Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Couch makes return in USD loss at Riverside

USD's Matt Couch returned to the mound for the first time in more than a year in tonight's game at UC Riverside, although it was a less than storybook finish in the senior right-hander's return from Tommy John surgery. Couch was in line for a victory before the Highlanders rallied for an 8-7 win.

Couch, who blew out his arm during a start at Hawaii-Hilo on March 15, 2008, had last weekend's West Coast Conference-opening series against Pepperdine circled on his calendar months ago. He worked tirelessly over the summer, all fall and into the spring to be ready to return. He was available over the weekend, even warming up Sunday as the Toreros completed a three-game sweep of Pepperdine, but didn't get into a game.

USD coach Rich Hill handed the ball to Couch for tonight's game. He allowed two doubles among the first three hitters he faced and allowed two runs to the Highlanders in the inning. Couch settled down thereafter, retiring the side in order in both the second and third innings. Couch was on a strict pitch count and Chris Jensen replaced him in the fourth. Couch was designated for a limited outing, so he was in line for the victory after USD took a 6-2 lead in the third. The opportunity to win in his return escaped Couch when UC Riverside rallied for six runs after he departed. For the game, Couch allowed three hits and one earned run over three innings. A control specialist, Couch did not have a strikeout or walk a batter.

Still, it was encouraging seeing Couch back on the mound and had to be comforting to the USD faithful, especially with sophomore left-hander Sammy Solis (herniated disk) sidelined for the season. Couch ranks among the national leaders with 23 career victories. He could pitch his way into a weekend starting spot or serve in a late-inning role if the Toreros keep closer A.J. Griffin in the starting rotation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Aztecs jump into Baseball America Top 25

San Diego State made its debut in the Baseball America Top 25 this morning, checking in at No. 21 following a series win at TCU.

The Aztecs (18-9), who are off to their best start in seven years, took two of three games against the defending Mountain West Conference champions. SDSU beat the Horned Frogs 11-5 behind Stephen Strasburg's 14-strikeout performance. The Aztecs rallied for two runs in the ninth inning yesterday to conclude the series with a 2-1 victory.

SDSU appeared briefly in the top 25 last year after opening the 2008 season by taking three of four games against USD, gaining the No. 22 spot in the poll before falling back out of the rankings the following week.

The Aztecs are one of three MWC teams ranked in this week's Baseball America Top 25. New Mexico (24-4) is ranked No. 18. TCU (15-9) is one spot behind the Aztecs at No. 22.

Cal State Fullerton (18-4) is the nation's top-ranked team. LSU (21-6), Arizona State (19-4), Rice (17-7) and North Carolina (20-6) round out the top five. Here is the complete poll.

USD (19-10), ranked No. 11 to open the season, failed to return to the top 25 despite a three-game sweep of Pepperdine, which had been ranked No. 17, in the opening weekend of West Coast Conference play. Pepperdine dropped out of the rankings.

SDSU is off from conference play this week (the MWC has only seven teams, so one team is off each week). The Aztecs play at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday and host UCSB on Wednesday before hosting a four-game series this weekend against UC Davis. The first game of that series is to be played Friday at Petco Park. Game time is 2:30 p.m. and Strasburg is the scheduled starting pitcher.

Also today, Strasburg was selected MWC Pitcher of the Week for the fourth time this season. SDSU pitchers have earned the award each of the season's six weeks.

Imeson becomes UCSD's career hits leader

UCSD's ninth straight win yesterday was highlighted by second baseman Garrett Imeson breaking the school's career hits record.

The Tritons, ranked No. 6 in the nation, beat San Francisco State 8-7 at Triton Field. UCSD improved to 19-7 on the season and 16-4 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.

Imeson got the record out of the way early, stroking a first-inning double to the gap in right center for his 258th career hit. That broke the record former UCSD catcher Bob Natal established during the mid-1980s. Imeson, a senior from Stockton, is batting .323 with two homers and 19 RBI. He is a three-time all-CCAA selection.

The Tritons lead the CCAA, although defending champion Sonoma State (14-8), Cal State Stanislaus (13-8) and Cal State Los Angeles (12-8) are close behind. UCSD plays a four-game series this weekend at Chico State (20-13, 11-9 CCAA).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You call that a crowd

Word out of the Big Apple earlier in the week was that a sellout crowd was expected for today's St. John's-Georgetown game, the inaugural event to be played at the New York Mets' new 42,000-seat Citi Field.

It was cause for concern since they were taking aim at the NCAA single-game attendance record of 40,106, set when San Diego State beat Houston 4-0 on March 11, 2004 in the inaugural game at Petco Park. For those who missed it: SDSU's Scott Shoemaker pitched a three-hit shutout against the Cougars, striking out 14 batters.

When the turnstiles stopped spinning today at Citi Field, only 22,397 people showed up to see Georgetown's 6-4 win.

Nice try New York.

Not really.

A reported 30,000 tickets were sold for the game and the other 12,000 given to charity. That in itself made the record worthy of a big, fat asterisk, but I decided to let this thing play out before offering comment. The 22,000 and change who did show up rank just seventh on the all-time list. So much for that.

The focus quickly shifted to ooohing and ahhhing over the new ballpark, which, apparently is still in the flight path of La Guardia Airport. Seems that old-time ballpark ambiance they're trying to create is kind of lost when a 747 flies overhead and temporarily blots out the sun and drowns out the crowd. But maybe that's just me. Citi was built adjacent to Shea Stadium, which has already been hit by a wrecking ball.

They did have former Mets reliever John Franco, a St. John's alum, throw out the first pitch. I would rather have seen Keith Hernandez. Or Kramer.

Here's a link to a story on first impressions of the new ballpark if you think I'm going all Bitterman. I guess their audacity of trying to break the record made me a little overprotective.

Anyway . . .

Here's the top 10 single-game regular season crowds:

40,106—San Diego State (4) vs. Houston (0), March 11, 2004, Petco Park, San Diego

28,836—Georgia Tech (12) vs. Georgia (5), May 11, 2004, Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia

27,673—LSU (9) vs. Tulane (5), April 10, 2002, Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

27,134—TCU (6) vs. Houston (4), Texas (5) vs. Rice (4) and Tulane (6) vs. Texas Tech (4), Feb.
11, 2006, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

25,175—Long Beach St. (5) vs. San Diego State (0), March 13, 2004, Petco Park, San Diego

23,984 — Vanderbilt (7) vs. Arizona st. (6), Texas A&M (3) vs. Houston (2), and rice (7) vs.
Baylor (0), Feb. 10, 2007, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

22,397 — Georgetown (6) vs. St. John's (4), March 29, 2009, Citi Field, New York

21,995—Baylor (3) vs. Tennessee (2), Oklahoma St. (3) vs. Houston (2), and Rice (3) vs. Texas
A&M (1), Feb. 12, 2005, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

21,724—Texas (6) vs. Rice (3), Feb. 14, 2004, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

21,620—Georgia (10) vs. Georgia Tech (7), April 24, 2007, Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia

USD where it wants to be after Pepperdine sweep

It never ceases to amaze me how seasoned baseball observers will come to a conclusion based only on a small sampling of the season.

How do you decide that what happens in a week — or worse, a weekend — is the way it's going to be in a 56-game season? Especially when those observations are made at the start of the year when everything is still shaking out.

But that was the sense I got hanging around USD's Cunningham Stadium in the season's first three weeks of the season. Was it that USD had lost four of five games to crosstown rival SDSU or that the Toreros were struggling to get above .500? How soon they forget. USD was 7-7 last season when the Toreros went on a 10-game winning streak. USD won a school-record 44 games by the time it was over. The Toreros came within a game of advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals, their season ended by a Fresno State team that went on to win the national championship.

USD was 8-9 this year after losing the first two games of a series at Rice. Winning the last game of the three-game series against the Owls got USD back to .500, but it didn't prevent the Toreros from tumbling out of the top 25. That victory did start a stretch of 11 wins in 12 games that has USD at 19-10 and knocking on the door of the top 25 again. We'll see Monday if Baseball America answers.

By the way, that 19-10 record? It's exactly where the Toreros were this time last year. With one big difference. They opened West Coast Conference play in 2008 by losing two out of three games to Santa Clara. USD opened WCC action this weekend with a three-game sweep. Either USD or Pepperdine has won every WCC championship since 2000 and they are the favorites for the 2009 title as well. The sweep ensures that the Toreros will host the WCC Championship Series (a best-of-three affair) should the teams meet to determine who receives the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

A few highlights in the sweep of the Waves:

— Two homers by right fielder James Meador in Friday's 8-6 win.

— Freshman Bryan Haar's first two collegiate homers, one on Friday and another in Saturday's 4-0 win.

— Matt Thomson's two-hit, complete-game shutout in Saturday's victory. Campbell had a career-high 10 strikeouts.

— A.J. Griffin closing out the victory over the last 2 2/3 innings in Friday's opener and pitching the first five innings on the way to a 9-4 win in today's finale.

— USD is now 10-1 against Pepperdine since 2007.

SDSU sounds rallying cry this season

San Diego State's pitching has been outstanding this season, but what I'm most impressed with at the season's midpoint is the Aztecs' ability to rally for victories. It is a characteristic that has been noticeably absent in recent years.


— SDSU rallied for two runs in the ninth inning today at TCU for a 2-1 victory over the Horned Frogs. It was a huge win, allowing the Aztecs (18-9, 6-3 MWC) to take the series and control of the Mountain West Conference. TCU (15-9, 3-3), ranked No. 16 in the nation, has won the MWC regular season and tournament titles all three years since moving over from Conference USA. But the Aztecs took it to them, setting up a big rematch April 24-26 when TCU comes to Tony Gwynn Stadium.

— SDSU rallied for six runs in the ninth inning of a 10-6 victory at UCLA.

— The Aztecs scored runs in the eighth and ninth innings for a 9-8 win over Kansas.

— Cory Vaughn hit a three-run walkoff homer in the 10th inning of a 6-4 win over USD.

— SDSU scored seven runs in the eighth inning for an 8-7 win over Southern Utah.

The only game I recall SDSU coughing up a lead was in a 4-2 loss against BYU last week after Stephen Strasburg had staked the Aztecs to a 2-0 lead through seven innings. Strasburg has been outstanding, of course, but starters Tyler Lavigne, Jon Berger and Nate Solow also have pitched well. Relievers Kegan Sharp and James McLaughlin both have ERAs under 3.00. Closer Addison Reed's ERA is 0.87 and he already has eight saves (Royce Ring set the school record in 2002 with 17). The pitching staff's collective ERA is 3.44.

The pitching staff has kept SDSU in virtually every game. The big difference to me, though, is the Aztecs' ability to rally for victories. The key now is keeping it up. SDSU has struggled down the stretch each of the past two seasons when the hitters have stopped hitting. It's been 18 years since SDSU made its last postseason appearance. This is an NCAA Tournament team if the Aztecs avoid an offensive collapse this season.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Strasburg, SDSU offense shine in 11-5 win at TCU

San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 batters over eight innings — his sixth double-digit strikeout game in six starts — and allows three hits and two runs (both earned) on a windy night in Fort Worth, Texas, with temperatures in the 40s. The Aztecs' offense pounds out 17 hits and the result is an 11-5 Mountain West Conference victory at TCU.

SDSU (17-8, 5-2) and TCU (14-8, 2-2) continue the three-game series with games Saturday and Sunday.

Strasburg (5-0) allows a wind-aided leadoff homer by TCU's Ben Carruthers, then retires 14 batters in a row, 10 of them by strikeout. By the way, Strasburg began the season ranked No. 15 on SDSU's career strikeout list with 180. He has 88 strikeouts for the season )with just 8 walks), giving him 268 career strikeouts. That ranks third in school history, behind only Bruce Billings (304) and Rick Navarro (299).

Strasburg's next scheduled start is Friday, April 3, against UC Davis in a game to be played at Petco Park. First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. An exhibition game between the Padres and Angels will follow, in case anyone wants to stick around.


Leadership of the Mountain West Conference is at stake this weekend with San Diego State (16-8, 4-2) visiting No. 16-ranked TCU (14-7, 2-1), which has won the MWC regular season and tournament titles three straight years since moving over from Conference USA. TCU took two of three from the Aztecs last year at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

SDSU sends junior right-hander Stephen Strasurg (4-0) to the mound. Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings last week against BYU, in a game the Cougars came back to win after Strasburg departed. For the season, Strasburg has a 1.57 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 34.1 innings.

Strasburg had one of his best outings of the season last year against TCU, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning at Tony Gwynn Stadium before TCU's Ben Carruthers hit a double for what would be the Horned Frogs' only hit in the game. Strasburg went the distance in a 4-1 win, walking one with 13 strikeouts.

The blog will follow this game from a distance, using our extensive network of information sources to make it seem like we're there.


1ST INNING — The Aztecs stake Strasburg to a 3-0 lead before he ever takes the mound. SDSU catcher Erik Castro's three-run homer off TCU starting Tyler Lockwood provides the runs. Ben Carruthers shocks Strasburg with a leadoff homer for the Horned Frogs. It is only the third collegiate home run allowed by Strasburg and, as noted above, comes from a player who has been somewhat of a thorn in the pitcher's side. Strasburg shrugs off the HR and gets three straight outs, the last two on strikeouts.

2ND INNING — Strasburg retires the side in order, getting TCU's Taylor Featherston and Matt Vern on strikeouts.

3RD INNING — Castro hits a one-out double for SDSU, putting him halfway to the cycle (note: Castro does not have a triple in his collegiate career), but the Aztecs can't get him home. Strasburg picks up where he left off in the second, getting TCU's Jimmie Pharr and Corey Steglich and that pesky Carruthers all on strikeouts. That's seven of the first nine outs recorded on strikeouts.

4TH INNING — Mitch Blackburn's leadoff double is cashed in one-out later on Pat Colwell's sacrifice bunt, giving the Aztecs a 4-1 lead. When Strasburg returns, he gets Matt Carpenter on a tapper back to the mound, then strikes out Chris Ellington and gets Matt Curry on a flyout to end the inning.

5TH INNING — Castro doubles again, giving him three hits in three plate appearances. Cory Vaughn follows with a two-run homer, putting the Aztecs up 6-1. Strasburg strikes out the side again, getting Featherston, Vern and Pharr all swinging. That gives Strasburg 11 strikeouts for the game and a sixth dougle-digit strikeout performance in six starts. At this point, Carpenter and Bryan Holaday are the only two TCU starters who have avoided striking out.

6TH INNING — Brandon Meredith makes it 7-1 when he is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force home a run. TCU scraped together a run on a leadoff double by Steglich and a couple of infield outs, but the most notable thing about the inning is it concluded without any strikeouts by the Horned Frogs.

7TH INNING — Brandon Decker drives in teammate Easton Gust on a fielder's choice to make it 8-2. In the bottom of the inning, a leadoff walk to Curry didn't amount to anything when an infield out, strikeout and fly out followed.

8TH INNING — Chris Wilson slams a one-out homer. Three more hits and a TCU error — the Horned Frogs' fourth of the game — follow as the Aztecs stretch their lead to 11-2. The only question now is how deep Strasburg goes. BYU rallied for a 4-2 win after he departed last week. Such a rally seems rather unlikely tonight by TCU, but it is college baseball and stranger things have happen. Strasburg runs back out and immediately gets Pharr and Steglich swinging at strike three. Carruthers hits an infield popup to end the inning.

9TH INNING — Castro gets a single for his fourth hit of the game, lacking — you guessed it! — a triple in his bid for the cycle. It is SDSU's 17th and final hit of the game. Chase Thomas replaces Strasburg and allows three runs with two outs before James McLaughlin comes on to get the final out in the Aztecs' 11-5 win.

STRASBURG's LINE — 8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO. Strasburg (5-0) now has 88 SO/8 BB in 42.1 IP and a 1.70 ERA.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Strasburg under the microscope now

San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg has enjoyed a swift rise on the way to becoming the top prospect in the nation.

And deservedly so.

From his 23-strike performance last year against Utah, to being the only collegian on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing, to the 102 mph fastball he's been clocked throwing while dominating college hitters this year, Strasburg has done everything he can do to become the first pick in the 2009 draft.

Intense scrutiny and critical examination were bound to come as the June draft approached.

It's now official. It's here.

Last week, it was Sports Illustrated and the Wall Street Journal watching Strasburg pitch against UNLV. On Friday, it was an ESPN film crew and writer looking in on Strasburg against BYU. They were among those following him around the field at Tony Gwynn Stadium during and after SDSU's 4-2 loss to the Cougars. Strasburg didn't look too eager to answer questions about his brilliance when the bottom line was the Aztecs lost.

Questions about the draft have begun to seep into the conversation, although Strasburg is trying to keep his focus on the field with the Aztecs. He would not answer draft questions on Friday. Nor should he. No good can come for him right now by getting into all that publicly. Of course, maintaining his focus will become more and more of a chore as the season progresses, especially in light of other national media attention in recent days.

ESPN's Peter Gammons reported recently that Strasburg's advisor, Scott Boras, is going to look for a six-year, $50 million contract for his client.

Today there was an interesting piece by Thomas Boswell in the Washington Post examining the success of pitchers selected at the top of the draft over the past 44 years.

There also was a piece today by Rob Neyer of ESPN.com that also examined the history of "can't-miss" pitchers missing in the draft.

Needless to say, the success rate for position players is much higher than the success rate for pitchers.

Boswell isn't telling the Nationals not to pick Strasburg. What he's telling them is don't break the bank if you do it.

He makes some goods point.

Still, how can any team pass up a player who appears to be the best pitching prospect to come along in a generation?

The legend keeps growing about Strasburg's velocity, with it reported that he has hit 103 MPH according to a story by Yahoo's Steve Henson, who has a good chart on players who have touched 102 mph or higher. But velocity is no guarantee of success. Most of those on the list have flamed out. Randy Johnson is the only Hall of Fame-caliber player. Justin Verlander is the only other starting pitcher.

Of course, history and charts have no direct bearing on Strasburg's future.

All I know is Strasburg is under the microscope now and I have a sense this is going to be more of a challenge to deal with than any hitter he faces this season.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Strasburg is MWC Pitcher of the Week

San Diego State's Stephen today was selected Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Week, the third time this season the junior right-hander has been so recognized. He also was selected Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week for the fourth time this season.

This honor comes for Strasburg's 15-strikeout performance in last week's 4-2 MWC loss to BYU. Strasburg departed after seven innings with the Aztecs leading 2-0. He allowed two hits and walked to in seven shutout innings. Strasburg (4-0) has 74 strikeouts in 34.1 innings this season and an ERA of 1.57.

Strasburg is scheduled to start again on Friday when the Aztecs open a MWC series at TCU.

SDSU pitchers have won all five MWC Pitcher of the Week awrds this season. Strasburg teammates Tyler Lavigne and Jon Berger won the other two for the Aztecs.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

USD battles injuries as well as opposition

The injury bug has bitten USD so badly in recent weeks that it even extended to a Toreros batboy, who went down in the first game of today's doubleheader against Brown.

With USD batting in the bottom of the seventh, the Toreros' Chris Engell laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a two-out single. All eyes were focused on Engell beating out the bunt and teammate Tony Strazzara coming home from third base before everyone noticed a batboy down just beyond the USD on-deck circle. The kid was running out to retrieve Engell's bat when he was inadvertently hit in the chest as USD's James Meador took a practice swinging in the on-deck circle.

The boy's mother and father came down from the stands and joined a Toreros trainer and Meador, who came to his aid.

The batboy apparently just had the wind knocked out of him. He was back on his feet after a minute or two, got a high five and a fist pump from a couple Toreros players and a big hand from the crowd.

If only USD's other injuries could be overcome so quickly. Such is not the case. The list of the more prominent players who are missing in action:

— Starting pitcher Sammy Solis, who is out for the season with a herniated disk in his back. Solis looked strong in a season-opening victory over Southern at the MLB Urban Youth Academy. It was shoulder tendinitis that made Solis miss his second start. Then the back flaired up. He didn't look the same in a loss to San Diego State. Solis should heal with rest rather than surgery, according to USD coach Rich Hill.v"He will be fine next year," said Hill. "It was something that started coming on in the fall. He didn't participate in any fall drills at all. The thing got better. He was good. Seeing a chiropractor and was 100 percent healthy."

— Leaoff hitter and center fielder Kevin Muno, who is out for 6-8 weeks after breaking the third and fourth metacarpals in his left hand after being hit by a pitch last week at Rice. "We're hoping he's there for the WCC Championship Series and NCAA Regionals," said Hill.

— Catchers Nick McCoy and Steven Chatwood, who are battling knee and groin injuries, respectively. McCoy was due for an MRI to learn the extend of his injury. Preliminary diagnosis was meniscus damage, which means he could be back. Chatwood appears day-to-day depending on how he respondes to treatment.

This is all on top of early-season injuries to first baseman Jose Valerio (thumb), outfielder Bryan Haar (hamstring) and closer A.J. Griffin (shoulder). Valerio has been used as a defensive replacement but isn't swinging a bat. Haar has been eased into the lineup. Hill said Griffin, who had a cortisone shot a few weeks ago, is good, and who can argue after Griffin tossed eight innings of shutout relief last week in a win at Rice.

With injuries to some comes opportunity for others.

Freshman outfielder Jon Hotta (Oceanside High) and junior catcher Brian Farris have made the most of their chances in the starting lineup. It means the Toreros will have more depth, be more tested, when the games that make or a break a season arrive. Hotta is batting .286 (4-for-14) and could give the Toreros a big boost on the base paths. He stole 24 bases last season for the Pirates. Farris was pretty much a spectator before the injuries to McCoy and Chatwood. Now he's started five games and he was hitting .304 (7-for-23) coming into the second game of today's doubleheader against Brown.

The loss of Solis, one of the Toreros' top two starters, can be overcome on a pitching staff that is among the deepest in the nation. Especially with the impending return of senior Matt Couch, who is expected back from Tommy John surgery next week. That's just in time for USD's West Coast Conference-opening series against Pepperdine.

Kyle Blair, Matt Thomson and Griffin are expected to form the Toreros' weekend rotation. Darrin Campbell and Couch will be the first relievers called upon.

"Thomson, A.J. and Blair are obviously our go-to guys," said Hill. "We could go with A.J. for an inning on Friday, start Thomson on Saturday and A.J. on Sunday. Or we could close Thomson, He's a could candidate for the one inning deal, and start him on Sunday.

"We haven't really figured out what we're going to do, but it's going to be something like that. It's going to be seventh game of the World Series. Every game's an elimination game.

"The real key to this thing is going to be Couch. We'll throw him right into the fire. . . . Probably to close."

The schedule is accommodating USD to some degree.

The Toreros fell out of Baseball America's Top 25 after two losses in three games at Rice that dropped their record to 8-9. But Columbia came to town at the beginning of the week with only one win on the season. Three games later, the Columbians departed, still with just one win. Brown is here now. The Bears also came to town with just one win. They took USD to 10 innings today before losing 4-3. The Toreros are now 13-9 with three games left against Brown and a game Tuesday against Long Beach State before Pepperdine comes in to open WCC play.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Strasburg gets 15Ks, but BYU gets to SDSU bullpen

Stephen Strasburg strikes out 15 in seven shutout innings, but BYU gets the best of the SDSU bullpen in a 4-2 Mountain West Conference win over the Aztecs at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Strasburg's fastball touches triple digits, but sits mostly in the 97-99 mph range as he reaches double-digit strikeouts for the fifth time in five starts this season. The Cougars (13-7, 4-1 MWC) scores three runs in the eighth off SDSU reliever Andrew Leary on the way to their second straight win in the series against the Aztecs (13-8, 3-2).


San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 1.98 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season, facing BYU in the second game of the Mountain West Conference series at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Strasburg has 59 strikeouts (11 vs. Bethune Cookman, 16 vs. Nevada, 18 vs. USD, 14 vs. UNLV) in 27 1/3 innings this season. Right-hander Blake Torgerson () goes for the Cougars, who won last night's game 6-2.

SDSU (13-7, 3-1 MWC) and BYU (12-7, 3-1) are tied in the MWC standings.

SDSU hosts a student tailgate on the field adjacent to the ballpark and 1,100 students show up. Don't know if it is the free food or free Strasburg T-shirts that brings them out. School officials are happy either way, especially when more than half of the students walk through the gates to cheer on the Aztecs.

The students help pack the stands, producing a crowd that rivals the 2,102 (third all-time) that attended last week's game against UNLV. The gathering is particularly impressive given that the SDSU men's basketbll team is playing simultaneously in an NIT game at USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion.


1ST INNING — Strasburg comes out strong, striking out the side. BYU's Kent Walton and Andrew Law are caught looking at strike three. At least Sean McNaughton gets the bat off his shoulder, swinging late on strike three. The Aztecs get two hits, but leave runners at first and third.

2ND INNING — Strasburg sandwiches strikeouts around a fly to left field by BYU's Brandon Relf. SDSU doesn't make anything out of Chri Wilson's leadoff single.

3RD INNING — Kasey Ko leads off the third with a fly to left, then Strasburg gets two more strikeouts. That's seven for those keeping track at home (and the guy at the right-field railing who puts up a big K with each strikeout). The Aztecs get another leadoff single, by Pat Colwell, but nothing comes of it.

4TH INNING — Walton leads off with a single, giving BYU its first base runner, but Strasburg gets a strikeout and two groundouts to get out of the inning. SDSU gets a two-out single from Mitch Blackburn, but nothing else.

5TH INNING — Strasburg strikeouts out the side for the second time, giving him 11 strikeouts for the game. That's makes him 5-for-5 this season in double-digit strikeout performances. Kasey Ko, the only player in the BYU lineup who has avoided striking out, coaxes a two-out walk before Strasburg strikes out Chad Nacapoy to end the inning. The Aztecs threatened again. With one out, Colwell is hit by a pitch and Brandon Decker follows with a single to right field. Colwell moves to third when BYU right fielder Michael Bowen juggles the ball. Brandon Meredith then hits his third fly to right field of the game. This one brings Colwell home from third to make it 1-0. Another run comes home when Erik Castro's two-out fly ball to center field is lost in the lights by BYU's Stetson Banks.

6TH INNING — BYU actually gets something going when Walton gets a one-out walk and Law follows with a single to put runners at first and third. But Strasburg puts three straight strikes past McNaughton for the second out. The next batter, Steve Parker, watches a pretty good 1-1 pitch that home plate umpire Dale Luker calls a ball. The next pitch doesn't look as good, but Luker calls it a strike (makeup for a previous transgression?) and Parker mumbles a few words to the umpire, before he looks at strike three. Parker chips some more at Luker, who chases him back to the dugout. It is the third time Strasburg has struck out the side in six innings. He now has 14 strikeouts for the game.

7TH INNING — Strasburg gets Relf looking at strike three to open the inning before Bowen grounds to second for the second out. Strasburg throws a ball on the first pitch to Ko, then an SDSU trainer jogs out with pitching coach Rusty Filter following behind. Strasburg appears to be fine, finishing out the inning with Ko flying out to left field. Ko is the only hitter in BYU's lineup who avoids striking out. That makes Ko one of only two players — Nevada first baseman Shaun Kort is the other — to avoid striking out among the 45 starters Strasburg has faced this season. The crowd won't realize it until the eighth inning, but Strasburg's night is done.

STRASBURG'S LINE: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 15 SO. His ERA drops to 1.57 with the seven shutout innings. His fastball touches triple digits, but is clocked mainly in the 97-99 mph range.

8TH INNING — Right-hander Andrew Leary relieves Strasburg. And BYU rallies. The Cougars collect four hits and three runs off Leary, costing Strasburg an opportunity for his fifth straight victory. BYU gets the go-aead run when McNaughton scores all the way from first on a single to center by Parker. McNaughton was running on the play, but the Aztecs still seemed caught off guard when he was waved home to make it 3-2. The Aztecs squandered an opportunity to tie the score, leaving runners at the corners.

9TH INNING — BYU scores an insurance run, making it 4-2.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SDSU beats Kansas; USD takes Columbia

Freshman right-hander Ryan O'Sullivan picked up his first collegiate victory tonight in San Diego State's 1-0 win over Kansas at Tony Gwynn Stadium. O'Sullivan limited the Jayhawks to three hits over seven innings and struck out three.

SDSU closer Addison Reed finished off Kansas in the ninth inning, but not before the Jayhawks made things tense. Kansas placed the tying run at second base with one out following a leadoff single and sacrifice bunt. Reed got a strikeout for the second out, but a hit batter and an error loaded the bases. A popup to first base ended the threat and the game.

Reed now has seven saves for the Aztecs, who have improved to 12-6 with a five-game winning streak.


Junior right-hander Matt Thomson allowed one earned run in seven innings in USD's 6-2 win at Cunningham Stadium, the third straight victory for the Toreros after losing six of seven. Thomson struck out six and walked just to to improve to 3-0 for the Toreros, who are now 11-9 on the season.

Shortstop Sean Nicol and second baseman Chris Nicol collected three hits apiece for USD. Bryan Haar and Zach Walters each had two RBI.

Monday, March 16, 2009

USD beats Columbia in return from road

There was no rest for a weary USD team, which returned to the field today and beat Columbia 10-3 at Cunningham Stadium just hours after returning from a weekend roadtrip at Rice.

The Toreros rebounded from two straight losses against the Owls to win Sunday's series finale and carried that momentum into today's game against Columbia. Scott Denault won in relief of Toreros starter Chris Jensen, who allowed one run over six innings with four strikeouts. Denault was charged with two unearned runs, but picked up his fourth victory of the season when USD busted out for seven runs over teir final two at-bats.

Sean Nicol and Austin Green had two RBI piece and teammates Chris Engell and Bryan Haar each had two hits.

USD, which fell out of Baseball America's Top 25 for the first time this season, evened its record at 10-9. The Toreros play Columbia again on Tuesday and Wednesday — hoping to fatten up on a team that is 1-10 — and then host Brown for three games this weekend. USD is in the midst of a scheduled 10 games in 11 days.

Strasburg to start Friday against BYU

San Diego State announced today that junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg will pitch Friday in the Aztecs' Mountain West Conference game against BYU, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

SDSU originally announced that Strasburg would pitch in Thursday's opening game of the three-game series against the Cougars. No reason was given for the change, although it does keep Strasburg on a Friday routine. Strasburg improved to 4-0 last week in a 4-3 victory over UNLV. He has a 1.98 ERA and 59 strikeouts against 5 walks in 27 1/3 innings.

Here is SDSU's rotation for the week (all games at home):

Ryan O'Sullivan — Tuesday vs. Kansas, 6
Goldy Simmons — Wednesday vs. Kansas, 6
Nate Solow — Thursday vs. BYU, 6
Stephen Strasburg — Friday vs. BYU, 6
Tyler Lavigne — Saturday vs. BYU, 1

SDSU's Berger is MWC Pitcher of the Week

San Diego State senior right-hander Jon Berger was named Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Week for his 10-strikeout performance in the Aztecs' 6-1 victory over UNLV. Berger, a Las Vegas native, faced just three batters in six of the eight innings he pitched against the Rebels. He allowed just one run, five hits and did not walk a batter.

Berger's performance continued a string of outstanding pitching for the Aztecs. SDSU pitchers cornered the MWC award each week this season. Tyler Lavigne was selected the first week of the season after pitching a two-hit shutout against USD and Stephen Strasburg received the award each of the previous two weeks with wins over Nevada and USD.

The SDSU pitching staff has compiled a 3.39 ERA through 17 games, one reason the Aztecs are off to an 11-6 start.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

SDSU sweeps UNLV; USD beats Rice

San Diego State completed a three-game sweep of UNLV in the opening week of Mountain West Conference play with a lopsided 15-2 win over the Rebels.

Right fielder Cory Vaughn led the way with a 4-for-4 performance that included his third home run of the season and produced seven RBI. Vaughn singled in the first and third innings, tripled in the fifth, walked in the sixth and hit a three-run homer in the seventh.

SDSU starting pitcher Tyler Lavigne (3-0) remained unbeaten, allowing three hits and one earned run over five innings.

The Aztecs (11-6, 3-0 MWC) have now won fur straight games. UNLV (11-6, 0-3) was riding an eight-game winning streak before coming to town.


It was bad enough that USD lost Friday night to Rice on a one-hitter. Then the Toreros had to wait through a Saturday weather postponement and a three-hour, eight-minute rain delay today before getting the best of the No. 9-ranked Owls in an 8-0 shutout win at Rice's Reckling Park.

USD made it all worth the wait when A.J. Griffin came on in the second inning for starter Matt Thomson and pitched eight innings of three-hit ball. Griffin (1-1) struck out eight and walked three in the longest outing of his career.

Freshman Bryan Haar led USD with three RBI. Teammates Chris Engell and James Meador each added two RBI for the Toreros. Meador's came on a two-run homer in the ninth.

The rain forced USD (9-9) and Rice (10-5) to shorten the series from four games to three.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aztecs make it two in a row over UNLV

San Diego State right-hander Jon Berger struck out a career-high 10 batters over eight innings today in the Aztecs' 6-1 Mountain West Conference victory over UNLV at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Berger (1-2) pitched seven shutout innings before allowing a run in the eighth, using an effective changeup to get the Rebels swinging on several occasions. The senior from Las Vegas allowed five hits and did not walk a batter in his most effective outing of the season.

The Aztecs (10-6, 2-0 MWC) collected five hits and three runs in the fifth inning off UNLV starting pitcher Tanner Peters (2-1). SDSU, which has struggled offensively in the early going, added three more runs in the eighth off the Rebels bullpen. The Aztecs loaded the bases on a single by Brandon Decker, a walk to Brandon Meredith and a single by Erik Castro, then cashed in on a wild pitch, a throwing error by UNLV catcher Drew Beuerlein and a single by Jomel Torres.

UNLV (10-6, 2-0) loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth off reliever James McLaughlin before SDSU closer Addison Reed was summoned from the bullpen. Reed struck out the side to end the threat and record his sixth save.

The teams conclude the series Sunday at 1 p.m.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Aztecs hang on for 4-3 win over UNLV


Stephen Strasburg strikes out the first six hitters he faces as the Aztecs build a 4-0 lead through the first two innings in their Mountain West Conference opener against UNLV. Strasburg (4-0) finishes with 14 strikeouts over seven innings as SDSU hangs on for a 4-3 win before 2,102, the third-largest crowd in Tony Gwynn Stadium history. There are a few tense moments in the ninth inning as the Rebels rally for a run off closer Addison Reed, who strands runners at first and second to get his fifth save.


San Diego State opens play in the Mountain West Conference tonight at home against UNLV, which comes to town with an eight-game winning streak.

The Rebels face their biggest task of the year against SDSU junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 1.77 ERA), who has 45 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings this season. UNLV is expected to start senior left-hander Jeff Urlaub (2-0, 3.94 ERA) against the Aztecs, who are coming off Wednesday's 10-6 comeback win at UCLA.

The MWC plays a 24-game unbalanced schedule (one 3-game series against four opponents and a pair of 3-game home-and-home series against two opponents). SDSU plays both TCU and UNLV six times this season, which means the Aztecs likely will rise or fall based on their play against the Horned Frogs and Rebels. The MWC Tournament is at TCU again this year, with the tournament champion earning an automatic berth to the NCAA Regionals.

Here's a look at how MWC teams did coming into conference play:

#12 TCU 10-2 .833
New Mexico 13-3 .813
UNLV 11-3 .786
SDSU 8-6 .571
BYU 8-6 .571
Utah 6-7 .462
Air Force 5-6 .455


1ST INNING — Strasburg gets two quick strikes on UNLV leadoff hitter Ryan Thornton, wastes a pitch outside, then gts Thornton looking at strike three. J.J. Sferra then steps in and sees three straight balls. A rare walk? (Strasburg has 45 strikeouts against 4 walks in 20 1/3 innings this season). Nope. Sferra fouls off four pitches before missing on a fastball for strike three. Drew Beurlein then steps up, sees a ball and two strikes and then he, too, swings through strike three. One Strasburg pitch is clocked at 101 mph in the inning and two of the strikeouts come on 97 and 96 mph offerings.

The Aztecs take a quick 3-0 lead in the first on a one-out RBI single to left field by Brandon Meredith and a two-out, two-run single by T.J. Thomas that just falls in front of Sferra in center.

2ND INNING — Strasburg finds himself in a bit of a predicament when Rance Roundy and Scott Berke open the inning with singles to right field. No problem. Strasburg strikes out Jesse Wight and Jarred Frierson looking before Anthony Morel goes down swinging. That's six strikeouts in two innings for those scoring at home. Strasburg has struck out the side 10 times now in 21 complete innings this season. He has at least two strikeouts in 19 of 23 innings. In the bottom of the second, catcher Erik Castro gives SDSU a 4-0 lead with a solo homer to right-center.

NOTABLE: This is shaping up as one of the largest crowds in history at Tony Gwynn Stadium, which seats approximately 3,000. The stands approached capacity when Strasburg threw the game's first pitch. At the time, there were still nearly 200 fans in line to buy tickets. The ticket line still had more than 100 fans in it in the top of the second and nearly 50 fans in the top of the third, when the PA announcer asked fans to scoot closer together where possible to allow more people to get seated.

Here are the top 10 crowds at Tony Gwynn Stadium:
3,158 — New York Yankees 12, SDSU 3 (March 30, 1998, exhibition)
2,857 — Texas 9, SDSU 3 (Feb. 4, 2005)
2,353 — Texas 13, SDSU 5 (Feb. 5, 2005)
1,788 — Utah 2, SDSU 1 (Apr. 27, 2002)
1,549 — SDSU 6, Utah 5 (Apr. 28, 2002)
1,509 — USD 8, SDSU 4 (Apr. 15, 2003)
1,507 — SDSU 5, UC Riverside 4 (Feb. 5, 2002)
1,491 — SDSU 7, Fresno State 4 (May 15, 1997)
1,446 — SDSU 5, New Mexico 3 (May 3, 1997)
1,427 — SDSU 11, USD 2 (Feb. 22, 2008)

EDIT: In the eighth inning, attendance is announced at 2,102.

3RD INNING — UNLV gets a run back when Strasburg balks Thornton home from third base. Thornton would never have scored had SDSU shortstop Ryan O'Sullivan held onto a throw a few momets earlier when Thornton stole second base after walking. Thornton went to third on a single by Sferra. Strasburg adds to more strikeouts in the inning, but the strikeout streak ends at eight — at least momentarily — when Roundy grounds out to shortstop to end the inning.

4TH INNING — Strikeouts of Beake and Wight give Strasburg 10 for the evening — his fourth double-digit strikeout game in four starts this season — before Frierson ends the inning with a flyout to left field.

5TH INNING — Strasburg strikes out leadoff hitter Anthony Morel. Bryan Resnick then singles to right, but is eliminated on the front end of a double play when Thornton hits a grounder to shortstop.

6TH INNING — Sferra employs a new strategy when he swings at a wild pitch for strike three, then races to first when the ball bounces past Castro and goes to the backstop. Beuerlein then doubles to right field — perhaps the hardest hit ball this season against Strasburg — to score Sferra and make it 4-2. Strasburg gets out of it with a strikeout of Roundy, a popup to second base and a strikeout of Wight. That's 14 strikeouts in six innings.

7TH INNING — Strasburg doesn't strike out a batter in the inning, but the most concern comes when he slides into first base to make a putout on Resnick. Strasburg tweaks his left ankle slightly, visits with an SDSU trainer for a moment, then finishes out the inning.

8TH INNING — Chase Thomas replaces Strasburg for the Aztecs.

Strasburg's line for the game — 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO. That gives Strasburg 59 SO in 27 1/3 innings this season.

9TH INNING — UNLV rallies for a two-out run and has runners at first and second against SDSU closer Addison Reed. But Thornton lines out to O'Sullivan at shortstop and a moment later the Aztecs are standing in front of their dugout singing the fight song after another victory.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

USD falls to Rice 9-2 in series opener

USD dropped to .500 on the season with a 9-2 loss today at Rice in the opener of a four-game series between the teams.

Rice collected eight hits and eight runs (five earned) in 5 2/3 innings off USD starting pitcher Darrin Campbell (1-3). The No. 9-ranked Owls (9-5) led 4-0 through three innings before USD was able to put a run on the board. A three-run fifth inning by Rice made it 7-1 and all but put the game away.

The No. 20-ranked Toreros (8-8) committed an uncharacteristic four errors in the game.

USD's James Meador and Zach Walters each had two hits to lead the Toreros offense.

Friday's game begins at 4:30 p.m. here. Rice will have a live broadcast. Here's a LINK to the Rice page that should hook you up to either the Gametracker, Video or Audio of the game. Go to the NEXT EVENT box on the page and click on your preference.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SDSU beats UCLA 10-6 with big rally in ninth

San Diego State posted one of its biggest rallies in the Tony Gwynn era tonight, and it came at the expense of a UCLA team that hasn't been able to do much of anything right this season.

The Aztecs rallied for six runs in the ninth inning for a 10-6 victory over the host Bruins at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Bruins (3-11) had lost 10 straight games before Tuesday's 5-3 win over UC Santa Barbara. So much for putting that behind them. This one is going to sting for awhile.

Baseball America picked UCLA to win the Pac-10 this season, but the Bruins have stumbled out of the gate for the third straight year.

SDSU (8-6) had to rally throughout tonight's game just to have a chance in the ninth. After trailing 5-1 through five innings, the Aztecs scored once in the seventh and twice in the eighth. They came into the ninth inning trailing 6-4.

In the ninth, SDSU loaded the bases with a walk and a pair of singles. The Aztecs first run of the inning then scored on a wild pitch. Freshman first baseman Brandon Meredith drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a double. Two more hits and a groundout produced three more runs for the Aztecs, who turned the lead over to closer Addison Reed to put the game away.

SDSU opens Mountain West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against UNLV at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg takes the mound for the Aztecs at 6 p.m. in Friday's opener.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is Strasburg the best there ever was?

Buster Olney's COLUMN today at ESPN.com is on San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg and raises the question: Is Strasburg the best college pitcher ever?

At least one scouts thinks so.

MLB.com also takes a look at Strasburg in its first DRAFT REPORT, which leads off with analysis of the 2009 draft's consensus No. 1 overall pick.

Here's a BLOG POST I did last week that shows how Strasburg stacks up against some of the best pitchers in college history. He's on an early pace to do some amazing things. The numbers will be even more incredible if the Aztecs can somehow make it to the NCAA Tournament.

By the way, Strasburg earned conference and national Player of the Week honors for the second straight week in recognition of his 18-strikeout performance in last week's 5-3 win over USD.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Toreros beat SDSU 10-7 to avoid sweep

San Diego State commits five errors, USD collects 10 hits and the Toreros win 10-7 at Tony Gwynn Stadium to avoid a four-game sweep in the series. USD pitchers retire 15 straight SDSU batters over the final five innings. USD's Matt Thomson (2-0) goes eight innings and strikes a career-high nine batters for the win. Toreros closer A.J. Griffin pitches the ninth for his second save.

SDSU (7-6) next is at UCLA in a Wednesday night game before playing host to UNLV this weekend to open Mountain West Conference play. USD (8-6) goes to Long Beach State on Tuesday night before traveling to Rice for a four-game series.

USD and San Diego State conclude their four-game series today at 1 p.m. at SDSU's Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Aztecs (7-5) are trying to complete a four-game sweep. The No. 11-ranked Toreros (7-6) are trying to stay above .500 and gather themselves before hitting the road for a demanding week that includes a Tuesday game at Long Beach State followed by a four-game series at No. 9-ranked Rice.

Junior left-hander Nate Solow makes his first start this season for the Aztecs. Solow went 6-7 last season with a 4.24 ERA, 96 strikeouts and 31 walks in 91.1 innings. He is expected to be the team's No. 2 starter behind Stephen Strasburg. He was suspended the first two weeks of the season for a "violation of team rules."

USD is expected to start junior right-hander Matt Thomson, who is 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 7 walks in 11.1 innings.

It's a beautiful afternoon for baseball — and lunch. The Tri-Tip from Hunter's Steakhouse is superb today (no compensation was provided for this endorsement) as we settle in. On Friday night, I got to the chuckwagon stand behind Tony Gwynn Stadium a few minutes after they closed down. Wasn't going to make that mistake today.

2ND INNING — USD catcher Nick McCoy singles in teammate Victor Sanchez with the game's first run, but SDSU comes right back in the bottom of the inning when Brandon Meredith (Montgomery High) jumps on the first pitch from Matt Thomson and rockets it over the left-field fence to make it 1-1. It is Meredith's first collegiate homer.

3RD INNING — SDSU falls behind by two runs with some sloppy play. USD's Steven Chatwood goes to first with one out after being hit by a pitch from Nate Solow. Sean Nicol follows with a deep drive to center field that goes off the glove of Pat Colwell and is ruled an error, putting runners at second and third. James Meador gets Chatwood home with a sacrifice fly to center. Solow strikes out Chris Engell, but the ball gets away from catcher Erik Castro and is ruled a wild pitch when Engell hustles down to first. USD coach Rich Hill has Engell steal second a couple of pitches later. Engell stops midway down the line, but Castro holds the ball a few steps in front of the plate, looks down to Nicol at third base and finally throws down to second. The Aztecs have Engell caught, but first baseman Guy Willeford drops the ball and Nicol comes home to make it 3-1. Whew!

4TH — The third inning was bad for the Aztecs, but the fourth was even worse. Much worse. SDSU made three errors — one by first baseman Willeford, one by second baseman Mitch Blackburn and one by shortstop Ryan O'Sullivan. Third baseman Easton Gust would have completed the all-error infield when he allowed a high foul popup to drop just in front of the third-base bag, but Gust was graciously excused for the misplay. When the dust settled, the Toreros had sent 11 batters to the plate, collected four hits and scored seven runs to make it 10-1. The big blows were back-to-back two-run doubles by Chatwood and Nicol. The Aztecs came back with two runs in the bottom of the inning on Meredith's two-run double to make it 10-3.

DEFENSIVE CHANGES FOR THE AZTECS — Apparently seeing enough of his infielders, SDSU coach Tony Gwynn moves Castro from behind the plate to first base (Chris Wilson goes in at catcher), replaces Blackburn with Zach Babitt at second base and O'Sullivan with Tyler Marmion at shortstop. And just for good measure, the Aztecs replace Brandon Decker with Jomel Torres in left field. Gust, at third base, somehow survives the infield purge.

5TH — SDSU restores order as reliever Goldy Simmons retires the Toreros in order on three infield grounders that are fielded flawlessly. The Aztecs chip away with a run-scoring double by Torres before Cory Vaughn launches a three-run homer to left field off Thomson that makes it 10-7. Vaughn, who hit a walk-off homer in the 10th inning Friday night to give SDSU a 6-4 win, makes it a game again.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

SDSU bullpen keys 6-5 win over USD

San Diego State beats USD for the third straight day, taking a 6-5 win from the Toreros at Cunningham Stadium. USD scores five runs against SDSU starter Tyler Lavigne, who shut out the Toreros two weeks ago, but fails to score off the SDSU bullpen in the eighth inning after putting runners at first and third with no outs. Three SDSU relievers check USD on three hits over three shutout innings. It the fourth straight win for SDSU (7-5) this season against the Toreros (7-6). Lavigne (2-0) gets the win and Addison Reed records his fourth save.

It's Game 3 of the four-game series between San Diego State and No. 11-ranked USD at the Toreros' Cunningham Stadium. The Aztecs are going for their fourth straight win against the Toreros this season and seventh win in eight meetings dating to last year.

SDSU won the series opener 5-3 behind an 18-strikeout effort by Stephen Strasburg on Thursday and won 6-4 in 10 innings on Friday thanks to Cory Vaughn's walkoff homer.

USD sophomore left-hander Sammy Solis (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 9 SO/0 BB in 6.0 IP) returns to the mound after missing his last start with shoulder tendinitis. SDSU counters with Tyler Lavigne (1-0, 1.88 ERA, 10 SO/4 BB in 14.1 IP), who pitched a two-hit shutout against the Toreros here in the season's opening week as part of the MLB Urban Youth Academy Invitational.


1ST INNING — SDSU jumps on top 2-0, with Cory Vaughn's sacrifice fly and Brandon Meredith's single to right bringing in the runs. USD counters with a run in the bottom of the inning on James Meador's RBI single to right field to make it 2-1.

2ND INNING — The Aztecs add a run on Easton Gust's infield out to make it 3-1.

5TH INNING — USD's Austin Green scores from third when Haar hits into a double play. The Toreros knot the score 3-3 one batter later when Kevin Muno homers to left field.

6TH INNING — The Aztecs come right back, scoring three runs on five hits to make it 6-3. That will be it for Solis, who settles in after the second but isn't nearly as effective as he was in a season-opening win over Southern. In the bottom of the inning, Nicol leads off with a triple and scores on Sanchez's single to center. Sanchez scores one-out later on Zach Walters' sacrifice fly to center field to make it 6-5.

8TH — The Toreros keep grinding, getting a leadoff double by Chris Engell and an infield single by Green to put runners at the corners with no outs. SDSU goes to the bullpen for the second time, bringing in left-hander Craig Rasmussen. Pinch hitter Tony Strazzara strikes out swinging after getting ahead in the count 3-0. USD then tried squeezing in the tying run with Haar at the plate, but Rasmussen fields the ball and flips it with his glove to catcher Erik Castro who tags out Engell at the plate for the second out. Rasmussen has done his job. He hands the ball to Aztecs closer Addison Reed, who will be asked to get the final four outs. Reed starts Muno with two strikes and then gets him swinging on a fastball that tails outside to get out of the inning.

9TH INNING — Reed retires Chatwood on a fly to center, Meador on a strikeout, before Nicol drops a two-strike single into right field. That brings up the powerful Sanchez, who leads USD with three homers on the season. Nicol steals second on the first pitch to Sanchez to get into scoring position. It doesn't matter when Reed gets Sanchez to pop up to O'Sullivan at shortstop to end the game.

Friday, March 6, 2009

SDSU beats USD 6-4 on Vaughn's walkoff HR in 10th

SDSU's Cory Vaughn hits a 1-2 curveball from USD closer A.J. Griffin for a three-run, walkoff homer in the 10th inning at Tony Gwynn Stadium that gives the Aztecs a 6-4 victory. It is the third straight victory over the Toreros (7-5) for SDSU (6-5), giving the Aztecs the season series between the teams.


The four-game series between No. 11-ranked USD (7-4) and San Diego State (5-5) continues today with the series moving to Tony Gwynn Stadium.

USD's Kyle Blair (1-0, 4.05 ERA, 17 SO, 8 BB in 13.1 IP) takes the mound against SDSU's Jon Berger (0-2, 4.61 ERA, 9 SO, 0 BB in 13.2 IP)

The Aztecs have won two games against USD this season, beating them 3-0 two weeks ago behind a two-hitter by Tyler Lavigne and 5-3 yesterday in a game highlighted by Stephen Strasburg's 18-strikeout performance.

SDSU has won 5 of the past 6 meetings between the teams, including taking 3 of 4 last season. USD had dominated the season before that, winning 9 of 11 games.

Berger defeated USD last year in his first start as an Aztec, pitching seven shutout innings in which he allowed just four hits, walked one and struck out three. It was quite a contrast to the rest of the season for Berger, who finished with a 2-7 record and an 8.54 ERA.

A late-arriving crowd will swell to 1,089 by mid-game.


2ND INNING — The Aztecs take a 1-0 lead in the second inning when freshman Jomel Torres (Eastlke High) singles in teammate Cory Vaughn from second base. Vaughn opened the inning with a walk and got into scoring position at second base on an infield out.

3RD INNING — Berger checks the Toreros without a hit through the first three innings. A two-out walk to James Meador in the first inning is the Toreros' only base runner to this point. The Aztecs make it 2-0 in the bottom of the inning when Vaughn lines a Blair fastball to center field to score teammate Pat Colwell from second base.

4TH INNING — USD comes to life. Steven Chatwood opens the inning with a walk, then Meador gets the Toreros' first hit with a single to center that just eludes SDSU shortstop Ryan O'Sullivan. A balk moves the runners to second and third. Sean Nicol had been showing bunt at the plate, but now he is allowed to swing away and lines a double to left field that makes it 2-2. Nicol advanced to third on an infield out and then scored when O'Sullivan dropped a a fly ball in short left-center that would have ended the inning. Left fielder Brandon Decker should have called O'Sullivan off and made the play. Instead, the ball falls and USD leads 3-2.

7TH INNING — A potential inning-ending double play goes awry for USD, allowing the Aztecs to score the tying run to make it 3-3. Decker hit a sharp grounder to second that led to a force of Colwell, but Nicol's throw to first got by Zach Walters and allowed Zach Baitt to come home with the tying run. USD closer A.J. Griffin is on the mound now for the Toreros, having replaced Blair with one out in the inning. It's Griffin's first appearance in more than a week after sitting out with mild shoulder tendinitis.

8TH/9TH INNINGS — SDSU's Keegan Sharp and Griffin keep both sides scoreless to send the game into extra innings.

10TH INNING — Meador leads off the inning with a walk, moves to second base on a wild pitch that gets away from catcher Chris Wilson and comes home on Nicol's single to right-center to give the Toreros a 4-3 lead. Nicol stole second and third, but was then caught in a run-down on a squeeze play that went awry with Chris Engell at the plate. Engell singled to center a few moments later.

Griffin comes out for his fourth inning of work and walks leadoff hitter Brandon Decker on four stright pitches. USD coach Rich Hill comes out to talk to Griffin and his infielders before Mitch Blackburn steps to the plate. Griffin then walks Blackburn on four straight pitches. Griffin recovers to strike out O'Sullivan looking for the first out. Up steps Cory Vaughn, who quicky finds himself in an 0-2 hole. Griffin misses just outside with his next pitch, then Vaughn jumps on an offspeed pitch and launches it over the fence in left-center for a game-winning three-run homer. It is the only hit allowed by Griffin in three-plus innings on the mound.

The 6-4 win is the third straight victory for SDSU (6-5) over the Toreros (7-5) this season.

The teams meet again Saturday at 1 p.m. at USD's Cunningham Stadium.

Matusz putting up O's in spring training

The Baltimore Orioles don't want to rush former USD ace Brian Matusz, the O's first-round pick last June, but Matusz seems like he's in a hurry to get to the major leagues.

Matusz pitched three scoreless innings yesterday in a spring game against the Marlins. The left-hander from Cave Creek, Ariz., has yet to allow a run in three spring appearances (including one against the Italian national team) this year.

The Orioles are trying to get Matusz to develop his fastball and changeup, as The Baltimore Sun mentioned in
on Matusz this morning.

Here's a link to some PHOTOS of Matusz tracing his journey so far from USD to this spring in Florida. I would have thought the Orioles could get him a lower number than 86. Then again, maybe it's his favorite number. I'll have to ask.

By the way, No. 17, the number Matusz wore for three years at USD, is on the back of Orioles DH Aubrey Huff.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Strasburg and strikeouts

A few thoughts and notes following Stephen Strasburg's 18-strikeout performance today in San Diego State's 5-3 win at USD:

What we're seeing here, folks, is history. This is one of the most exciting aspects of college baseball, being able to watch a player take the national stage right before your eyes. We saw it last season at USD with Brian Matusz and Josh Romanski. This alredy is bigger.

Word has spread on Strasburg. An overflow crowd of 1,117 showed up at USD, a gathering I have not witnessed there since top-ranked Texas came to town three years ago.

If the crowds at San Diego State are not approaching 3,000 by the end of the season, then something is wrong. Heck, they should get nearly 500 a game just for the Tri-Tip ($9 with beans and potato salad).

IN THREE GAMES, Strasburg has struck out 26 of the 27 players he has faced in the starting lineup. Nevada's Shaun Kort is the only player who has avioded being a strikeout victim.

Strasburg's career strikeout numbers and averages:
2007 — 47 SO in 37 IP or 1.27 SO/inning (25 appearances, all in relief)
2008 — 133 SO in 97.1 IP or 1.37 SO/inning (13 appearances, all starts)
2009 — 45 SO in 20.1 IP or 2.21 SO/ining (three starts)

— Strasburg opened the season ranked No. 15 on SDSU's career strikeout list with 180. He struck out 27 batters in first two starts, passing Rory Shortell (192), Norm Marr (194), Noel Mickelson (195), Tom Biscotti (205) to move into 11th place. With 18 strikeouts against USD, Strasburg passed Bob Cluck (209), Bill Blount (219), Rob Brown (221) and Erik Plantenberg (224) to move into seventh.

Here are the six SDSU pitchers still ahead of him:

304 — Bruce Billings
299 — Mike Erb
243 — Rick Navarro
237 — Bill Ruzich
228 — Brian Scott
227 — Jeremy Cook

THE TWO TOP SEASONS this decade — heck, two of the best years in NCAA history — have been by USC's Mark Prior (who graduated from University of San Diego High School) in 2001 and Long Beach State's Jered Weaver in 2004.

Here are their numbers from those seasons:

PRIOR: 15-1 record, 20 G, 138.2 IP, 1.69 ERA, 202 SO, 18 BB

WEAVER: 15-1 record 19 G, 144 IP, 1.62 ERA, 213 SO, 21 BB

There was no universal start date until last season (don't get me started on that), so Prior and Weaver had the advantage of making more starts with the regular season spread over four more weeks. In addition, the Trojans advanced to the College World Series, so Prior was able to make three postseason starts, and the Dirtbags made it to the Super Regonals, so Weaver got two more starts. Prior needed that last CWS start against Georgia to break the 200-strikeout mark.

At Strasburg's current pace, he would have 215 strikeouts if he pitches the same number of innings (97.1) as last season. Prior's SO/BB ratio of 11.22 was absurd and Weaver's 10.14 wasn't far behind. Strasburg's was 8.31 (133 SO/16BB) last season. It is 11.25 (45 SO/4 BB) in the early going this year.

THE SINGLE-SEASON NCAA RECORD for strikeouts is 234 by Hawaii's Derek Tatsuno in 1979. Of course, that was before the NCAA limited schools to a 56-game regular season and teams could play virtually as many games as they wanted (former SDSU shortstop Rigo Rodriguez holds a record that can't be broken — 90 games played in 1982).

The pitchers who have recorded at least 200 strikeouts in a season:

234 — Derek Tatsuno, Hawaii (1979, 22 G, 174.1 IP)
229 — Gary Gentry, Arizona St. (1967, 22 174.0 IP)
220 — Mike Loynd, Florida St. (1986, 25 G, 164.0 IP)
217 — Evan Thomas, Florida Int’l (1996, 20 G, 146.2 IP)
217 — Floyd Bannister, Arizona St. (1975, 21 G, 157.1 IP)
213 — Jered Weaver, Long Beach St. (2004, 19 G, 144.0 IP)
213 — Floyd Bannister, Arizona St. (1976, 25 G, 186.0 IP)
213 — Eddie Bane, Arizona St. (1972, 20 G, 144.0 IP)
208 — Brian Barnes, Clemson (1989, 23 G, 146.0 IP)
205 — John Hoover, Fresno St. (1984, 22 G, 176.2 IP)
204 — Kris Benson, Clemson (1996, 19 G, 156.0 IP)
204 — Greg Swindell, Texas (1985, 26 G, 172.0 IP)
202 — Mark Prior, Southern California (2001, 20 G, 138.2 IP)
202 — Ben McDonald, LSU (1989, 26 G, 152.1 IP)
202 — Richie Lewis, Florida St. (1986, 28 G, 127.0 IP)

The biggest thing that stands out to me is how many more innings it took these guys to get into the 200-club than it will take Strasburg at this pace. Even if his pace slows, as it likely will, he should still approach 200 strikeouts.

One other thing: What in the heck was Floyd Bannister doing throwing 186 innings in 1976?

THE NCAA RECORD for strikeouts/9 innings is 16.8 by Houston's Ryan Wagner (148 in 79.1 IP) in 2003. Strasburg is averaging 19.9 strikeouts/9 innings through the season's first three games.

I would include more numbers, but my head might explode.

Strasburg turns in 18K performance in 5-3 SDSU win

San Diego State All-American Stephen Strasburg strikes out 18, allows five hits and two runs over 8 innings in the Aztecs' 5-3 win over No. 11-ranked USD. It is the most strikeouts ever at the Toreros' Cunningham Stadium, eclipsing the mark of 16 strikeouts posted last season by USD ace Brian Matusz.


San Diego State and USD open a four-game series today with a 2 p.m. start at the Toreros' Cunningham Stadium.

Junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg (2-0, 1.46 ERA, 27 SO in 12.1 IP) will be on the mound for the Aztecs. USD sends right-hander Scott DeNault (2-0, 1.86 ERA, 6 SO in 9.2 IP) to the mound for his first career start.

Strasburg's coming out party was in the 2008 season opener against USD when he outdueled Toreros ace Brian Matusz in his first collegiate start. Strasburg went eight innings, allowing two runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in an 11-2 Aztecs win. That game was at SDSU's Tony Gwynn Stadium. This is Strasburg's first start at USD.

Strasburg struck out 16 in his last start, a 5-2 home victory last week against Nevada. Strasburg was clocked at 102 mph on one radar gun, and I'll try to peek over the shoulders of a few scouts this afternoon to see how fast he's bringing it.

DeNault has finished his warmup pitches and we're underway.

DeNault gets out of the first without allowing a run, stranding SDSU's Brandon Decker at third base. Decker tripled with one out when USD center fielder Kevin Muno allowed a sun ball to get over his head.

The crowd, swelling to near capacity as Strasburg approaches the mound, gets louder in anticipation of the All-American's first pitch. Strasburg makes quick work of leadoff hitter Muno for his first strikeout. Steven Chatwood gets a quick strike, prompting one fan to yell out, "Show bunt. It's your only chance." Two pitches later Chatwood walks back to the dugout as Strasburg's second strikeout vicim. USD's James Meador then grounds a ball to first base and SDSU's Brandon Meredith takes it himself to end the inning.

More than two dozen scouts line the second and third rows in the stands, many of them with speed guns. Strasburg is clocked at 99 mph by most (one guy had him at 100 mph).

RANDOM ASIDE: SDSU's Ryan O'Sullivan fouled off a ball in the top of the first that just missed USD pitching coach Eric Valenzuela's Envoy parked just beyond the Toreros bullpen down the left-field line. It's a danger zone for foul balls. Valenzuela must have a zero deductible on his SUV.

The Aztecs take a 1-0 lead on Decker's infield chopper with the bases loaded.

USD came right back in the bottom of the inning when Sean Nicol led off with a booming double that got over the head of SDSU center fielder Pat Colwell and Victor Sanchez singled to center to bring Nicol home. Strasburg got out of the inning with a double play and a strikeout.

Get this: DeNault, using an effective curveball had four strikeouts in two innings. Strasburg had three.

Strasburg struck out Tony Strazzara to open the bottom of the third before No. 9 hitter Nick McCoy jumps on a fastball and sends it sailing over the left-field fence for a 2-1 Toreros lead. McCoy sprints around first before going into a trot around second. SDSU pitching coach Rusty Filter visits Strasurg, who walks the next hitter, Muno. Muno steals second. After Chatwood strikes out, Meador lines a single to right field. SDSU's Cory Vaughn comes up throwing and his throws nails Muno at the plate to end the inning.

SDSU wanted to set the tone for this four-game series by starting Strasburg here, but the No. 11-ranked Toreros have gone right after him. Meanwhile, USD is on its third pitcher in four innings as Chris Jensen and Darrin Campbell follow DeNault to the mound.

Buoyed by the 2-1 lead, a USD fan shouts out: "This isn't the Mountain West. The closest you're getting to Omaha is Utah."

A double play prevents the Aztecs from getting anything going in the top of the inning. Strasburg retires the side in order in the bottom, getting the last two batters swinging to give him seven strikeouts.

SDSU ties it 2-2 when O'Sullivan's two-out single to left field scores teammate Easton Gust from third. Strasburg retires the side in order again, and he again gets the last two batters on strikeouts. He catches McCoy looking this time around.

The Aztecs load the bases with two singles and a walk, then take a 4-2 lead on singles by Colwell and Decker. Strasburg takes it from there, striking out all three hitters he faces in the bottom of the sixth to give him 12 strikeouts for the game. After struggling a bit early on, Strasburg is sailing now. He has retired nine straight batters — seven on strikeouts.

Strasburg strikes out the side again, giving him 15 for the game. With 106 pitches, the only question is whether he will come out for the eighth.

Strasburg does return. And why not? He strikes out Jon Hotta, McCoy and Muno (who reaches on a drpped third strike) before Chatwood flies to center to end the inning. That's 18 strikeouts.

The Aztecs add an insurance run to make it 5-2.

SDSU closer Addison Reed replaces Strasburg.

Strasburg's line for the afternoon: 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 18 SO, 1 BB. He threw 116 pitches, including 79 for strikes.

Reed allows Meador's infield single and Sean Nicol's looping single to center. But Victor Sanchez flies out to right field, Engell looks at a called third strike for the second out. Walters singles in Meador to make it 5-3. Reed gets two quick strikes on pinch hitter Bryan Haar, wastes a pitch outside, then gets Haar swinging to end the game.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fullerton beats Aztecs again

It wasn't as sloppy as last week, but the result was the same.

No. 7-ranked Cal State Fullerton defeated San Diego State 7-2 Tuesday at Tony Gwynn Stadium, returning to the scene of last week's 8-6 Titans win.

Last week's game was marked by mistakes — on both sides — the Aztecs just made more of them than Fullerton did.

The Aztecs (4-5) got out to a 2-0 lead tonight, scoring on two-out singles by Brandon Decker and Mitch Blackburn. SDSU got just two more hits — Guy Willeford's single in the seventh and Matt Parker's single in the ninth — the rest of the way.

SDSU freshman right-hander Ryan O'Sullivan, who made his first career here against the Titans last week, cruised through the first three innings, allowing just a second-inning single. Fullerton pushed a run across against O'Sullivan in the fourth, however, slicing into a 2-0 Aztecs lead. The Titans added three more runs in the third off the Valhalla High alum. He wasn't hit hard (three singles), but the Titans (6-2) used the hit-and-run effectively to make something happen.

O'Sullivan's line last night: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.

The numbers were similar last week — 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO — but O'Sullivan appeared more composed this time around. His progress bears watching this season.

Now about that offense . . .

Toreros make it four in a row

Is no comfortable lead going to be safe this season for USD?

Not until the middle relief improves. The Toreros watched early leads dwindle in the season's first two games against Southern and Bethune-Cookman. USD held on to win both games, so not much was made of it. There is something of a trend developing here, however.

The No. 11-ranked Toreros built an early 11-run lead Tuesday against Western Carolina at Cunningham Stadium, then watched the Catamounts rally for seven straight runs before order was restored. USD won 14-7 for its fourth straight victory.

The Toreros (7-3) scored six runs in the first inning against Western Carolina right-hander Matt Benedict, who got his first start after compiling a 0.00 ERA in three relief appearances that covered four innings. Back to the bullpen?

You had to know it wasn't Benedict's day the way the game began. Kevin Muno beat out a grounder to third base to open the game; Steven Chatwood hit a grounder to the hole at short for another infield single, then James Meador placed a bunt just past Benedict on the third-base side of the mound for a single. The bases were loaded and the Toreros had not even gotten the ball out of the infield.

That changed when Victor Sanchez hit a ball to right field that just kept carrying — all the way over the fence for a grand slam.

This was going to be a game in which the Toreros used much of their second-tier pitching in order to save the best arms for this weekend's four-game series against San Diego State. Still . . .

Western Carolina rallied for five runs against Matt Hauser and added two more against Scott DeNault, who had been stellar in the early going. DeNault had not allowed a run this season and picked up wins in both ends of a double-header sweep Saturday against Kansas State and Nevada. He walked the first two hitters he faced against the Catamounts.

Matt Thomson was expected to be USD's starter for Thursday's game against SDSU, but the Toreros needed him to get the final four outs against Western Carolina.

Does that mean a Kyle Blair-Stephen Strasburg matchup at Cunningham Stadium? We'll see.

USD was encouraged to see the bats going. The Toreros collected 16 hits in the game, including four by Chatwood and three by Sean Nicol. They also stole eight bases, including three by Nicol.

Notable also was the first appearance by freshman Bryan Haar (Grossmont High), who started at first base. Haar has been slowed by a hamstring injury, which is probably why he was pulled for a pinch runner in the fifth inning.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Strasburg named Pitcher of the Week

San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg earned conference and national Pitcher of the Week honors for his 16-strikeout performance on Thursday night in the Aztecs' 5-2 win over Nevada.

The Mountain West Conference selected Strasburg one week after bestowing the same honor on teammate Tyler Lavigne for his two-hit shutout of USD. This is the ninth time Strasburg has been the MWC Pitcher of the Week in his two-plus seasons at SDSU. He received the honor seven times last year, including five weeks in a row.

The Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week is through Collegiate Baseball magazine. It is the fourth time Strasburg has been selected for that award.

Strasburg is 2-0 this season with a 1.46 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

His next scheduled start is Thursday in a 2 p.m. game at USD.

UCSD's Kehoe CCAA Player of the Week

UCSD's Evan Kehoe (Mira Mesa High) earned Wilson/California Collegiate Athletic Association Player of the Week after leading the Tritons to three victories last week against Cal State Los Angeles.

Kehoe had 10 hits in his first 11 at-bats. The sophomore first baseman collected at least two RBI in each game of the series. He was 11-for-17 in the four games with 11 RBI.

No. 17-ranked UCSD is now 10-4 on the season and 7-1 in CCAA play heading into this weekend's four-game series at defending conference champion Sonoma State.

What to make of the Toreros

USD is sitting at 6-3 following the first two weeks of the season, riding a three-game winning streak and still ranked No. 11 in the nation by Baseball America.

That's all well and good, but it hides the fact that the Toreros are still searching to find answers in key areas. USD coach Rich Hill loves to tinker with his club (especially the batting order) even in good times, so there's no telling how much he will move the parts around.

The biggest concern in my mind is where the team is supposed to be so deep — the pitching staff. It's sporting a 4.95 ERA in nine games, which can partly be explained away by the competition. Oklahoma can bang. But the pitchers have hit 23 batters already and walked 34 more. That's six base runners a game they're allowing without making hitters earn their way on.

Sammy Solis is reportedly experiencing some tendinitis and Kyle Blair hasn't found his groove yet, so the Toreros' projected No. 1 and No. 2 starters are a question mark. The middle relief has been spotty at best, failing to stop the bleeding in an 11-2 loss to Oklahoma and a 14-6 loss to Pacific last week.

There have been bright spots. SCOTT DeNAULT (2-0) has not allowed a run in four relief appearances covering eight innings. Matt Hauser has compiled a 2.89 ERA in three appearances (one start) covering 9 1/3 innings.

The offense lacks for power — third baseman Victor Sanchez has two of the team's five homers — so the Toreros have to make up for it with execution, timely hits and heads up base-running. It doesn't help that two of the players who had breakout seasons a year ago, first baseman Jose Valerio and catcher Nick McCoy, have struggled at the plate in the early going. McCoy's defense will keep in the lineup to some degree, although junior Steven Chatwood has come on. Valerio will have to get it going before too long, or Hill will move someone else into the lineup.

Pleasant surprises early on have been junior transfer CHRIS ENGELL (.391, 5 RBI), who is settling in at second base, Chatwood (.381) and sophomore Tony Strazzara (.308), two returners who saw limited playing time a year ago and freshman outfielder Austin Green (.267), who has seized an opportunity afforded by injury.

Nine games is much too early to pass judgment. Heck, USD was under .500 (5-6) after 11 games last year and went on to the best record in school history.

Just saying what I'm seeing.