Kelly's Clutch Hit Lifts Aztecs Past Fresno State

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Ruby Ruiz

SAN DIEGO – San Diego State's Zane Kelly ripped a pinch-hit three-run double in the seventh inning on Friday to lift the Aztecs to a 9-8 victory over Fresno State in the opener of a Mountain West series at Tony Gwynn Stadium.

With the win, SDSU (12-33) snapped a 10-game losing streak, while the Bulldogs (27-18, 14-8 MW) dropped their third straight and saw their lead atop the conference standings shrink to one game thanks to a 15-8 triumph by New Mexico (24-20, 13-9 MW) on the road over UNLV.

With the score knotted at 6-6, Fresno State scratched for an unearned run in the top of the seventh when Tommy Hopfe scored on Bobby Blandford's two-out single through the right side. Previously, Hopfe reached on an error and stole second, while Ben Newton walked and took third on Blandford's hit.

However, Aztec reliever Evan Miranda induced a groundout by Justin Stransky to prevent further damage.

SDSU promptly loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, setting the stage for Kelly's clutch hit.

Tino Bethancourt was struck by a pitch to lead off the inning, while Irvin Weems doubled to the gap in left field, forcing the Bulldogs to replace reliever Jaykob Acosta with Zach Statzer.

Moments later, Sammy Kahler coaxed a walk from Statzer sandwiched between a groundout and a strikeout to load the bases. Kelly then stepped to the plate and drilled a 3-1 pitch into the gap in right-center, clearing the bases to give the Scarlet and Black a 9-7 advantage.

SDSU endured some anxious moments in the ninth when Hopfe beat out an infield hit and took second on a subsequent throwing error before racing home on Newton's sacrifice fly.

However, Jadon Bercovich struck out Murf Gray to end the game, much to the relief of the Aztec faithful.

Miranda (2-3) picked up his second victory of the season after giving up just one hit in one scoreless inning, while Bercovich notched his second save, recording the final four outs of the game after entering in the eighth for Connor Abadie, who retired the lone batter he faced with a grounder to second.

Conversely, Acosta (2-2) was saddled with the loss after pitching three middle innings, allowing the two go-ahead runs on three hits and one walk while striking out four batters.

Shaun Montoya led all players with three hits, highlighted by a two-run blast to right field in the first, giving SDSU the early lead.

After Fresno State responded with a marker in the second on Stransky's two-out sacrifice fly, the Aztecs increased their advantage with four runs on four hits and a walk in the third off Bulldog starter Jake Dixon.

Evan Sipe lofted a single to center field, plating Montoya, who led off with a base hit to the opposite field in left, while Brady Lavoie punctuated the outburst with a three-run triple to right center, scoring Jake Jackson, Weems and Sipe. Earlier, Jackson threaded a single up the middle, while Weems drew a walk, loading the bases.

Leading 6-1, SDSU was unable to maintain the upper hand, however, as Fresno State erupted for five runs on six hits in the sixth off Aztec starter Jacob Riordan to tie the score.

Hopfe led off the frame with a single up the middle, while Grady Morgan and Newton followed with consecutive home runs. Shortly thereafter, Gray singled and Blandford reached on a bloop double, while Michael McKernan knocked in both runners with a sharp bouncer through the right side.

In addition to Montoya's performance, the Aztecs received two hits apiece from Sipe and Finley Bates, while Hopfe (3 R), Gray and Blandford finished with two hits each in the loss.

Riordan fanned six batters in 6 1/3 innings of work, marking his fourth straight start with at least five strikeouts.

San Diego State continues its series against Fresno State on Saturday at 6 p.m. PT. Omar Serrano (3-5) is slated to pitch for the Aztecs, while Noah Beal (3-3) is expected to get the call for the Bulldogs.