Aztecs to Host Fresno State in MW Weekend Series

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Derrick Tuskan/San Diego State

SAN DIEGO – San Diego State opens a lengthy homestand this weekend when it plays host to Fresno State in a three-game Mountain West series, May 3-5, at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

Both encounters on Friday and Saturday are set to begin at 6 p.m. PT, while Sunday's finale is slated for a 1 p.m. start.

In addition to live stats, all three games will air live on the Mountain West Network, with links available on Fans can also catch all the action on their TVs or smartphones by downloading the MW app.

On Saturday, San Diego State will celebrate May the 4th with a Star Wars-themed game presentation, while the first 100 fans in attendance for Sunday's matchup will receive the second set of Aztec baseball trading cards for free.

SDSU (11-33, 5-16 MW) will be looking to snap a 10-game losing streak after suffering a 2-0 shutout on the road Tuesday in a non-conference clash at CSUN.

Six Aztec pitchers combined on a five-hitter, while the offense maintained a 7-5 advantage in hits, including two apiece by Jake Jackson and Brady Lavoie.

Additionally, sophomore starter Aidan Russell tied his career highs with six strikeouts and four innings pitched, scattering two hits and three walks before giving way to fellow classmate Connor Abadie, who retired the Matadors in order in the fifth.

It wasn't enough, however, as CSUN plated two runs with two outs in the sixth and held on for the victory.

For the eighth time in the last nine weekends, San Diego State is scheduled to employ the starting rotation of Jacob Riordan (3-4), Omar Serrano (3-5) and Xavier Cardenas III (1-5), while Fresno State is expected to counter with Jake Dixon (4-2), Noah Beal (3-3) and Jake Riding (4-2), respectively.

A graduate transfer from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Riordan has gone winless in his last four starts 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.

In his last start, a rematch at New Mexico on April 26, Riordan struck out six batters in six innings of work but did not factor in the decision after yielding four runs on seven hits and four walks, as the Lobos plated four additional runs in the seventh to pull away for the 8-4 victory.

Riordan also fanned five hitters in a six-inning relief stint for the Scarlet and Black at Fresno State on March 1, surrendering four runs on seven hits and one walk before exiting with two outs in the eighth.

Saturday's projected starter Serrano 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.

Earlier, 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 SDSU held off a late Lobo rally for an 8-6 decision.

On March 3, Serrano tossed his first career complete game in the Aztecs' 7-1 triumph at Fresno State in game one of a doubleheader. The SDSU right-hander recorded six strikeouts while yielding just one run on five hits without a walk for his first victory of the year.

Cardenas is slated for his 11th 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 New Mexico on April 28, Cardenas pitched six innings, yielding three runs on six hits and six walks while striking out six batters but was not a factor in the decision once again, as the Lobos rallied for a 9-7 victory with a walk-off grand slam in Albuquerque.

Cardenas was saddled with the loss in SDSU's 11-1 defeat in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Fresno State on March 3, when he surrendered five runs on six hits and two walks while posting four strikeouts before exiting with one out in the fifth.

Entering the week, SDSU pitchers lead the Mountain West in strikeouts (395) and opposing batting average (.268) while ranking second in fewest hits allowed (393) and sixth in ERA (7.50).

The Scarlet and Black also tops the conference with 9.4 strikeouts and 9.33 hits allowed per nine innings, which is good for 60th and 90th in the nation as of May 2, respectively.

Individually, Jacob Riordan ranks second in the MW in opponent batting average (.234) and fewest hits allowed (46) while occupying the fifth spot in strikeouts (59) and the eighth position in innings pitched (55.0).

Omar Serrano is also listed among the league's top 10 in several categories, ranking fourth in innings pitched (60.2), sixth in ERA (4.75) and seventh in strikeouts (54).

Elsewhere, Xavier Cardenas III shares the third position in fewest hits allowed (48) and is slotted fourth in opponent batting average (.257).

Additionally, relievers Garvey Rumary and Evan Miranda are tied for fourth in the MW with 18 appearances, just ahead of teammate Jadon Bercovich, who shares the 10th position with 17 games pitched.

In addition, Miranda is tied for third in the conference with 13 games finished, while Bercovich shares the seventh spot in that category with seven.

Offensively, SDSU is slotted fifth in the MW this week in doubles (87) while occupying the sixth position in hits (399) and batting average (.263).

Despite missing the last three weeks, freshman Colby Turner still shares the top spot in the conference with four triples, which is tied for 20th in the nation as of May 2.

Elsewhere, Shaun Montoya is tied for sixth in the MW with 58 hits and eight stolen bases.

Shaun Montoya is the lone Aztec to start all 44 games this season, playing exclusively in right field. The SDSU junior has made 49 consecutive starts dating back to last season and has started 94 of the last 96 contests he has appeared in.

Since March 22, a span of 25 games, Montoya has hit .398 (41-103) with seven doubles, two triples and 25 runs scored, raising his batting average from .215 to .319.

Additionally, Montoya leads the team with multiple hits in 18 games, followed by Finley Bates, who has accomplished the feat in 13 different contests.

Bates has seen action in 43 games thus far, earning 26 starts at shortstop and 16 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 is tied for second on the team with 69 total bases and ranks second with 50 hits, 10 doubles and 25 runs scored while occupying the fourth position in batting average (.276).

Bates had his six-game hitting streak snapped in Tuesday's loss at CSUN.

Meanwhile, Jake Jackson ranks second on the Aztecs with multiple RBIs in six games trailing fellow freshman Colby Turner, who has accomplished the feat in seven contests.

In the series finale at New Mexico on April 28, Jackson tied his career high with three hits and four RBIs, falling one home run short of the cycle.

For the season, Jackson finds himself among the team leaders in several categories, including batting average (3rd, .295), runs scored (T-3rd, 24), RBIs (4th, 24), on-base percentage (4th, .348), slugging percentage (4th, .407), hits (5th, 36) and slugging percentage (.418).

Over the past 11 games, Jackson has posted a slash line of .475/.522/.725 with six doubles, two triples and 12 RBIs.

Jackson has been named Mountain West Freshman of the Week on two occasions this season (Feb. 19 and April 22).

The Aztecs, who have faced Fresno State more than any other team in school history, possess an all-time record of 110-114 against the Bulldogs in a series dating back to 1939.

SDSU is 51-56 vs. Fresno State in San Diego, 52-55 in Fresno and 7-3 at neutral sites.

The Aztecs lost two of three games to the Bulldogs on the road in early March, falling in the opener by a 12-6 count before splitting a doubleheader two days later. SDSU captured game one of that twin bill by a 7-1 score but dropped an 11-1 decision in the nightcap in eight innings.

In that series, Irvin Weems and Colby Turner each posted a .364 batting average (4-11), while Finley Bates finished with a .357 clip (5-14).

Turner led the Aztecs in on-base percentage (.500), slugging percentage (.727), runs scored (4) and RBIs (3) in those three games, earning the second of his five Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors this season.

In 11 career games against Fresno State, Shaun Montoya is batting .286 (12-42) with two doubles, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.

Weems has also faced the Bulldogs 11 times as a collegian, hitting .282 (11-39) with three doubles, three runs scored and five RBIs.

Despite suffering a home sweep at the hands of visiting San José State, April 19-21, the Bulldogs (27-17, 14-7 MW) still maintain a two-game lead in the Mountain West standings over New Mexico (23-20, 12-9 MW) heading into the weekend.

Fresno State is coming off a 13-8 loss at home to Cal Poly in a midweek game on April 30 after claiming a series victory on the road at Washington State, April 26-28. The Bulldogs won the first two games on their excursion to the Palouse by scores of 5-4 and 12-2 before dropping a 4-3 decision in the finale.

With the results, Fresno State moves to 14-9 in home games and 13-8 on the road.

Collectively, Bulldog pitchers lead the Mountain West in ERA (5.31) and share the top spot in saves (10), including a conference-high eight by Tommy Hopfe alone. In addition, Fresno State is slotted second in both opponent batting average (.273) and strikeouts (391) while ranking third in fewest hits allowed (410).

Individually, this weekend's three Bulldog starters are all ranked among the MW top 10 in ERA, including Jake Riding (4th, 3.91), Jake Dixon (7th, 5.08) and Noah Beal (8th, 5.13).

Riding tops the conference in opposing batting average (.233) and fewest hits allowed (42), while Beal (64) and Dixon (58) are slotted fourth and sixth in strikeouts, respectively.

In addition, Beal occupies the ninth position in innings pitched (54.1) and is tied for the ninth spot in fewest hits allowed (66).

Friday's projected starter Dixon earned the victory in his last outing against the Aztecs on March 1, allowing one run on five hits and two walks while striking out five batters in six innings of work.

Beal and Riding both pitched in the opener of the SDSU-Fresno State doubleheader on March 3, when the Aztecs rolled to a 7-1 triumph. After Beal allowed six runs on 11 hits with four strikeouts through the first four innings, Riding entered in relief, pitching the final five frames while yielding one run on three hits and a walk to go with four punchouts of his own.

Entering the weekend, Fresno State ranks among the conference leaders in several offensive categories, occupying the third position in batting average (.294), hits (442), runs scored (321), RBIs (302), on-base percentage (.388) and slugging percentage (.489). In addition, the Bulldogs are slotted fourth in both total bases (735) and home runs (53).

Fresno State has five players batting over .300 for the season, including Eddie Saldivar (.357), Tommy Hopfe (.352), Rocco Peppi (.347), Ben Newton (.314) and Grady Morgan (.305).

Saldivar leads the Mountain West in hits (65) while ranking third in runs scored (47), fifth in batting average (.357) and sixth in on-base percentage (.451).

Additionally, Peppi finds himself among the conference top 10 in RBIs (2nd, 51), home runs (T-3rd, 13), hits (4th, 61), doubles (T-4th, 16), slugging percentage (5th, .659) and batting average (8th, .347).

Not to be outdone, Newton tops the MW with 21 doubles, while Hopfe is slotted seventh in batting average (.352) and eighth in both RBIs (36) and on-base percentage (.440).

Ryan Overland enters his second year in charge of the Fresno State program after serving as the team's interim head coach during the 2023 campaign following the retirement of Mike Batesole. Last season, Overland guided the Bulldogs to a 30-27 overall record, marking the squad's first 30-win ledger since 2019.

SDSU features nine players on its current roster who are alumni of San Diego County high schools, including Trevor Fox and Cade Martinez (St. Augustine); Manoah Chapman and Jake Jackson (Madison); Xavier Gonzalez (Hilltop); AJ Klubeck (Westview); Brady Lavoie (La Costa Canyon); Evan Sipe (San Marcos); and Nico Tomasello (Granite Hills).

Since 1965, San Diego State has had 227 student-athletes chosen in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, including 31 selections since 2015.

Former Aztec center fielder Cole Carrigg was taken by the Colorado Rockies as a catcher in the Competitive Balance "B" Round with the 65th overall pick of the 2023 MLB First-Year Player Draft; pitcher TJ Fondtain was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 14th round (423rd overall), while fellow hurler Kelena Sauer went to the Toronto Blue Jays shortly thereafter in the 15th round (454th overall).

With its selections, SDSU has had multiple players picked in six of the last seven years and nine of the last 11 overall.

In 2022, former Aztec right-hander Troy Melton was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round with the 117th selection overall.

The previous year, in 2021, SDSU had five individuals drafted by MLB organizations.

Infielder Mike Jarvis was selected by Pittsburgh in the sixth round with the 163rd pick, while catcher Wyatt Hendrie also went to the Pirates shortly thereafter in the seventh round in the 193rd spot overall.

In addition, the New York Mets grabbed center fielder Matt Rudick in the 13th round (382nd overall); right fielder Jaden Fein was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 15th round (443rd overall), while right-handed pitcher Michael Paredes was snapped up by the Minnesota Twins in the 18th round (549th overall).

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.

Following this weekend's action, San Diego State continues its homestand with another three-game Mountain West series against Air Force, May 10-12, at Tony Gwynn Stadium.