Aztecs take two of three from Utah baseball

By and

San Diego State began to hit its stride at just the wrong moment for the Utes.

The U baseball team dropped two of three to the talented but underachieving Aztecs this weekend in a pivotal Mountain West Conference showdown. An SDSU group that U head coach Bill Kinneberg says is the most talented in the MWC certainly didn’t look it early on, dropping 14 in a row during the month of March. But the Aztecs have turned it around lately and have now won seven of their last 10 ballgames.

That wasn’t good news for the Utes who came into the weekend set on a hot streak of their own, having won six of seven. But after a disappointing Thursday night loss-highlighted by two uncharacteristic errors by Utah infielders-the Utes (18-15, 3-3 MWC) exploded Friday afternoon for one of their most dominant efforts of the season. By the middle of the sixth inning, Utah had already put 20 runs on the board, and that was more than enough as the team pounded a season-high 24 hits en route to a 20-7 triumph.

“I was really proud of the way we came back and came close to winning on Thursday night. And to come back the way we did on Friday was great,” Kinneberg said.

All-conference first baseman Jay Brossman drove in four runs, as did freshman Corey Shimada, who went 3-for-5 and homered for the fourth time. The Utes put it away early, erupting for a nine-run fourth inning in which the first eight Ute hitters reached base. Brossman, who doubled to lead off the inning, put an exclamation point on the afternoon with a grand slam that gave the team a 14-2 advantage.

Brossman, John Welsh and Joe Mozeleski had four hits apiece and every Ute that started got at least one hit.

Junior southpaw Eric King went just two innings but earned his third win of the season. He was pulled after two because of a third-inning rain delay that lasted more than an hour.

By Saturday, however, Friday’s ballgame was a distant memory for the Aztecs (13-27, 6-4 MWC), who rebounded in style with an equally dominating effort-but from the mound, rather than at the plate. After enduring Friday’s 24-hit barrage, SDSU hurlers limited the Utes to just six hits Saturday as they upended the U 9-3 to claim the series victory.

Aztec junior Bruce Billings tossed seven strong innings, fanning eight and giving up just one earned run to pick up his second win of the season.

“I don’t think we ever got things going,” Kinneberg said. “Billings was very good, and we just didn’t make our breaks.”

Billings got more than enough help from his offense, as Paul Smyth and Quintin Berry each put up three RBI.

Despite the two weekend setbacks, Kinneberg wasn’t upset with his team’s performance and observed that the Aztecs could still do quite a bit of damage over the next month.

“They’re going to be very tough in conference because of their two pitchers,” Kinneberg said. “They’re going to have a little bit of a problem with their third starter until they find that. But if (Justin) Masterson and Billings continue to pitch like that, they have a good chance of winning each series.”

That certainly proved to be the case this weekend, as Masterson and Billings each picked up a victory over Utah.

The Utes have a non-conference meeting with Southern Utah on Tuesday afternoon at Ute Field before taking on New Mexico for a three-game set in Albuquerque next weekend.