San Diego State junior right-hander Tyler Lavigne was a bundle of nerves warming up in the bullpen before yesterday’s game against USD.
“I get nervous,” said Lavigne, a transfer from College of Southern Nevada who was making his first start in an Aztecs uniform.
Lavigne said he sometimes needs 20 minutes of pregame throwing on the sidelines “to get all my adrenaline out.”
When Lavigne took the mound against the Toreros he said he was still shaking, although he could have fooled anyone watching.
Lavigne sure fooled the No. 11-ranked Toreros, tossing a two-hit shutout in the Aztecs’ 3-0 win as a near-capacity crowd of 717 looked on under a canopy of clouds at Cunningham Stadium.
“He just threw strikes,” said USD coach Rich Hill. “Everything was at the knees. When you locate underneath the kneecaps to both sides of the plate, good things are going to happen. We just pounded the ball into the ground all game long.”
Lavigne pitched to just two batters over the minimum through the first six innings. An infield single by Kevin Muno in the fourth inning was the Toreros’ only hit before Steven Chatwood’s two-out double in the seventh.
“He kept the ball down in the zone all day and threw a good mix of pitches,” said Muno “We couldn’t really guess on any pitches.”
The Aztecs (2-1) collected eight hits off three USD pitchers, who combined to hit six batters. Jomel Torres led SDSU with two hits and teammate Easton Gust had two RBI.
SDSU scored single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings and could have (should have?) had more but for two double plays turned by the Toreros (2-1).
It didn’t matter the way Lavigne was pitching. He never labored during a 105-pitch outing in which he faced the minimum six times — including the eighth and ninth innings — and never faced more than four batters in an inning.
Lavigne, who struck out five and walked one, said his recipe for success was simple: “Keep the ball low, get ground balls and not stress out too much.”
Utilizing his command and a strong sinkerball will make Lavigne a nice compliment to hard-throwing Stephen Strasburg and Nate Solow at the top of the SDSU rotation.
It also will ratchet up this rivalry.
USD had dominated the series in recent years, winning nine of 11 games before the Aztecs won three of four games to open the 2008 season.
“It really hadn’t been a rivalry until last year,” said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. “USD had pounded us pretty good. Last year we were able to turn it around a little bit. Anytime these two teams get together it’s going to be competitive and spirited.”
The teams meet for a four-game series March 5-8.
Perhaps USD will have figured out Lavigne by then. The Toreros sure had no answers against him yesterday.