Baseball

Aztecs Set for MW Road Series at New Mexico

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Ruby Ruiz

 
SAN DIEGO – San Diego State faces its first repeat conference opponent of the 2024 campaign this weekend when it travels to the Land of Enchantment for a three-game Mountain West series against New Mexico, April 26-28, at Santa Ana Star Field in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Aztecs and Lobos will square off in the series opener on Friday, beginning at 6 p.m. MT/5 p.m. PT, while Saturday's action commences at 2 p.m. MT/1 p.m. PT, followed by Sunday's finale, which is slated to get underway at noon MT/11 a.m. PT.

In addition to live stats, all three games will air live on the Mountain West Network, with links to both platforms available on GoAztecs.com.

SDSU is coming off an 11-2 loss at the University of San Diego on Tuesday, as the Toreros built an 8-0 advantage through the first three innings.

Third baseman Tino Bethancourt homered for the second straight game with solo shot in the eighth inning, giving him four round-trippers on the season.

Earlier, Jake Jackson garnered Mountain West Freshman of the Week accolades for the second time this year after a series of standout performances in four games during the period spanning April 15-21. The San Diego native led the Aztecs in several categories, including batting average (.688), on-base percentage (.722), hits (11) and RBIs (7). Not to be outdone, the SDSU newcomer struck out just once in 16 at-bats during that stretch.

Jackson set a career high with three hits at Long Beach State (April 16) and duplicated the feat in consecutive outings vs. No. 15/17 UC Irvine (April 19-20). The Aztec outfielder also established a collegiate best with four RBIs in that latter contest against the Anteaters to highlight a 3-for-4 evening at the plate.

Coupled with his first certificate on Feb. 19, Jackson's award on Monday gives the Aztecs nine MW weekly honors for the year after Colby Turner received the same recognition on five previous occasions (Feb. 26, March 4, March 18, April 1 and April 8). Jacob McCombs was also tabbed MW Freshman of the Week on April 15, while Jacob Riordan was named the league's Pitcher of the Week on April 1.

Since 2021, SDSU has won 16 of the last 18 meetings against New Mexico, including a series victory at Tony Gwynn Stadium, March 28-29. After dropping the opener by a 5-2 count, the Aztecs swept a doubleheader the following day, 8-6 and 13-0, punctuated by Jacob Riordan's no-hitter.

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
For the seventh time in the last eight weekends, San Diego State is expected to utilize the starting rotation of Jacob Riordan, Omar Serrano and Xavier Cardenas III, while New Mexico is slated to pitch Dayne Pengelly and Brett Russell, respectively, with Sunday's starter to be determined.

A graduate transfer from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Riordan (3-4) will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak on Friday after tossing the program's ninth no-hitter in SDSU's 13-0 victory over UNM in the nightcap of a doubleheader on March 29. The Aztec right-hander offset six walks and a hit batter against the Lobos by matching his season-best with eight strikeouts, giving San Diego State no-hitters in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

Saturday's projected starter Serrano (3-4) tied his career high with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work against UC Irvine on April 20, but did not factor in the decision after giving up three runs on eight hits and a pair of walks, as the Anteaters pulled off a comeback victory in the ninth.

The Downey, California, native picked up the win in the Scarlet and Black's 7-5 home triumph over UNLV on April 13, after allowing just one run on eight hits and two walks to go with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Last month, Serrano put the brakes on a personal three-game slide with a victory in game one of the aforementioned twin-bill against New Mexico on March 29, The Aztec junior pitched seven scoreless innings of his own, overcoming four hits and one walk with five strikeouts, as the Scarlet and Black held off a late Lobo rally for an 8-6 decision.

Cardenas (1-5) is scheduled for his 10th start of the year on Sunday after recording one out in a relief appearance against New Mexico during seventh inning of a doubleheader on March 29. Earlier, the SDSU sophomore pitched a career-long seven-plus innings at Hawai'i on March 24, allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits and seven walks but did not factor in the decision after the Rainbow Warriors rallied for a walk-off 6-5 victory in 10 innings.
In his last start at UC Irvine on April 21, Cardenas yielded just one run on three hits to go with a trio of strikeouts but was lifted after walking five batters through 5 2/3 innings.

SDSU IN MW RANKINGS
Entering the weekend, SDSU pitchers lead the Mountain West in strikeouts (364), opposing batting average (.262) while ranking second in fewest hits allowed (349) and sixth in ERA (7.24).

The Scarlet and Black also tops the conference with 9.4 strikeouts and 9.06 hits allowed and per nine innings, which are good for 57th and 70th in the nation, respectively.

Individually, Jacob Riordan leads the MW in opponent batting average (.225) and is slotted second in fewest hits allowed (39) while occupying the sixth spot in strikeouts (53) and the ninth position in innings pitched (49.0).

Omar Serrano is also listed among the league's top 10 in several categories, ranking fourth in ERA (4.20), fourth in innings pitched (55.2), seventh in strikeouts (51) and eighth in opponent batting average (.276).

Elsewhere, Xavier Cardenas III is slotted fourth in fewest hits allowed (42) while ranking fourth in opponent batting average (.255).

Additionally, reliever Garvey Rumary is tied for the MW lead with 18 appearances, just ahead of teammates Jadon Bercovich and Evan Miranda, who share the fifth position with 16 games pitched, while Chris Canavan is tied for ninth with 15 appearances of his own.

Additionally, Miranda shares the third spot in the conference with 12 games finished, while Bercovich is tied for seventh in that category with seven.

Offensively, SDSU is slotted fifth in the MW this week in doubles (81) while occupying the sixth spot in hits (367) and batting average (.265).

Despite missing the last two weeks, Colby Turner still ranks third in the Mountain West with a .378 batting average while occupying the ninth position with a .622 slugging percentage.

In addition, the Aztec freshman shares the top spot in the conference with four triples, which is tied for 19th in the nation as of April 25.

Elsewhere, Shaun Montoya is tied for sixth in the MW with 52 hits and shares the seventh spot with seven stolen bases.

STREAKING AZTECS
Shaun Montoya is the lone Aztec to start all 40 games this season, playing exclusively in right field. The SDSU junior has made 45 consecutive starts dating back to last season and has started 90 of the last 92 contests he has appeared in.

Since March 22, a span of 21 games, Montoya has hit .402 (35-87) with six doubles, two triples and 22 runs scored, raising his batting average from .215 to .313.

Additionally, Montoya leads the team with multiple hits in 16 games, followed by Finley Bates and Colby Turner, who have accomplished the feat in 12 different contests. Turner also tops the squad with two or more RBIs in seven different games, followed by Brady Lavoie (5) and Jake Jackson (5).

Bates has seen action in 39 games thus far, earning 23 starts at shortstop and 15 at second while appearing as a late-inning defensive replacement in SDSU's 7-1 victory over Portland on Feb. 18.

A native of Castle Park, Colorado, Bates shares the team lead with 10 doubles and ranks second with 46 hits while occupying the fourth spot in batting average (.279) and slugging percentage (.394). He also ranks second on the squad in total bases (65) and is tied for second in runs scored (22).

Bates has reached base safely in eight consecutive games.

However, Montoya and Jackson had their six-game hitting streaks snapped in Tuesday's loss at San Diego.

Meanwhile, Tino Bethancourt had his streak of reaching base safely halted at nine games at Long Beach State on April 16. The SDSU third baseman logged a season-best five-RBI performance at UC San Diego, when he launched a grand slam in the Scarlet and Black's 18-8 romp on April 10. He also went yard with a two-run shot in the seventh inning at UC Irvine on April 21.

SERIES RECORD VS. NEW MEXICO
The Aztecs lead the all-time series vs. the Lobos, 134-85 dating back to 1960.

SDSU has won 16 of the last 18 meetings against New Mexico since the 2021 campaign.

The Lobos are one of five programs the Aztecs have recorded over 100 victories against. The other four are Air Force (121), Fresno State (110), Utah (104) and UNLV (102).

SDSU boasts a 78-39 record against New Mexico in San Diego, a 46-42 mark on the road and a 10-4 ledger on a neutral field.

Shaun Montoya has feasted on Lobo pitching during his career, batting .500 (28-56) in 12 games with four triples, three doubles, eight RBIs and 15 runs scored.

In a three-game road sweep at UNM in 2022, Montoya posted a slash line of .714/.733/.929 with 10 hits and seven runs scored, earning MW Freshman of the Week honors.

In the first two encounters of that series, Montoya became the first SDSU player to record four hits in consecutive games since Danny Sheehan accomplished the feat at Air Force, May 13-14, 2017.

AZTECS-LOBOS REWIND
San Diego State captured its first series victory of the year after winning two of three games from New Mexico at Tony Gwynn Stadium, March 28-29.

After dropping the opener by a 5-2 count, the Scarlet and Black stormed back with a doubleheader sweep the following day by scores of 8-6 and 13-0, capped by Jacob Riordan's no-hitter, which marked the ninth such occasion in program history.

Riordan offset six walks and a hit batter with a season-high eight strikeouts in the run-rule victory to earn Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors on April 1.

In addition, Colby Turner collected his fourth MW Freshman of the Week certificate following the UNM series after batting .385 batting with a .692 slugging percentage, nine total bases and four RBIs.

Aztec pitchers held the Lobos to a .155 batting average for the series after they entered that weekend with a conference-leading .332 pace.

The SDSU offense came to life against UNM, posting a collective .345 batting average (35-102) with nine doubles, three homers and 19 RBIs.

Individually, four Aztecs hit over .400 for the series against the Lobos, including Finley Bates (.467), Shaun Montoya (.467), Tino Bethancourt (.455) and Irvin Weems (.444).

Weems led the team with a .615 on-base percentage and a 1.111 slugging percentage vs. UNM last month while topping the squad with six runs scored, five RBIs, two homers and three walks. Not to be outdone, the SDSU outfielder advanced seven runners in 10 opportunities for a team-best 70 percent success rate.

Weems enjoyed the first two-homer game of his career after hitting a pair of two-run bombs, accounting for half the team's production in the Aztecs' 8-6 victory in their doubleheader opener.

NEW MEXICO AT A GLANCE
Entering the weekend, the Lobos are slotted fifth in the Mountain West with a 9-9 mark in league play and have compiled a 20-19 record overall.

After dropping two of three games at Air Force, April 19-21, New Mexico rebounded with an emphatic 17-3 victory at Texas Tech on Tuesday.

With their triumph over the Red Raiders, the Lobos raised their record to 5-8 on the road this season while maintaining a 13-9 mark at home and a 2-2 ledger on a neutral diamond.

Collectively, New Mexico leads the Mountain West in most offensive categories, including batting average (.319), slugging percentage (.512), on-base percentage (.424), RBIs (300) and walks (208), while sharing the top spot in runs scored (322).

UNM's league-leading .319 batting average and .424 on-base percentage rank 13th and 19th in the nation as of April 25, respectively.

Khalil Walker (.394) and Jake Holland (.391) lead the conference in batting average, while Konnor Kinkade (.347), Reed Spenrath (.336), Will Asby (.331) and Tye Wood (.309) are also hitting over .300 for the season.

Holland is also perched atop the MW in slugging percentage (.870) and ranks second in RBIs (46) while sharing the second position in home runs (13).

In addition, Spenrath finds himself among the league leaders in slugging percentage (6th, .664), total bases (T-6th, 99) and on-base percentage (7th, .447).

Elsewhere, Asby is slotted third in the MW this week in RBIs (45) and is tied for fifth with 10 home runs while ranking eighth with a .629 slugging percentage.

Defensively, the Lobos top the conference as well with 35 double plays, which is tied for 27th in the country.

On the mound, UNM pitchers lead the MW with 10 saves, including three apiece by Wil Bannister and Brian McBroom, who are tied for third on the league's individual top 10 list.

The Lobos are also slotted fifth in the conference this week with 283 strikeouts but occupy the basement in team ERA (8.77), opposing batting average (.336) and hits allowed (463).

McBroom leads UNM with 15 games pitched, followed by Bannister Josh Barnhouse, Arthur Steinkamp and Jaren Jackson with 14 appearances each.

Friday's projected starter Dayne Pengelly (3-4) picked up the victory in his last start against the Aztecs on March 28, when he offset five hits with six strikeouts across five scoreless innings.

Meanwhile, Saturday's expected pitcher Brett Russell (3-0) has faced the Aztecs on one previous occasion in a home start during the 2022 campaign, when he gave up eight runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts in five innings but did not factor in the decision after the Scarlet and Black broke an 8-8 tie in the seventh inning and hung on for a wild 14-13 victory.

Sophomore Luke Mansey was a prep teammate of the Aztecs' Cade Martinez and Trevor Fox at St. Augustine High School in San Diego. The Lobo infielder/outfielder was a senior on the Saints' 2021 squad, while Martinez and Fox were juniors. Mansey originally signed with Santa Clara out of high school but did not play for the Broncos before transferring to Grossmont College for the 2023 campaign.

Tod Brown is his third season at the helm of the New Mexico program after spending 14 years as head coach at North Dakota State, where he finished his tenure as the second-winningest coach in school history. Prior to his stint with the Bison, Brown served as the pitching coach at Bowling Green from 2000-08 after working in a similar capacity the previous two seasons at Sabino High School in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. Brown pitched collegiately at Arizona from 1989-94, helping the Wildcats to the Pac-10 championship in 1992. In 1993, he set a school record with 35 appearances, posting six wins and eight saves, as Arizona fell one game short of the College World Series.

MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO SAN DIEGO
The Mountain West Championship returns to "America's Finest City" this season and will be conducted at Tony Gwynn Stadium, May 23-26. The top four teams in the MW regular-season standings will qualify for the double elimination tournament, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into NCAA regional competition. NCAA Regionals will be held May 31-June 3.

SDSU has hosted the MW Championship on five previous occasions, most recently after the 2022 season. The Aztecs also welcomed the event in 2018 when the Scarlet and Black claimed its fifth tournament crown in a six-year span.

UP NEXT
Following its New Mexico excursion, San Diego State will play its final non-conference road game of the regular season on Tuesday, April 30, when it faces CSUN in a rematch at Matador Field in Northridge, California. Game time is set for 3 p.m. PT.  The Aztecs will be looking to avenge a 7-5 loss to the Matadors on Feb. 21 at Tony Gwynn Stadium.