Friday, February 20, 2009

Strasburg gets off to strong start

COMPTON — San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg set the bar so high for himself last season that outstanding has been reduced to routine.

Strasburg clocked 98 mph with his first pitch in yesterday’s season opener against Bethune Cookman. No big deal. He routinely registers triple digits on the radar gun.

Strasburg had 11 strikeouts against the Wildcats — getting every player in the starting lineup at least once. Ho hum. That’s not even half as many strikeouts (23) as Strasburg had last year against Utah.

At least Bethune Cookman made Strasburg break a sweat in SDSU’s 6-3 win over the Wildcats in the MLB Urban Youth Academy Invitational.

“The second inning on they really made him work,” said SDSU coach Tony Gwynn. “You figure that’s what people are going to do. They’re not going to throw in the towel just because he’s throwing hard. But Strassy struck with his guns. He kept pounding the strike zone. I thought he threw the ball well.”

Said Strasburg: “They’re a (regular) Regional team. They hung in there against me and I was able to get some tough outs in key situations. . . . I wanted them to show me they could hit my good stuff. I really just challenged them all game.”

The Aztecs batted around in the second inning, collecting five hits and four runs — beginning with T.J. Thomas’ leadoff homer — against Wildcats starter Hiram Burgos. Burgos came in with pretty good credentials himself — 9-1 with a 1.58 ERA last season — but he couldn’t match Strasburg.

“I don’t think our guys were intimidated or overmatched by the No. 1 pitcher in the nation,” said Bethune Cookman coach Mervyl Melendez. “We just have to take advantage of our opportunities when they present themselves against a pitcher like that.

“He’s not used to being behind, of course. One base hit in the first inning changes how he pitches. We just needed to do a better job early on and get in his head a little bit to see how he reacts to adversity.”

The closest Strasburg came to adversity when he allowed runners to reach second and third with two outs in the first. He promptly struck out the Wildcats’ Chris Brown to end the threat.

Strasburg had a shutout going through 5 2/3 innings before Brown dropped a single in front of SDSU right fielder Cory Vaughn to make it 4-1. It was the last of 105 pitches thrown by Strasburg, who allowed three hits, two walks and the one run.

Bethune Cookman got two hits with two outs in the ninth against SDSU closer Addison Reed to bring the tying run to the plate before Reed got Alejandro Jimenez to fly out to shortstop Ryan O’Sullivan to end the game.

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