nevada May 13-15 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.