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.

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