Watching this evening's San Diego State-Utah game unfold reminded me of control tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) in the movie Airplane! At various times in the movie, McCroskey said he picked the wrong week to quit drinking, smoking, sniffing glue and taking amphetamines. It's no wonder he jumped out a window toward the end of the film.
SDSU picked the wrong day to play its worst game of the season.
SDSU committed five errors and five Aztecs pitchers were pounded for 16 hits tonight in a 15-5 Mountain West Conference loss to the Utes at Lindquist Field in Ogden, Utah.
The Aztecs' postseason hopes didn't go out the window with the loss, but the road to the postseason did become longer. SDSU came into the three-game series against Utah needing a sweep to assure themselves of second place in the MWC.
So much for second.
The significance is that the top two teams in the Mountain West Conference receive first-round byes in next week's MWC Tournament, which is being hosted by TCU. The bye means the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the double-elimination event could play just three games, win them all, and claim the championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Everyone else will use valuable pitching before the top two teams have even taken the field.
The Horned Frogs have clinched their fourth straight regular season conference championship. By the way, TCU has only been in the MWC four years. Here's how the standings look:
TCU 14-5 .737
BYU 14-8 .636
New Mexico 14-8 .636
SDSU 14-9 .609
TCU, New Mexico and SDSU all have one game remaining. The best the Aztecs can now do is finish 15-9, which is a .625 winning percentage. That means SDSU will finish either third or fourth in the conference.
The reason winning percentage is being used to determine the champion is because, as usual, several games were lost to weather and not made up, so the teams are not playing the same number of games. TCU had four games cancelled (including an entire series against Air Force), BYU had two cancelled and New Mexico had one cancelled.
Tonight's loss means the SDSU coaching staff will probably be up late tonight trying to decide who to start on the mound in Saturday's finale against Utah. The game doesn't mean much. Finishing third or fourth doesn't really impact tournament seeding (It means playing either No. 5 seed UNLV or No. 6 seed Utah on Tuesday in a first-round game), although every victory is meaningful when it comes to at-large consideration for he postseason.
Here's the big question: Do you start Tyler Lavigne (6-1, 3.62 ERA) in Saturday's game, or save him now for Tuesday's tournament opener? Lavigne has been the Aztecs' second best pitcher this season. If Lavigne goes on Saturday, then he won't be available until Thursday or Friday next week.
I would save Lavigne for Tuesday, not that anyone asked.
SDSU ace Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Wednesday's game.