A perfect day… according to the Aztec Calendar.

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on March 3rd, 2012 in Saturday statements
 

Contrary to popular belief, the Aztec calendar does NOT say the world is going to end in 2012. But unfortunately it DID say that the excitement of the Aztec Invitational would end today after two straight days of riveting finishes. Aw great, just in time for me to get there. Damn.

SEC football is officially jealous: The Toreros of San Diego upended Cal State Northridge with little problem.

I had to get off the couch. Just had to. And today seemed like the perfect time to do so, especially with the ultra-competitive Aztec Invitational going on two hours down the coast in San Diego.

So I spent the day down in LoCal on the SDSU campus watching a couple of games at the Aztec Invitational, which coming into the day had five of the six games finish in one-run affairs. Today wouldn’t be such a white-knuckler day.

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WHAT I SAW AT TONY GWYNN STADIUM.

Made it down for two of the three games at Montezuma Mesa today, where San Diego put a hurtin’ on Cal State Northridge by a 13-3 score and Cal Poly put away Milwaukee with a 6-2 win.

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GAME ONE

The Toreros posted crooked numbers in each of the first three innings, allowing former 1st round draft pick Dylan Covey to cruise with relative ease on the mound. USD’s big early lead would hold court as it amounted to a big double-digit win that was surprisingly easier than anticipated.

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LINESCORE:

- San Diego – 222 121 201 – 13  16  2

- Northridge – 010 100 010 -  3   8  2

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WP: Dylan Covey, 2-1

LP: Alex Muren, 2-1

Save: None

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TOP HITTERS.

USD:

- Louie Lechich, 4-for-5, 2dbls, RBI

- Austin Bailey, 3-for-5, 3RBI

- Andrew Daniel, 1-for-4, HR, 3RBI

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CSUN:

- Miles Williams, 3-for-5

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RECORDS.

- San Diego, 8-3

- Cal State Northridge, 6-5

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IN A NUTSHELL.

USD had things go their way from the get-go with two runs in each of the first three frames of the game, while Dylan Covey had a decent early going keeping the Matadors at bay for the most part. After three innings, the Toreros had built up a 6-1 lead and Covey had escaped a few mild jams, allowing for enough early padding. USD would go on to score in eight of the nine frames of the game, piling up 16 hits in the process. If there was a true nail in the coffin, you could point to the two-run yard call by Andrew Daniel in the 5th inning as what probably took the last bit of wind out of the Mats’ sails.

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IT WAS OVER WHEN.

- The two teams both hit their first ground ball to differing results.

After a leadoff walk by Louie Lechich, Austin Bailey hit a grounder to shortstop that was surprisingly booted by CSUN’s Kyle Attl making both runners safe. A batter later, Kris Bryant came on to knock in the first run of the game. Two batters later, Bryan Haar’s grounder scored the Toreros’ second run of the game. By contrast, CSUN’s leadoff batter, Chester Pak, hit a very similar ground ball to USD shortstop Andrew Daniel, who calmly swept the ball up and threw a strike to first to get the opening out. That’s pretty much a good indicator of how this game was going to go today.

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KEY STAT.

- 0-for-4

The Matadors were able to load the bases on two occasions early in the game, with potential to keep the game close, but went 0-for-4 in those at-bats that followed. They were able to get a groundout RBi by 9-hole hitter Brett Balkan in the 2nd inning and then a bases-loaded walk by leadoff hitter Chester Pak in the 4th inning, but that would be far less damage than they could’ve done.

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GAME BALL GOES TO:

- Louie Lechich, CF, San Diego

The Cal transfer hit for the short cycle, including a pair of doubles as he went 5-for-5 getting on-base in his first five appearances at the dish, which included a walk. The only thing he missed out on was the home run.

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COACH SPEAK.

I caught up with San Diego coach Rich Hill after the game. Here’s the goods…

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- On the influence of Louie Lechich to the Torero offense this season:

“(Assistant coach) Jay Johnson and I were just talking about that the other day. About how much he means to our offense. How much his speed changes things for us. He’s a baseball guy, ya’ know? He’s a high energy guy. And out in the outfield, he’s as good of a centerfielder as there is in the country. He’s still learning the offensive side of things. But he can pitch too. We’re still waiting to use him on the mound ‘coz he was drafted as a pitcher out of high school. He’s just been great for the chemistry of our team.”

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- On the recovery of Dylan Covey, the former 1st round draft pick who is dealing with Type 1 diabetes.

- “He’s adapting to it well. He still comes in each inning and gets pricked with a needle and checks the levels. He’ll eat a candy bar in the dugout from time to time. But he’s kind of over the hump. Now, just like all freshman and sophomore pitchers, it’s all about location and development. Obviously the stuff is there, he was touching 95 today. It’s just a matter of getting a better feel on the mound, getting his command. It’s all in there, he can be that elite Friday night guy.

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- On the team now compared to losing the series at Sam Houston.

“Well we’re still a work in progress. We’re starting six new guys out in the field, three of them are freshman. We’re still trying to figure things out. But give Sam Houston credit, it was a wet, cold weekend and they handled it well. We didn’t. We got back from Texas and really went back to the drawing board. Heavy video analysis. Heavy batting cage work. And then last week (beating Kansas State and Oregon State) really catapulted us back into things.

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- On the emergence of the WCC in this early season.

“It’s been unbelievable. Really. I’ve been in the conference 17 years now, and as far as Fridays go in the WCC… people are saying it’s better than the Pac 12 this year. Kyle Zimmer (San Francisco) is a big leaguer. Marco Gonzales (Gonzaga) is a guy that nobody really talks about, but I’d put him up against just about anybody in the country. Pepperdine’s got it rolling again. St. Mary’s is solid, beat Oregon State. The conference is really good this year, it’s really going to help everyone’s RPI at the end of the year. It’s exciting.”

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PICS

Some images from today’s first game at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Not even the dirt around home plate could stop him: Cal transfer Louie Lechich went 4-for-5 to pace the Toreros.

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Dylan Covey threw 6.0 innings, giving up five hits but also five walks. He was topping out at 95mph today, but his curve ball lacked punch.

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The USD defense was pretty good all day, as both errors were committed well after the game had been decided.

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Rich Hill gives his handshake of approval: Andrew Daniel's two-run homer in the 5th inning was the door-slammer.

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So good, he can pitch with his eyes closed: Ryan Keller came on to close the door with a 9th inning of relief.

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GAME TWO

Like San Diego in game one, Cal Poly simply went out on the diamond, grabbed an early lead over Milwaukee and then used solid pitching, timely hitting and good defense to lock down a breezy 6-2 win over the ornery Panthers.

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LINESCORE:

UWM- 000 010 010 – 2  5  1

Poly – 310 010 01x – 6  8  0

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WP: Reed Reily, 1-0

LP: Justin Jaquish, 0-1

Save: None

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TOP HITTERS.

UWM:

-  Luke Meeteer, 1-for-4, 3B, RBI

- Jim Lundstrom, 1-for-2, walk

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CP:

- Nick Torres, 3-for-4, 2dbls, walk, 2RBI

- Mitch Haniger, 2-for-5, HR

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RECORDS.

- Milwaukee, 3-7

- Cal Poly, 8-3

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IN A NUTSHELL

It was never ugly, never got out of hand or anything, but Cal Poly would hop on board with three runs in the 1st inning, two off the bat of Nick Torres who smacked a double to the wall, and that would be about all runs the Mustangs would need. Starting pitcher Matt Imhoff was decent enough, lasting 4.1 innings, giving up just two hits and one earned run. But reliever Reed Reilly would be the door slammer, going the final 4.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits and one run, while walking none to get the win.

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IT WAS OVER WHEN.

- Milwaukee couldn’t convert its biggest chance.

Trailing 4-0 in the 5th inning, the Panthers had a chance to make it a game again, getting the bases loaded with just one out. But after a pitching change from Matt Imhoff to Reed Reilly, Cal Poly was able to get two of the next three batters out, limiting UWM to just one run and ending the last serious threat of the game.

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KEY STAT.

- 0 walks in the last 4.2 innings.

Although he gave up one earned run, just like starter Matt Imhoff, the one thing that relief ace Reed Reilly did NOT do was give up free passes. Imhoff walked four and plunked one along with his two hits, leading to a few hairy moments. Reed gave up three hits, but had no walks and no plunks. No surprise that Reed was awarded with a win here proving once again that the Mustangs have a fairly deep pitching staff that should be ready for the Big West rigors.

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GAME BALL GOES TO:.

- Nick Torres, OF, Cal Poly

The freshman outfielder is the early clubhouse leader for Big West frosh of the year with his .381 average, which was increased tonight after he raced out of the chute with two doubles and a single in his first three at-bats. Torres leads Cal Poly with six doubles on the young season.

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COACH SPEAK.

I had a chance to catch up with Milwaukee head coach Scott Doffek before game two today. His Panthers have had a decent start to their 2012 season, including wins over Minnesota and a win on Thursday night over a good San Francisco team. But the best part might be that Coach Doffek’s Email address starts with “RoyHobbs” as the surname. Yep, the character name from the seminal baseball movie “The Natural.” Here’s what transpired.

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Me:

You’ve been head coach for the last six years and with the program for the last 18 years. In that time, what has been the biggest change in the program?

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Coach Doffek:

Well when I started there they had really just went to Division 1 and we didn’t have a full-time coach, let alone two of them like we’ve got now. When I started I made 2500 dollars a year and the head guy made 3000, so it was like a high school. And it was pretty much across the board, everything was like that. It’s drastically different now, from staffing to budgets to travel.

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Me:

You guys have played pretty well so far, with two wins over Minnesota and one against San Francisco here this weekend. What’s been the key?

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Coach Doffek:

We’ve just pitched really well. Our starting pitching has been very good. In all but one game this year, going into the 7th inning we’ve either had the lead or been within one run. So when we get good starting pitching like that, we’re going to be in every game. But we’re a really, really young team and our bats are behind where we normally are at this point, but our pitching and defense has given us a chance in every game.

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Me:

I’m hearing from a lot of northern coaches about how mild their winter has been, did you guys get much outdoor work in the pre-season?

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Coach Doffek:

No. Not us, unfortunately. We’ve gotten out on our soccer field a couple of times, because it’s turf, and we’ve been able to throw and catch out there but no work on the dirt or anything. It’s been a pretty calm winter for us too, but you still can’t get out there ‘coz we’ve still got a lot of frost and then some more snow this week.

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Me:

What do you think about the news this week that the Big 10 would like to extend the season into the summer months or have some fall games that count toward the official 56-game schedule?

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Coach Doffek:

Well obviously it would certainly lessen the difference between the northern and southern schools. But the tough thing for mid-majors is that you’d definitely be talking about having some budget issues if you continue the season into the summer. So that would be tough for us, but from a baseball standpoint I think it’d be outstanding.

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Me:

What is the recruiting philosophy for you guys? Is it mostly in-state?

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Coach Doffek:

It’s almost all in-state kids, mainly because our out of state tuition is almost double the amount of the in-state tuition. So for us to get an out-of-state guy, we’re going to have to pay double, not that we don’t go after a few out-of-state players, ‘coz you have to, but we’re almost all Wisconsin kids.

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Me:

Now, I know you guys play a couple of games at Miller Park (home of the Brewers), but how come there aren’t more indoor games there at this time of year?

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Coach Doffek:

First of all, it’s a natural grass field and secondly, it’s a non-winterized building. So the roof is open all winter long, so it snows in there just like everywhere else. But with it not being winterized, the plumbing is not made for winter. They shut the water down and everything. There was some talks about going to field turf at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s tough because when we really need it is in the month of April but the dirt is so soft that the groundskeepers are really finicky about it, but we still do our best to get use of the facility and play on there as much as possible.

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Me:

So, judging by your Email address, you must think The Natural is a great movie, right?

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Coach Doffek:

To me it’s the greatest. It’s the greatest. I’ve read the book as well and it’s outstanding. When I first started here, I put my Email down as ‘Roy Hobbs’ kind of as a joke, but it’s just stuck with me and something I’ve never changed. I get a lot of comments about it and people remember it. So I like that I’ve kept it.

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PICS

Some other images from the middle game today.

Matt Imhoff threw the first 4.1 innings of game two, giving up just two hits.

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Reed Reilly and his big ole giant leg kick tossed the final 4.2 innings, getting the win.

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Freshman Nick Torres tore up both Tony Gwynn Stadium AND Charlie Smith Field with a pair of doubles.

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One thing coach Larry Lee has to like is that each game the Mustangs seem to have somebody new step up, like leadoff man Mike Miller who had an RBI in a 1-for-3 day with a walk.

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Balls to the wall: Credit UWM for giving max effort once again, like here where Luke Meeteer made a great diving catch in centerfield.

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Panther shortstop Michael Porcoro made a few really wicked-good plays in the middle-infield.

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Milwaukee coach Scott Doffek, a former AAA player with the Albuquerque Dukes, has his Panthers off to a good start, including wins over San Francisco and Minnesota. When his young bats come around, UWM will have a good chance at challenging for the Horizon League title.

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OTHER STUFF.

Okay, I have to admit, I got back home pretty late after catching most of the day’s action at the Aztec Invitational (wait… isn’t that name deemed “hostile and insensitive” by the NCAA?…) so there wasn’t a lot of time to comb through the other scores around the country. But here are some of the highlights that caught my eyes… before they grew anvils on the lids and sent me to bed.

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THREE UP

A brief best of the day in college baseball.

1- Texas State.

The Bobcats scored their fourth straight shutout win with today’s 11-strikeout, 3-hit complete-game performance from Travis Ballew, whose golden arm downed the golden domers of Notre Dame 6-0. Also, for the second straight night TXST pulled in the 4th-largest crowd in Bobcat history wit 2,181 fans in attendance. Congrats guys.

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2- Florida, Stanford and South Carolina.

Prepare yourselves people. It’s starting to look like these three will be at the top of the rankings the rest of the season. Yep, I said it. Florida took game two at Miami, the Cardinal rebounded resoundingly with a 16-0 win at Fresno State and the Gamecocks offense woke up enough to get a 9-6 win over Clemson. See you in Omaha guys.

And yep, I just said that too.

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3- San Jose State.

The Spartans scored seven runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to down Santa Clara in jog-off fashion 13-12. Pinch hitter Daniel Cohen, making his first appearance at the dish for the Spartans, drew a bases-loaded walk to end the game in an unlikely manner.

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HONORABLE MENTION.

- Keith Guttin, head coach, Missouri State.

The Bears maestro earned career win No. 1000 tonight with a 3-2 win over Northwestern State. Starting pitcher Pierce Johnson threw a career-high 12 strikeouts over 8.0 innings to get his first win of the season. Guttin becomes the 46th D1 head coach to reach the 1K win mark.

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THREE DOWN

The worst of the day in college baseball.

1- Arkansas.

Just when we thought the Hogs were above all this upset nonsense, including getting the win over Texas Tech on Friday, the get the rug pulled out from underneath them in a 4-1 loss to Houston in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.

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2- Central Michigan pitchers and catchers.

CMU came into the day winning two of its last three games vs. Stetson and Southeastern Louisiana and looking on an upward swing. But today, the Chips were down, losing a pair of games to McNeese State and SLU. In the game vs. Southeastern the Lions set a school record with 10 stolen bases as part of an 8-1 win.

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3- The Aztec Invitational.

After having five of the first six games of the weekend end in riveting one-run contests, wouldn’t you know it, the day I go down there to check things out, I get served three blowouts. No drama. No excitement. Including the two easy wins above for San Diego and Cal Poly, San Diego State capped the day with a 6-1 win over San Francisco.

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DISHONORABLE MENTION:

- Southeast Missouri.

The Redhawks lost a pair of games to Illinois State today, including an 13-11 extra inning drubbing in game two. In that game, SEMO allowed ISU to come back from an 11-2 deficit, getting out-hit 19-9. Also, and most egregious of all, the five Hawks pitchers issued 13 walks in the process.

 

COMMENTS:

March 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm
Dan says:

Ha!
Yes! Thank you, Stitch, for the Albuquerque Dukes reference. I will now have their old jingle stuck in my head for the rest of the day: “The Dukes are comin’ out, comin’ out swinging! Hustling all the way….”

When I was a kid all I ever wanted was for my parents to take me to Dukes games. Jeez. This youtube is worth looking at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=l188Sv22Eaw

Here’s to hoping that Tulane finishes off Alabama today. Roll Wave. Go Dukes (errr…Isotopes…)!


March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm
Louisiana says:

When will you make a trip down here to the bayou state. Crawfish are coming in season right now, and between ULL, LSU, & Louisiana Tech some good baseball is being played. PS… I would love to see you do some stadium reviews just so we can get a look at some of the other fields around the nation.


March 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm
Louisiana says:

Also, how about some love for Louisiana Tech’s Alex Williams, hitting in the high .400s with six round trippers thus far. I know it is early, but he has to be near the top in that category right now.