Photo courtesy goaztecs.com
May 25, 2023 (Fresno) - San Diego State was limited to four hits on Thursday in a 12-1 setback to Air Force in seven innings in the opening game of the 2023 Mountain West Baseball Championship at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.
With the loss, the Aztecs (24-28) will square off against the loser of the Fresno State-San José State clash in Friday’s elimination game at 1:30 p.m. The Spartans are the tournament’s top seed, while the Bulldogs are slotted fourth in the field.
Meanwhile, the Falcons (27-29) grabbed a 5-0 lead in the first two innings and didn’t look back, as right-handed pitcher Sawyer Hawks (4-0) offset four hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts in his first start of the season. With the result, Air Force will await the winner of the Fresno State-San José State matchup on Friday at 6 p.m.
Jay Thomason, Chase Spencer and Jake Greiving had two hits apiece to lead the Falcons, along with two-time Mountain West Player of the Year Sam Kulasingam, who also drew a pair of walks and scored a team-best five runs. In addition, Greiving finished with a game-high five RBIs for the afternoon, highlighted by a three-run homer in the top of the second that gave the Air Force a 5-0 cushion.
The Falcons extended their advantage to 7-0 in the fourth when Thomason went yard with a two-run shot to the right of the batter’s eye in center field.
Air Force essentially put the game out of reach in the sixth when it sent nine men to the plate, scoring four runs on four hits and a pair of walks. Thomason raced home on a passed ball and Spencer scored on a wild pitch sandwiched between a Greiving sacrifice fly and Blake Covin’s bases-loaded walk.
Greiving added another sacrifice fly to close out the scoring for the Falcons in the seventh.
SDSU avoided the shutout in the bottom of the frame when Tino Bethancourt crossed the plate on Shaun Montoya’s sacrifice fly to left. Previously, Bethancourt was hit by a pitch before advancing on a walk to Irvin Weems and Caden Miller’s single through the right side.
However, the Aztecs were unable to extend the game, as reliever Duke Benge struck out TJ Fondtain and induced a groundout by Poncho Ruiz to complete the run-rule victory.
SDSU stranded 10 runners for the game, including two in three straight innings from the second through the fourth, but were unable to capitalize.
The Aztecs utilized four pitchers for the game, including starter Jadon Bercovich (0-2), who allowed four runs on five hits and a pair of walks with three strikeouts before giving way to Brian Leonhardt (3 2/3 IP, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 SO) with two outs in the second. Jonny Guzman (1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) was summoned from the bullpen with one out in sixth before Issac Araiza (1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB) took the hill for the final 1 1/3 innings.
Along with Miller, Weems, Montoya and Cole Carrigg each contributed a single for the Scarlet and Black.