Bracket Critical: San Diego State Hosts No. 20 Texas Tech

Seby Zavala Photo By Stan Liu courtesy GoAztecs

Seby Zavala Photo By Stan Liu courtesy GoAztecs

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The hot-hitting San Diego State Aztecs, coming off a series loss at the New Mexico Lobos after scrambling to salvage a game three win, will host the No. 20 Texas Tech Red Raiders who were swept out west in their first road trip this season by the No. 25 Cal State Fullerton Titans last weekend in this week’s bracket critical match-up.

In midweek action the Aztecs pummeled the Long Beach State Dirtbags 16-1 while the Red Raiders swept the New Mexico State Aggies in a two-game, mid-week set by scores of 4-3 and 7-4.

Both teams want back into the post season with intentions of closing out some unfinished business. The Red Raiders pitched their way to Omaha for the first time in school history only to be unable to unholster their guns, being sent packing after dropping back-to-back one-run decisions. The Aztecs’ post season march bogged down quickly in the swampy Lafayette Regional, dropping back-to-back games as well, going winless in the post season for second straight year.

Team Conference Overall W-L Conference W-L RPI* SOS*
No. 20 Texas Tech Big 12 12-4 0-0 81 165
San Diego State Mountain West 14-3 1-2 29 112

*RPI and SOS calculations found at Warren Nolan

All-American Impact

Fans on the sunny west coast will be in for a treat with a pair of junior first-team, pre-season NCBWA All-American infielders playing as San Diego State third baseman Ty France and Texas Tech first baseman Eric Gutierrez will square off.

California kid Ty France looks to impress his home state in front of the Aztec fans and is off to a highly productive start. The junior has opened with a .515 SLG% and 18 RBI while hitting .368 with a pair of steals. He manages the hot-corner well with a .944 fielding percentage and only two errors on 36 chances this season.

At the other corner is Gutierrez, who is also on the Golden Spikes watch list, who was the winner of 2014’s home run derby but has yet to smash a long ball this season. He leads the team in runs scored (11) and RBI (12) and has walked 15 times in 17 games. His numbers look good .316/.456/.468 in spite of the lack of homers and the Red Raiders are ready for his power bat to come alive and maybe a second trip out west is the necessary salve to make it happen.

Eric Gutierrez photo by Getty Images www.gettyimages.com

Eric Gutierrez photo by Getty Images www.gettyimages.com

Tough Series

Much of what the Red Raiders do on offense flows through the bats held by the 3-4 hitters in the lineup, Gutierrez and Tyler Nelsony (Jr., LF). Both hitters were coasting until running into the Titans’ pitching staff as the duo hit a combined .130 (3-for-23) for the series. Thomas Eshelman (Jr., LHP) shut them down for a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts on Friday, with Nelsony taking the collar, striking out four times on the night.

The sluggers managed to hit .200 for the rest of the series (3-for-15) with eight more strikeouts, a pair of walks and runs scored and a double. Against the remainder of their competition they are hitting .314 with two homers, 12 doubles and 21 RBI.

Getting It Started

Senior center fielder Steven Pallares has been spectacular in the top spot in the lineup for San Diego State. He leads the Aztecs in every major offensive category with the exception of triples and homers and provides a consistent threat in the one-hole. Pallares’ numbers look gaudy .438/.630/.500 to go along with 22 runs scored and 21 RBI as he is setting the pace for an offensive attack that churns out 7.5 runs per ballgame.

Dusek Trek

Texas Tech starting pitcher Dylan Dusek (So., LHP) took his first collegiate loss last weekend in a one-run decision to Cal State Fullerton. Dusek finished his freshman year at 8-0 with a 1.94 ERA with two dominant post season performances. The sophomore shut out the Miami Hurricanes over eight innings to take control of the Coral Gables Regional before tossing five scoreless in the Super Regional clincher over the College of Charleston Cougars.

The southpaw opened up his sophomore campaign with a pair of quality starts for a 2-0 record, hurling six innings in each start. He allowed two earned runs to the San Fransisco Dons with five strikeouts before shutting out the Northern Illinois Salukis on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts.However, his last start stopped short, becoming both his first loss and shortest outing of his college career.

After allowing a hit and stranding a runner in the first, the southpaw allowed three straight singles to open the second inning setting up a no-out, bases loaded pickle. After a line out, Dusek surrendered a bases loaded walk before being chased in favor of reliever Parker Mushinski (Fr., LHP) who hit the next batter before closing out the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.

Dusek sits at 10-1 in his college career and Texas Tech hopes he gets things back on track this weekend against a potent Aztecs offensive attack.

Friday Night Strikes

If you like strikeouts, the potential Friday night matchup between Texas Tech senior lefty Cameron Smith (4-3, 4.43 ERA, 21 K, 5 BB) and the Aztecs junior right-hander Bubba Derby (1-1, 2.96 ERA, 36 K, 6 BB) should heighten your intrigue. Tech’s southpaw has a top strike-out-to-walk ratio at 4.2 but falls short of the stellar mark held by the SDSU junior’s 6.0.

Derby’s first start netted 14 strikeouts against the Valparaiso Crusaders before striking out eight in back-to-back outings against the UC Riverside Highlanders and the San Jose State Spartans. He struck out six in his last start against New Mexico State. Derby is averaging 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

Smith’s last two starts were back-to-back seven strikeout outings with the latest coming opposite Eshelman versus Cal State Fullerton and the prior being the Friday night start, moved to midweek start against the Sacramento State Hornets, as the series became a one game event due to inclement weather. His first start of the year was a three strikeout performance against Northern Illinois as the senior is averaging 9.3 strikeouts per nine.

Bubba Derby Photo By Stan Liu courtesy GoAztecs

Bubba Derby Photo By Stan Liu courtesy GoAztecs

With Some Pop

The San Diego State lineup has brought some extra-base pop to the stadium in 2015 with a team isolated slugging percentage (ISO) of .110. An individual ISO over .100 marks a solid power threat but we’re talking about a number that high for the team as a whole! The biggest bat at this point has belonged to junior catcher Seby Zavala who is hitting .302/.508/.397 which translates into a .206 ISO while leading the team with three homers.

Power isn’t limited to the cleanup spot as this lineup is packed with productive power so far this season. Leadoff man Pallares has a .192 ISO with eight doubles and a pair of homers. Three-hole hitter France has posted a .147 ISO in addition to the speed threat in two-hole from Danny Sheehan (Jr., SS) who is hitting .347/.417/.422 while going 5-for-5 on steal attempts.

Bracket Critical

The Red Raiders are out to show the selection committee that they can be a top notch squad outside of the Texas region. Grabbing a road series win against a dynamic and balanced team like the Aztecs won’t be easy. However, the Red Raiders would be happy to just get a win to avoid going 0-for-the-west coast on the year after suffering the sweep last weekend.

San Diego State is already solid in RPI and would benefit from a series win against Tech to help bolster their out-of-conference resume in the eyes of the committee. Keeping the Tech offense from unloading will be challenging but the Aztecs have enough offensive prowess to keep up if things get out of hand.

About the Author

Mark West
Mark West grew up playing and loving baseball. In college, he found an interest in writing and reporting on sports. He graduated from Arkansas State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science in Radio and Television Broadcasting with a News emphasis and a minor in Political Science. Mark can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MarkWestCBC Mark began writing a few years ago informally about politics and sports on various blogs, but has focused primarily on baseball writing for the last two years. He loves Arkansas State Red Wolves baseball and writes about the games and the players for the Red Wolves and the Sun Belt Conference. Mark is a member of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, giving him official votes in the Dick Howser Trophy, Regional Players of the Year, and NCBWA All-America voting. Follow on Twitter @MarkWestCBC