SAN DIEGO – San Diego State jumps back into action on Tuesday, April 5, when it plays host to Long Beach State at Tony Gwynn Stadium, starting at 6 p.m. PT. In addition to live stats, the Aztecs-Dirtbags clash will broadcast live on XTRA Sports 1360 AM, with Jonathan Rifkind calling the action.
SDSU projected to start left-hander Chris Canada (0-0, 4.32 ERA), while Long Beach State is expected to go with right-hander Noah Carabajal (0-1, 5.59 ERA).
An Orange Lutheran High School alumnus, Canada earned his first career start after seven relief appearances. The 6-7 freshman has allowed four earned runs on nine hits and eight walks this year while posting nine strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings of work. In the second game of a weekend series vs. Fresno State on March 26, Canada posted season highs of three strikeouts and three innings pitched.
Carabajal, meanwhile, will be making his third consecutive start and sixth appearance overall vs. the Aztecs on Tuesday. The Las Vegas native struck out a season-high six batters against Fresno State at home on March 22.
San Diego State (6-21) is coming off a weekend series at Nevada where it cruised to a 13-1 victory on Friday before dropping the final two games 12-6 and 8-6.
In Friday’s conquest, the Scarlet and Black banged out a season-high 18 hits, highlighted by Brian Leonhardt’s second career grand slam that helped the Aztecs snap a four-game losing streak. In addition, the SDSU cause was advanced by Poncho Ruiz (4 hits, 3 runs), Trevor Hazehurst (3 hits, 3 runs), Xavier Carter (2 hits, 3 runs) and Max Foxcroft (2 RBIs).
Not to be outdone, starter Troy Melton pitched a gem against the Wolf Pack, picking up his first win of the year after surrendering just one unearned run on four hits and one walk in a season-long seven innings. The junior right-hander also tied his season high with six strikeouts for the second consecutive start and limited Nevada to a collective .160 batting average (4-25).
The Aztecs lead the all-time series vs. the Dirtbags 87-55-1, including a 7-2 triumph on March 3, 2020, at Tony Gwynn Stadium, which marked the last meeting between the two squads.
Among SDSU returners, Brian Leonhardt started at pitcher in that contest and was one of four Aztecs to record two hits, joining former players Mike Jarvis, Casey Schmitt and Anthony Walters. In addition, ex-Aztec standout Jaden Fein led off the sixth with a solo home run to give the Scarlet and Black a 6-0 lead it would not relinquish.
As a true freshman, Ricky Tibbett tossed three innings of relief to earn his first collegiate victory despite allowing the two unearned runs in the seventh after taking over for Leonhardt, who pitched four scoreless innings and yielded just two hits and two walks.
Prior to that victory, SDSU posted a two-game sweep of LBSU during the 2018 campaign. That season, the Scarlet and Black logged a 5-2 victory at Blair Field in Long Beach before recording a 5-1 triumph in a neutral-site contest at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, home of the San Diego Padres’ Single-A affiliate Lake Elsinore Storm.
The Aztecs have won 35 of their last 50 games against Big West opponents but are off to just a 2-4 start against the conference this year. SDSU split two home encounters with Hawai’i as well as the first two installments of the Trolley Series vs. UC San Diego but dropped both meetings with UC Irvine in a home-and-away series.
Despite their 6-21 record, the Aztecs’ pitching staff enters the week leading the Mountain West in strikeouts (262) and opposing team batting average (.238) while ranking second in ERA (4.57). In addition, SDSU tops the conference with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranks 57th in the nation.
Offensively, shortstop Caden Miller continues to lead the Aztecs with a .330 batting average, followed by utility player Cole Carrigg (.317), outfielder Tyler Glowacki (.291) and catcher Poncho Ruiz (.290).
At the start of the week, Miller occupies the second spot in the Mountain West with 11 stolen bases and ranks 10th with a .453 on-base percentage, while his 34 hits and .330 average are good for 13th and 15th, respectively. Ruiz also finds himself among the league’s top 20 in walks (T-4th, 19), on-base percentage (19th, .407) and hits (T-20th, 29), while Carrigg is tied for the 17th spot in hits (32).
Miller owns the team’s longest current hitting streak at four games and tops the squad with multiple hits in 11 outings, followed by Carrigg (9), Ruiz (6) and Brian Leonhardt (6). Meanwhile, Carrigg and Leonhardt share the top spot on the roster with multiple RBIs in five contests so far this year.
As a team, the Aztecs share the conference lead with 32 stolen bases and ranks second with 14 sacrifice hits.
San Diego State has had 19 of 37 players make their initial appearances in an Aztec uniform this season, including 10 true freshmen. One of those rookies, Glowacki, batted .455 in three games last week to raise his average for the season from .265 to .291. The Santana High School alumnus finds himself just outside the MW top 20, ranking 21st with a .406 on-base percentage. He also tops all Aztec freshmen with 23 hits, five doubles, 14 walks and nine runs scored.
Long Beach State (14-12) lost two of three games at home against UC San Diego this past weekend, salvaging a 4-0 shutout in the series finale on Sunday after falling short in the first two encounters by scores of 7-6 and 7-4.
Picked to win the Big West in the preseason coaches poll, the Dirtbags find themselves in a tie for seventh place in the conference standings with a 4-5 record. Individually, pitcher Devereaux Harrison was named to preseason watch lists for the Golden Spikes Award and NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award after garnering Freshman All-America accolades in 2021 from Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball magazine and the NCBWA.
Despite an 0-for-9 spell vs. UCSD over the weekend, infielder Tanner Carlson still leads LBSU with a .369 batting average, which ranks second in the Big West, while first baseman/outfielder Chase Luttrell finds himself among the league leaders in hits (3rd, 36), doubles (T-3rd, 11), slugging percentage (4th, .565), batting average (9th, .333) and home runs (T-9th, 4).
In addition, outfielder Rocco Peppi has landed in the Big West top 10 in several statistical categories this week, including on-base percentage (4th, .460), hits (T-6th, 32), runs scored (T-7th, 20) and batting average (8th, .344), while infielder Jonathan Long is tied for eighth in RBIs (20) and shares the ninth position in hits (30) and home runs (4).
Collectively, the Dirtbags occupy the third spot in the league in batting average (.277), hits (251) and on-base percentage (.364) while ranking fifth in slugging percentage (.364) and home runs (19). However, LBSU is slotted seventh in RBIs (126), runs scored (137) and stolen bases (15).
On the mound, the Dirtbags lead the Big West this week in fewest walks allowed (71) while landing in the second position in ERA (3.49) and opposing batting average (.233). In addition, LBSU is ranked third in fewest hits allowed (204) and fifth in strikeouts (237).
Eric Valenzuela is in his third season as head coach at Long Beach State after guiding the Dirtbags to a 28-15 overall record during the 2021 campaign. Prior to his arrival in Long Beach, the Pepperdine alumnus spent five years as head coach at Saint Mary’s from 2014-19, where he led the Gaels to their first West Coast Conference title and an NCAA regional berth in 2016.
Valenzuela also worked under the late Tony Gwynn at San Diego State, serving four seasons as the Aztecs’ pitching coach and recruiting coordinator from 2010-13. While at SDSU, Valenzuela was a member of an Aztec staff that also included current head coach Mark Martinez, helping the Scarlet and Black capture the 2013 Mountain West tournament championship after bringing in a pair of recruiting classes ranked in the top 25 by Baseball America.
Following Tuesday’s action, San Diego State welcomes San José State to “America’s Finest City” for a three-game conference series this weekend, April 8-10, at Tony Gwynn Stadium.