Video courtesy goaztecs.com
April 17, 2021 (Fresno) - San Diego State crafted another dramatic comeback in the first game of its doubleheader at Fresno State on Saturday, scoring seven runs with two outs in the eighth inning en route to a thrilling 12-11 victory before falling short in the nightcap by a 5-3 count at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.
Despite the split, the Aztecs still maintain their grip on first place in the Mountain West standings, moving to 18-9 overall and 13-7 in conference play.
In game one, SDSU found itself trailing 9-5 after the Bulldogs (10-17, 7-10 MW) put up a four-spot in their half of the seventh to break a 5-5 deadlock.
After Wyatt Hendrie led off the eighth with a single up the middle, Fresno State reliever Ixan Henderson induced a pop-up and flyout before reaching a 1-2 count on the Aztecs’ next hitter Jacob Cruce. However, Cruce displayed his patience, drawing an important walk after Henderson threw three straight balls. Poncho Ruiz stepped up to the plate as a pinch hitter for Ryan Orr and belted a 2-1 offering from Henderson over the fence in left, which narrowed the gap to 9-8.
Moments later, Henderson served up a 1-2 delivery to Cole Carrigg, who promptly roped a double down the left field line, while Caden Miller was struck by a pitch. Nik Cardinal took the hill for Fresno State at this juncture, as Mike Jarvis reached on a fielding error to load the bases. SDSU quickly cashed in on another 1-2 pitch; this time Matt Rudick laced a single up the middle, scoring Carrigg and Miller.
The Aztecs were still not done, as Hendrie was subsequently hit by a pitch, while Leonhardt followed with a grounder that scooted under the glove of Bulldog second baseman Josh Lauck and into right field, plating Jarvis and Rudick.
Clinging to a sudden 12-9 lead, the Scarlet and Black needed those insurance, as Fresno State trimmed the margin in the ninth. Ryan Higgins drew a leadoff walk off SDSU reliever Tre Brown but was quickly erased when Andrew Kachel reached on a fielder’s choice. Ivan Luna followed with a triple down the right field line and later touched home on Zach Presno’s sacrifice fly, which tightened the score at 12-11. However, Brown prevented any further damage by retiring Nate Thimjom with a swinging strikeout to end the game.
Despite giving up two unearned runs on a pair of hits and a walk in just 2/3 innings of work, freshman Kelena Sauer (1-0) picked up his first career victory after entering for Christian Winston with one out in the seventh, while Brown collected his fourth save after tossing the final two frames.
Aztec starter Michael Paredes went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits with a walk against four strikeouts, while Henderson (0-1) took the loss after yielding five of SDSU’s seven runs in the eighth. He pitched a scoreless seventh, giving up a walk and a hit before the fateful eighth. Bulldog starter ceded the first five Aztecs runs on eight hits and three walks against only two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings before giving way to relievers Kyle Pruhsmeier and Alex Kendrick.
The Aztecs out-hit Fresno State 15-10 but stranded a season-high 13 runners on bases.
Five SDSU players tallied multiple hits in the contest, including Leonhardt and Miller, who tied for game-high honors with three apiece, while Rudick, Carrigg and Jaden Fein finished with two each. In addition, Ruiz, Leonhardt and Fein totaled three RBIs apiece.
The Aztecs scored in the first on Fein’s RBI single before the Bulldogs answered with Dylan Johnson’s two-run homer in the second, followed by Kachel’s run-scoring single in the third, which gave the hosts a 3-1 advantage.
SDSU responded with a four-spot in the fourth after Carrigg led off with a double and raced home on Miller’s RBI single. Moments later, Leonhardt lifted a sacrifice fly to right, plating Miller, while Fein doubled in Jarvis and Hendrie, who reached on a single and a walk, respectively, giving the visitors a 5-3 edge.
Fresno State tied the game in the sixth when Higgins led off with a double and scored on Kachel’s triple to right center, while Vinny Bologna followed with a sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs added four markers in the seventh, building a 9-5 bulge before the Aztecs fashioned their comeback. Fresno State’s big inning was keyed by Presno’s two-run single following a Luna RBI groundout. Earlier, Higgins laced a ball through the left side to plate Lauck, who led off with a walk and was bunted over to second.
In game two, the teams traded two-run homers in the second inning. Cruce went yard for the second time this season after Leonhardt led off with a single up the middle. However, Fresno State knotted the score when Blake Wink hit his initial round-tripper of the year following Zach Morgan’s infield single.
SDSU caught a break in the fifth when Cruce reached on an error by Presno, who threw wide of first base where pitcher Jake Dixon was racing to cover the bag on a grounder to the right side. The miscue allowed Rudick to score after the Aztec center fielder led off with a single and stole second.
Trailing 3-2, the Bulldogs seized the momentum with single markers in the home half of the next three innings.
An RBI double by EJ Andrews Jr. tied the score in the fifth, while the host school surged in front to stay in sixth after Presno smacked two-out triple and promptly touched the plate on Johnson’s soft single to left. Fresno State then closed out the scoring in the seventh when Andrews scored on a wild pitch after drawing a walk and advancing two bases on a bunt attempt and an error.
SDSU loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth but could not replicate its game-one magic. After Ruiz reached on a fielder’s choice, Carrigg was hit by a pitch, with both runners advancing on a wild pitch, while Miller drew a walk. However, Carrigg was forced out at third shortly thereafter when Bulldog reliever Kevin Larson induced a grounder to the left side.
The Aztecs also threatened with two outs in the ninth after Leonhardt singled and Fein followed with a bloop double to right. However, Fresno State’s closer Cooper Bergman got out of the jam with a flyout to center to collect the save and preserve the victory for Dixon.
Dixon (4-2) gave up three runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts in seven innings, while Troy Melton (3-3) was tagged with the loss for SDSU. The Aztec hurler yielded four runs on seven hits and one walk against six strikeouts in six innings of work before giving way to Aaron Eden to start the seventh.
Leonhardt and Miller had two hits apiece for the Scarlet and Black, while Morgan led all players with three hits of his own in the opposite dugout.
The Aztecs and Bulldogs will square off in the rubber game of their weekend series on Sunday, starting at 1:35 p.m.