Behind the Seams with Blake: Postseason Preview

Hello readers, my name is Blake Koziel, and I will be coming at you with new insight about the baseball and football world in this non fan-friendly, crazy 2020 sports year.

Before we get started, allow me to catch you up on how I got here. I have been following baseball frighteningly closely since about age ten, and I quickly found myself obsessed with baseball statistics, while watching my local team, the San Diego Padres. My favorite player on the Padres was, understandably, Adrian Gonzalez, and I remember how amazed I was the first time I saw his statline of 40 home runs way back in 2009. I continued to be a huge fan of Age, as I called him, all the way through his post-Padres teams until he retired in 2018. You will find that I tend to follow and know how certain players are doing more than the teams they are playing for, and my love for certain players centers around the stats they put up.

In case you are wondering, I also played baseball myself. My main positions were centerfielder, first baseman, and pitcher, and I played up until sophomore year of high school, when I made the curious transition from JV baseball to D1 varsity tennis within a span of two weeks. However, my heart was still with baseball even as I aced 100mph serves past nationally-ranked tennis players (It didn’t go in quite that often, but hey, I had the velocity). I stopped playing tennis competitively after high school, but it was definitely a fun experience. I then moved on to just focusing my attention on studying baseball.

In future posts I will also be writing about football, a sport that I didn’t really follow at all until 2014, when my uncle got me to join a fantasy football league with him, and my study of the game and its players began. I adopted the Denver Broncos as my favorite football team, as they had my favorite player, running back CJ Anderson, to go with an amazing crop of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and redzone monster tight end Julius Thomas. And who can forget living legend, quarterback Peyton Manning, whose forehead is as big as his accomplishments (I say it out of love, Peyton). I was not yet following football when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl to conclude the 2013 season, and I always wish I had seen that season, because Peyton threw a single season record 55 touchdowns that season, but I did get to watch my Broncos win against the Panthers in the 2015 Super Bowl, and it was simply wonderful. The Broncos have had a rough stretch of seasons since then as they’ve struggled to find an answer at quarterback after Peyton retired, but I believe in Drew Lock, and I hope he will finally provide the Broncos with some stability at the position once again.

Now for the present-day sports discussion. In this first post, I will be sticking to baseball, giving a quick rundown of the journey that the Padres have made to get to the postseason in this 60 game season. 

Major League Baseball decided to raise the number of postseason teams from 10 to 16 for this season, and Commissioner Rob Manfred says that he will consider making the change permanent for future seasons too. To be truthful, I do not like that idea, as I believe that the best of the best teams should be in the postseason, so a smaller number than 16 teams would be better in terms of the “they earned their postseason spot” argument.

As of this post, 11 of 16 spots for the postseason have been clinched, those 11 teams being the Dodgers, Rays, Twins, Padres, Athletics, Braves, White Sox, Indians, Cubs, Yankees, and Blue Jays. I will now break down some key players for the Padres that have helped them get there.

The San Diego Padres are one of four teams tied for the 4th best record in the league with 34 wins. I must admit I’ve spent 1000% more time watching the Padres this season than any other team, as I can count on one hand the number of their games I didn’t watch this season. The story of the Padres season has centered around 21 year old phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., as he was pretty much the biggest story of baseball for the first month or two of the season prior to the cold stretch he is currently in. Even with his current cold streak factored in, Fernando has still hit .278 with 15 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and a .561 SLG% through 55 games this season. Third baseman Manny Machado has turned in quite the performance as of late, and is really starting to look like he’s worth the 10 year, $300m deal he was given prior to the 2019 season, as he has hit .313 with 16 home runs and a .603 SLG%. Other honorable mentions for this team are OF Wil Myers, 1B/2B/SS Jake Cronenworth, and Cy Young award candidate SP Dinelson Lamet, who have all turned in fantastic performances this season after coming into the season with perhaps much different expectations of them. On a different note, Mike Clevinger, one of the many players whom the team acquired during their busy trade deadline, has been diagnosed with a sprained right elbow, and it’s still unknown how long he will be out for. Fingers crossed he will be able to contribute for the Padres in the postseason this year. Optimism is high in San Diego for a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2006.

Written By: Blake Koziel

Photo By: Denis Poroy

Aztecs Defeated by Utah State in Mountain West Championship, Must Rebound

For the second year in a row, the Aztecs were defeated by Utah State University in the Mountain West Basketball Championship.

“That’s March Madness basketball. It just started in the conference tournament,” Head coach Brian Dutcher said. “We will learn from it and we will be ready when we see who we play in 10 days.”

Aggies’ Sam Merrill made a challenging game-winning three pointer over SDSU’s KJ Feagin with 2.5 seconds left on the game clock.

“[I] couldn’t have played better defense,” Senior KJ Feagin said.

Merrill finished with 27 points and was named MVP for the second straight year.

With the championship win, Utah State gets the Mountain West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Aztecs led by 16 points in the first half and appeared to be in firm control of the game. The Aggies didn’t make a field goal from 15:06 remaining to 2:11 remaining in the first half.

In the Aztecs first two games of the 2020 Air Force Reserve Mountain West Basketball Championships, they struggled against Air Force and Boise State in the first halves before pulling away in the second half.

It was the opposite on Saturday, the Aztecs were cold in the closing stages of the first half and it stayed true for the entire game.

SDSU made 34% of their field goals for the game, which included only making 12% of their three pointers in the second half.

The Aztecs had a strong performance from Yanni Wetzell, he finished with a 12 point and 13 rebound double-double.

“I don’t know if they made a whole lot of adjustments. It was just a matter of me putting two halves together,” Wetzell said. “I think I performed better in the first half, and that’s something I’m going to take and try and improve on, and promise you I’m going to put two halves together once that Tournament comes.”

Malachi Flynn added 16 points and Feagin added 11. However Wetzell, Feagin, and Flynn combined to shoot 14-for-43.

What truly hurt the Aztecs was Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel combining for only four points.

“You know, Jordan, they stayed out on Jordan. He couldn’t find any opportunities,” Dutcher said. “Matt didn’t have a great game today Obviously I think he’d be the first to say that. I don’t know what he was from the field, 1-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from three.”

The Aztecs admitted this loss hurt and left them feeling deflated after the game.

“I think I speak for everybody when I feel like that shot and us taking this loss just took all the life out of us today,” Feagin said. “I wanted to cut down nets. We all wanted to cut down nets.”

With the loss, the Aztecs will likely drop from a No. 1 seed to No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

With the probable change in seeding, the Aztecs would stay in the West instead fo traveling to the East.

“I want to be a 1 seed, so I want to be a 1 seed. I want to be a 1 seed in the west,” Dutcher said. “So we’ll see what happens. I mean, I think we’re good enough.

They potentially will have 13 days before their next game.

“I don’t think it’s that hard to sit on a loss. It’s hard losing the conference championship in the last two seconds of the game,” Dutcher said.

The important games haven’t started yet, but if the Aztecs lose in the first or second round of the NCAA tournament, it will feel like this historic season was all for naught.

The Aztecs must rebound and take their winning-ways to the tournament.

If Flynn, Feagin, Mitchell and Wetzell show up in the same game, SDSU can beat anyone.

Written by: Dan Farr

It All Went Right For The Aztecs On Senior Night

San Diego State women’s basketball team honored Taylor Kalmer, Zayn Dornstauder, Monique Terry and Baylee Vanderdoes before Thursday’s game, as it was their final time playing in Viejas arena.

“Baylee [Vanderdoes] and Monique [Terry] have been with me all four years and I’m amazed with their growth on and off the court. Both of their roles transitioned into starters. I’m proud of the effort they put in,” Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said.

“Zayn [Dornstauder] has been here two years and I don’t know that we’ve had a dominant post player since I’ve been here and she’s been able to really work on the offensive end. She’s so skilled so she’ll be missed. TK [Taylor Kalmer] is so competitive and has such a good work ethic. These four seniors have all helped changed our culture.”

Head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson

The Aztecs won their home finale and final regular season game 81-68 against Nevada. Hot shooting throughout the entire game left little in doubt as the Aztecs closed out their season. 

SDSU made 49% of their shots, which included shooting 50% from downtown. The team also had four players who scored in double-digits and two players who scored eight points.

“We need a third scorer,” Terry-Hutson said, “Sophia [Ramos] and TK [Kalmer] take up so much of the offensive load it’s nice to see Zayn [Dornstauder] and Tea [Adams] takeover some nights.”

Their offense wasn’t the only part of their game that clicked. After getting on track, the Aztecs defense played with grit and held the Wolfpack to 34.9% shooting.

“It’s senior night so give everything you have so I think that’s the mentality too,” Vanderdoes said, “I always give it my all, but it was just different tonight.”

The Aztecs started the game down 12-4, but after a few adjustments they took a 42-28 halftime lead.  Kalmer ended the first half with 15 points and made her first eight shots.

Jokingly, Kalmer said she couldn’t recall making eight shots in a row. “I don’t know, maybe in H-O-R-S-E or something.” She finished with 20 points and extended her streak of scoring at least 10 points per game to 24.

As a team, the Aztecs shot 55% from the field and 83% from three in the first two quarters. A 15-0 run out of halftime gave them a 24 point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the third.

“We were able to build a lead and give ourself a cushion and we see once we do that we have a great shot at beating some good teams,” Kalmer said.

SDSU earned their ninth win in conference play and it’s the most they’ve had since the 2014-15 season. The Aztecs also finished 9-8 at Viejas this season, but it still hasn’t sunk in that it was their final home game, especially for the seniors.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” Vanderdoes said, “I feel like I’m just gonna put my shoes back on and practice here tomorrow.”

It was a close knit group who cared for each other tremendously this season. The over 1,000 fans in attendance could see how locked in the Aztecs were tonight, on both sides of the ball.

The team wanted to send their four seniors out with cheerful memories of Viejas arena.

“My made of honor will probably be Monique [Terry],” Vanderdoes said, “Zayn [Dornstauder] and I got really close and TK [Kalmer] makes be better. She demands that of everyone on the team and we all meshed really well together and we all love each other.”

SDSU will be the No. 6 seed and face No. 11 Utah State in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament, which starts March 1 in Las Vegas.

“In February I think we won six out of the last nine and two of those losses were in the single digits,” Terry-Hutson said, “I think we’re playing good basketball right now so I’m excited to see what we travel with to Vegas.”

Written by: Daniel Farr

Men’s Basketball Wins Home Finale

On Tuesday, February 25, San Diego State played their final home game of the season and honored three players. As part of senior night KJ Feagin, Nolan Narain, and Yanni Wetzell were celebrated before tipoff against Colorado State.

“We didn’t want another one, [loss] especially on senior night.” Junior Matt Mitchell said, “We wanted to get our seniors out with a win.”

The Aztecs beat the Rams 66-60 in their home finale to improve to 27-1. The team wanted to send their seniors out on the right note, but cold shooting nearly doomed the Aztecs. This was their second straight game of making less than 40% of their shots from the field.

“When Malachi [Flynn] is 0-for-6 from the field and he’s your best player it’s going to be a struggle,” Head coach Brian Dutcher said, “The thing I like about our team is, we can still win when we don’t shoot the ball well because our defense is so good.”

San Diego state shot 35% for the game and 33% from three point land. Strong defense, especially in the second half propelled the Aztecs to their 27th victory on the season.

“We didn’t want to lose two in a row,” Junior Malachi Flynn said. “We buckled down on the defensive end and people made shots.”

With 57 seconds left, Rams’ guard Isaiah Stevens made two free throws, which cut the Aztecs’ lead to just two. After a stop by the Aztecs, and a stop by the Rams, a jump ball was called and possession was awarded to the Aztecs. 

CSU was forced to intentionally foul Mitchell, who made two free throws to ice the game and begin a new winning streak for the Aztecs. He finished with 15 points and the Aztecs made 17-of-20 free throws on Tuesday night.

SDSU’s defense kept them in the game, as the Rams only made 28% of their second half shots and went 1-for-10 from the three point line. In the first half, the Rams shot 50% but still only led 36-34 entering the second half.

Jordan Schakel started off the second half with a steal and a lay up, then he hit a three pointer to give the Aztecs a 57-56 lead with just over four minutes remaining. He finished with 11 points and four rebounds.

Flynn’s first field goal didn’t come until five minutes into the second half, however he made a big time three pointer with three minutes remaining to extend the lead 62-56. Flynn ended the game with 17 points.

 The Aztecs bench was outscored by 10 points after 20 minutes and they allowed 14 points inside the paint during the half. SDSU allowed 24 points in the paint for the game, but their bench ended up outscoring the Rams by three.

Mitchell scored 13 points in the first half, but his teammates struggled from the field during the half. SDSU made 35.7% of their first half shots and went 6-for-17 from three point land. Flynn was 0-for-6 in the first half and 0-for-4 from deep in the half. He finished the game 4-for-14. 

The Aztecs will play at Nevada on Saturday before embarking on the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas. 

Written by: Daniel Farr