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
HERE WE GO
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.