Aztecs' Valiant Comeback Falls Short at Nevada

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Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State

RENO, Nev. – San Diego State staged a furious rally on Thursday but could not complete the comeback, as host Nevada held on for a 13-11 victory in the opener of a Mountain West series at Don Weir Field at Peccole Park.

Trailing 11-2, the Aztecs (16-36, 9-19 MW) outscored the Wolf Pack 9-2 over the final three innings before running out of steam in the ninth, as the Scarlet and Black stranded runners at second and third to end the game.

After entering as a pinch hitter in the third, Zane Kelly (2 RBIs) replaced Shaun Montoya in right field and led the SDSU offense with three hits, while Jake Jackson totaled three RBIs of his own.

In addition, Xavier Gonzalez (1-for-3) scored three runs for the Aztecs, while Tino Bethancourt (1-for-4) contributed a pair of RBIs.

San Diego State began its climb back into contention in the seventh, scoring three runs on four hits off reliever Matthew Canizares. Jackson plated Gonzalez and Kelly with a single to left and later raced home on Bethancourt's base hit to center.

The Aztecs threatened to narrow the gap, but Canizares fought himself off the ropes by inducing a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Nevada (24-25, 15-13 MW) tallied what proved to be two crucial unearned runs in the bottom of the frame after Nolan Wilson and Justin Acal reached on a pair of fielding errors.

With one out, Michael Ball was intentionally walked to load the bases; however, the strategy backfired when JR Freethy drew a bases on balls to bring in Wilson, while Acal soon crossed the plate on Taylor Holder's RBI groundout, giving the Wolf Pack a 13-5 lead.

Unfazed, SDSU promptly answered with five runs on just two hits in the eighth, capitalizing on four walks and a hit batter to whittle the deficit to 13-10.

Finley Bates ripped a single to left after Irvin Weems, Brady Lavoie and Gonzalez drew walks to load the bases. Moments later, Weems trotted home when Kelly was hit by a pitch, as Dominic Desch replaced Canizares on the mound.

Shortly thereafter, Gonzalez raced home when Jackson reached on a fielder's choice, while Bates scored on Colby Turner's infield single.

Nevada quickly made another pitching change, as Ethan O'Neal issued a walk to Weems, which plated Jackson. However, the Aztecs left the bases loaded when O'Neal struck out Evan Sipe.

After Jonny Guzman and Aidan Russell kept the Wolf Pack off the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, the Scarlet and Black managed one last scare in the ninth when Lavoie and Bates drew walks sandwiched around a strikeout.

Kelly then stepped to the plate and launched a 1-2 pitch into the gap in right for a double, as Lavoie raced home, while Bates motored to third.

With Nevada clinging to a suddenly precarious 13-11 lead, O'Neal struck out Jackson before receiving a game-ending flyout from Bethancourt to escape disaster.

O'Neal collected his fifth save of the season, preserving the victory for starter Jason Doktorczyk (6-4), who allowed two runs on three hits, offsetting four walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

The Wolf Pack erupted for eight runs in the first off Aztec starter Jacob Riordan (3-6), capitalizing on two walks and a hit batter, as Ball provided the big stick with a three-run homer, while Acal contributed an RBI single following consecutive sacrifice flies by Jesse Pierce and Wilson.

Nevada benefited from another Aztec miscue in the second, as Bryce Matthews drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a failed pickoff attempt at first following a single by Pierce, who later stole third and crossed the plate on Wilson's RBI groundout.

SDSU dented the scoreboard in the second when Turner walked and took third on Weems' double before racing home on a wild pitch. Later, the Aztecs pushed across a run in the fifth after Bethancourt was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, bringing in Gonzalez.

The Wolf Pack responded with a single marker in the bottom of the inning when Acal walked and ultimately scored on Freethy's two-out RBI single, setting the stage for the Scarlet and Black's belated rally.

The teams left a combined 20 runners on base, including 11 by SDSU.

San Diego State continues its series at Nevada on Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m. PT. The Aztecs are scheduled to pitch Omar Serrano (4-6), while Wolf Pack are expected to counter with another right-hander in Casey Burfield (4-1).