web counter

College Baseball Countdown: 99 Days to Go - San Diego State

Before we get going, if you missed the introductory post for the 100 days countdown, click here to read it and get caught up.

Now that that’s out of the way…

We’ve now reached the point where the number of days to go until the start of the season is in double digits, and that, my friends, is something worth celebrating!

Next in our countdown of 100 things to look forward to ahead of the 2016 season is the San Diego State Aztecs, and more specifically, their quest to remain the new standard-bearer in the Mountain West Conference.

It’s easy to forget now that it hasn’t been that long since SDSU was viewed as something of an underachieving program under the late Tony Gwynn. His teams more or less hovered around .500 or so, with no NCAA Tournament appearances, for the first six years of his tenure. At that point, it was looking like SDSU was going to have to have the awkward conversation needed to tell the best player in the history of the program (and the namesake of the team’s stadium, no less) that they were going to go in a different direction.

In season seven of his tenure, 2009, the Aztecs, led by Stephen Strasburg and Addison Reed, finally broke through into a regional. The program was unable to build on that season, though, as the team put up 28-28 and 22-36 records in the two seasons after that postseason berth. For a team with quality facilities, located in a hotbed of high school baseball talent, San Diego State’s struggles were confounding.

Then, beginning in 2013, things turned a corner, and the Aztecs have now made three consecutive appearances in regionals. In the last two seasons, in fact, the team has eclipsed 40 wins. On top of it all, SDSU has become a quality pipeline to pro baseball, as 11 combined players have been selected in the MLB Draft in 2014 and 2015 alone.

The Mountain West has been somewhat volatile of late. UNM and UNLV took steps back last season, Fresno State has been doing the same for several years now, and Nevada stepped up last season and filled the power vacuum created by those three. Suddenly, San Diego State, first under Gwynn and now under Mark Martinez, who took over full-time after Gwynn’s passing, is the steadiest team in the league.

They will be challenged in 2016. Bubba Derby, Steven Pallares, Seby Zavala, Mark Seyler, and Ty France were almost inarguably the five best players on the team last season, and they are all in pro ball now. But at this point, as strange as this would have been to say as recently as four years ago, the Aztecs have earned the benefit of the doubt that they will find talented players to plug into those holes, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them right back in the thick of the MWC race come next May.

Joe Healy was first introduced to college baseball when he grew up watching the likes of Jeff Niemann, Philip Humber, and Wade Townsend pitch for Rice University. To say it was love at first sight would be an understatement. That love only grew as he went off to college at Sam Houston State University, where he practically lived at Don Sanders Stadium watching his Bearkats under the direction of the legendary Mark Johnson. He holds a B.A. in political science from SHSU and is working toward his Masters in Public Administration from SIU-Edwardsville in Edwardsville, Illinois.