Aztec Baseball Looks to Continue Remarkable Turnaround

Tyler Adkison of SDSU baseball swings away (GoAztecs.com)

The Aztecs came into this season after a disappointing 2016 campaign in which they finished 21-38. This year’s Aztec squad has returned with renewed vigor and a determination to reclaim their place at the top of the Mountain West. It is in stark contrast to the poor play of the 2016 season, as the Aztecs find themselves at 24-10 heading into Thursday night’s game at UNLV. This turnaround cannot be attributed to one player, for it has been the success of players in all three phases of the game: pitching, defense, and offense.

The starting pitching has been the start of it all, with Brett Seeburger enjoying a bounceback season (6-1, 2.65 ERA) along with Dominic Purpura (5-0, 3.06 ERA). This excellent starting pitching has given a key bridge to what has been a very effective bullpen. The SDSU bullpen this season has featured breakout performances from junior Jacob Erickson (1.50 ERA), freshman Logan Boyer (0.79 ERA), as well as Adrian Mardueno (2.77 ERA). These bullpen pieces have provided solid relief pitching appearances, giving way to standout closer CJ Saylor (1.80 ERA), who has 9 saves on the season. Despite these impressive players, the pitching has only been the start of the Aztecs’ success.

The Aztec defense has also contributed to the team’s success, especially on the infield. Last season Alan Trejo struggled at shortstop, perhaps contributing to his offensive dip; however, with the move to second base this season, he is enjoying a breakout year. The addition of Danny Sheehan at shortstop, who the Aztecs dearly missed last season, has provided great defense and important veteran leadership. This formidable combination up the middle has given the Aztecs’ pitching staff a reliable defense to count on. Third baseman Andrew Brown and first baseman Jordan Verdon have also contributed solid play at both corners. The outfield remains solid, as Chase Calabuig, Tyler Adkison, and Julian Escobedo have proved to be a speedy outfield unit. The catching platoon which includes Dean Nevarez and Hunter Stratton have provided good pitch calling and defense behind the plate. Even freshman catcher Ryan Orr has had a breakout performance against UCLA, throwing out 3 would-be base stealers.

Perhaps the biggest component to the Aztecs’ turnaround has been the offense. The SDSU lineup has become an offensive juggernaut, with standouts Adkison (.402 BA), Brown (.340 BA), Trejo (.315), and Sheehan (.328 BA) leading the way. While these players catch the eye, the lineup has been productive one through nine. Trejo has been the catalyst at the top of the order, getting on base for the likes of Brown and Sheehan. Adkison has provided the power with a team-leading nine home runs on the season. Even the bottom of the order has produced, as DH Andrew Martinez has contributed four home runs to go along with a .320 BA. Nevarez has contributed to the hit parade as well, adding .273 BA as well as three home runs.

We are witnessing a truly great college baseball team with fantastic performances at every position. The Aztecs are looking to continue this exciting turnaround as we head towards the close of the regular season.

End of an Era: Legendary Men’s Hoops coach Steve Fisher set to announce retirement

It’s the end of an era on the Mesa, as longtime San Diego State men’s basketball head coach Steve Fisher plans to announce his retirement.

An 18-year coach with the Aztecs, Fisher informed his players, fellow coaches and SDSU’s president Elliot Hirshman of his decision to retire on Monday, per Mark Ziegler of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Stepping into Fisher’s sizeable shoes, longtime assistant coach Brian Dutcher is expected to take the reigns from Fisher entering the 2018 season. Dutcher has worked beneath Fisher’s tutelage since 1989, as their partnership dates back to their ’89 title with the University of Michigan.

The Aztecs’ current players are comfortable with Dutcher stepping into the limelight and believe he is the best option to take over such a successful program, per source.

Prior to stepping onto the Mesa, Fisher signed arguably the best freshman class to ever touch the college hardwood with Michigan, the infamous Fab Five. He also reigned in three regional championships during his nine-year stint in Ann Arbor.

Fisher then took his talents to SDSU, a decision that would fundamentally change the Aztecs’ men’s basketball program for the better.

SDSU’s men’s basketball team had orchestrated 13 losing seasons in their last 14 seasons before Fisher took hold of the program in 1999. He then turned what was considered a losing program into a dominant one, notching four Mountain West Tournament championships (2006, 2010, 2011) and six MW regular season championships (2006, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016).

Looking forward, Dutcher will not have the smoothest road to success in San Diego, as there are many pressing areas of concern that must be addressed before the Aztecs get back to the winning tradition Fisher cemented in San Diego. The Aztecs are coming off a measly 19-14 season where they finished 9-9 in conference play and lost to Colorado State in the MW tournament.

While it is true that Dutcher and the Aztecs have a lot to work on this offseason, this day will be spent honoring the best head coach SDSU has ever seen. Fisher leaves SDSU with an all-time record of 386-209 (.649), two Sweet 16 appearances, eight overall NCAA tournament appearances and four MW Coach of the Year honors. He was recognized as the Naismith college coach of the year in 2011 and earned the Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2015.

A press conference is set for this Tuesday to formally announce his retirement and introduce Dutcher as the new head coach. After that, Fisher will ride off into the sunset of retirement.

Aztecs aim to keep Air Force grounded on senior night

Aztecs senior Malik Pope takes the court against Fresno State. Photo Credit: GoAztecs.com (Ernie Anderson)

The San Diego State men’s basketball team has had its ups and downs this season. After being selected to win the Mountain West conference in the preseason, the Aztecs find themselves fighting for a sixth place finish in the conference alongside Fresno State. The record does not reflect the fight and passion Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher and his squad have put in, as most of the losses were by 10 points or less.

The Scarlet and Black have an opportunity to avenge one of those losses as Air Force travels to Viejas arena for the final home game of the season on Thursday night. The last time these two teams squared off, Air Force walked away with a 60-57 nail-biting win, leaving the Aztecs with a frustrating trip home.

There’s no doubt that this game will a lot of hype around it. It’s not only a revenge game and the last home game, but it’s also senior night in San Diego. Dakarai Allen, Matt Shrigley, D’Erryl Williams, and Valentine Izundu will all be honored pre-game in the starting lineup alongside Malik Pope. Allen, Shrigley and Williams started their SDSU careers during the 2013-14 campaign.

Air Force comes into this game boasting an offense that averages nearly 75 points per game, while the Aztecs average just 69 points per game. The strong suit of this SDSU team has and always will be defense, thanks to the program and philosophy of coach Fisher.

Beneath Fisher’s tutelage, SDSU has allowed just 63 points per game, a tremendous feat in Division I basketball.

Keys to the game for SDSU will be defensive pressure, handling the ball, and keeping the foot on the gas in the second half. The Aztecs have averaged at least a 10-point lead in each of their conference losses this season, and it has been the primary concern among Scarlett and Black fans.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. at Viejas arena Thursday night. Coverage will be provided live via Twitter from @KCRsports.