San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg (8-0) pitched a six-hit shutout for a 1-0 Mountain West Conference road win over New Mexico. Freshman Brandon Meredith's solo home run in the fourth inning for the Aztecs provides all the offense in the game. Strasburg makes it hold up with his first complete game of the season, striking out 14 while allowing just one walk. It is the first shutout of the season for the Lobos, who were averaging 9.9 runs a game.
The victory gives No. 15-ranked SDSU (26-13, 9-4 MWC) sole possession of first place in the conference over New Mexico (28-11, 8-5).
Things got tense in the late innings. The Aztecs threw out a runner at the plate to end the eighth inning. Strasburg, who threw nearly 130 pitches, stranded a runner at third base in both the fifth and ninth innings. New Mexico moved a runner to third with one out in the ninth, but Strasburg struck out the next two hitters to end the game.
Strasburg now leads the nation with 121 strikeouts and strikeouts/nine innings with 17.19 (the national record is 16.8 by Houston's Ryan Wagner). He is also among the nation's leaders in victories (8) and ERA (1.28). He moved into second place on SDSU's career strikeouts list with 301 (Bruce Billings is the leader with 304) and is approaching the single-season strikeout record he set last season with 133.
Something else to ponder: Strasburg has four more regular-season starts plus one start in the MWC Tournament and remains on pace to become the 16th pitcher in NCAA history to reach 200 strikeouts in a season. He would accomplish the feat in 14 appearances. No one else on the list did it in fewer than 19 appearances.
Strasburg's next start is Friday, April 24, vs. TCU at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
No. 15-ranked San Diego State travels to New Mexico for a first-place showdown with the Lobos, who sit atop the Mountain West Conference with the Aztecs. Both teams are 8-4 in the MWC coming into the three-game series in Albuquerque.
SDSU junior right-hander Stephen Strasburg (7-0, 1.49 ERA, 107 SO/11 BB in 54.1 IP) makes his ninth start of the season. New Mexico was the only MWC to avoid Strasburg last season. He missed his start against the Lobos with a cold that became a severe inner ear infection. It preceded his breakout game the following week when he struck out 23 batters against Utah.
Still weary from last week's roadtrip to Las Vegas (and wearing a barrel after dropping $31 in video poker), the blog will follow the game from our home offices in Santaluz (four miles north of the Ted Williams Parkway as the crow flies). Our vast network of information sources will be monitored for developments as they develop.
The teams take the field on a cold, misty evening with the temperature in the 40s.
HERE WE GO
1ST INNING — New Mexico strting pitcher John Hesketh retires the Aztecs in order to start the game. Strasburg takes the mound and immediately strikes out leadoff hitter Mike Brownstein looking, then gets Max Willett swinging (catcher Erik Castro throws down to first to get the putout) and Ryan Honeycutt on a fly to left.
One thing I've noticed in recent weeks is that Strasburg has gotten several strikeouts on wild pitches, including one last week at UNLV in which Ryan Thornton reached first base when the ball got past Castro. With teams trying to jump on Strasburg's fastball early the past couple of outings, he has switched to offspeed pitches and his curveball has made a few batters look silly. So much so that he's gotten strikeouts on balls bouncing in the dirt in front of the plate.
2ND INNING — The Aztecs get Cory Vaughn and Castro to second and third with one out, but can't get them home when Easton Gust grounds out Mitch Blackburn flies out. New Mexico's Rafael Neda singles off Strasburg to open the bottom of the inning. The Lobos have something going one out later when an error by Gust gives them runners at first and second. SDSU shortstop Ryan O'Sullivan helps Strasburg get out of it, catching a popup before turning a ground ball into the third out of the inning.
3RD INNING — SDSU goes down in order again. Meanwhile, Strasburg allows the leadoff hitter to reach base again, this time with a walk to Daniel Gonzalez. Gonzalez is sacrificed to second base before Willett strikes out. Honeycutt singles to put corners at the corners, but Neda strikes out (with Castro throwing down to first base for the putout).
4TH INNING — Brandon Meredith's leadoff homer to left field finally gives Strasburg a run to work with. It is the third homer of the season for the freshman from Montgomery High, who came into the game batting .289. Hesketh strands two runners later in the inning to prevent further damage. Strasburg strikes out Dane Hamilton to open the bottom of the inning before Brian Cavazos-Galvez singles to center. But Castro erases Cavazos-Galvez quicker than you can say his name on a steal attempt and Strasburg gets Justin Howard on a gronder to short to end the inning.
5TH INNING — SDSU is retired in order for the third time in five innings. Hesketh is pithing a heckuva game. He just picked the wrong day to do it. Perhaps a glimpse of hope for New Mexico when Adam Courcha leads off with a triple. Not to worry. Courcha is left standing around when Strasburg gets a grounder to third base for one and retires the next two batters on strikeouts. Willett ends the innings with is third strikeout of the game.
6TH INNING — Meredith and Castro open the inning with a walk and single, respectively, but are stranded when Hesketh sets down the next three hitters in order. Strasburg must have his curveball working again. Honeycutt strikes out leading off and for the third time Castro has to throw down to Meredith at first base for the putout. Neda then grounds out to second base before Hamilton strikes out looking. Strasburg has nine strikeouts and will return to the mound looking for his eighth double-digit strikeout game in nine starts.
7TH INNING — Pat Colwell's two-out double puts a runner in scoring position, but Brandon Decker follows with a flyout and the threat ends. Strasburg comes out with his strongest inning of the game — striking out Cavazos-Galvez, Howard and Courcha all swinging. That's 12 strikeouts for the game, 119 strikeouts for the season and 299 strikeouts career for Strasburg, who ties Mike Erb (1985-87) for second place on SDSU's all-time strikeout list.
Strasburg opened the season listed No. 15 on the school's career strikeout list. Former teammate Bruce Billings (2004-07) is the only one ahead of Strsburg now at 304. Enjoy it for another week, Bruce. Or another two innings? Craig Elsten on the Aztecs' internet broadcast has Strasburg at 96 pitches through seven innings.
Strasburg set SDSU's single-season strikeout record last season with 133. He is positioned to break that with next week's home start against TCU. Strasburg struck out 14 against the Horned Frogs at TCU three weeks ago.
8TH INNING — New Mexico employs a different method of retiring the Aztecs in order for the fourth time, using three different relievers to get the three outs. In the bottom of the inning, Gonzalez leads off with a single to right and nearly gets picked off after rounding hard when Vaughn throws behind him at first. Brownstein sacrifices Gonzalez to second to put the tying run 180 feet away. But pinch hitter Kevin Atkinson's grounder to third freezes the runner as the Aztecs get the second out. Honeycutt strokes a 2-2 pitch to left field for a single. On the internet broadcast, Craig Elsten says Decker fields the ball before Gonzalez rounds third. But Gonzalez is waved to the plate, anyway. Decker's throw is so fr ahed of Gonzalez that Castro could have enjoyed some peanuts and Cracker Jack before easily making the tag to end the inning.
9TH INNING — The Aztecs don't make anything of a two-out walk, trusting a 1-0 lead to their All-American. Strasburg returns with a complete-game shutout on his mind. Neda leads off with a single to left field before pinch runner Cameron Monger is sacrificed to second. Monger then surprises the Aztecs by stealing third base. SDSU brings the infield in. Strasburg takes care of Cavazos-Galvez himself with a strikeout, his 13th of the game and 300th of his career. Strasburg gets two quick strikes on Howard, then wastes a slider outside for a ball. Strasburg's next pitch is a strike that Howard can't handle and the game is over.
STRSBURG'S LINE — 9 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 SO (121 SO/12 BB in 63.1 IP this season with a 1.28 ERA)