Jim Dietz, normally a man of many words, was at a loss Friday afternoon to explain the recent success of his San Diego State baseball team.
And after SDSU made it 12 straight wins in the Western Athletic Conference by rallying for an 8-7 win over Hawaii Friday night at Smith Field, the Aztec coach still couldn’t explain it.
“I don’t know what it is,” Dietz said. “Anything I say right now would just make me sound dumb.”
The Aztecs’ rally left the Rainbows dumbfounded. Hawaii, trying to clinch the WAC’s Western Division championship, led 6-1 after five innings and 7-4 going into the bottom of the eighth.
But SDSU scored twice in the eighth and twice more in the ninth on Steve Montejano’s one-out, two-run single to right-center to pull the game out.
The Aztecs, who play host to the Rainbows again today in a 4 p.m. doubleheader, now trail Hawaii by two games with three to play. SDSU is 13-8 in the WAC and 36-20-1 overall. Hawaii is 15-6 and 36-17.
For a while Friday, it looked as if the Rainbows would certainly make the final three games of this weekend series unimportant.
Thanks to four hits by Todd Crosby and some shoddy Aztec baserunning, Hawaii took an early lead. Actually San Diego State scored first--a run in the second--but it could have had more. Both Steve Hill and Tom LeVasseur were picked off, however, ending an Aztec threat.
SDSU committed two errors to help Hawaii score four runs in the fifth inning and take a 6-1 lead.
“This was the first big game for a lot our players and they were nervous,” Dietz said. Then the Aztec coach spotted a former player and said, “This is just like the old days.”
The days he meant were the early 1980s, when SDSU and Hawaii annually played for the WAC crown and annually played titanic struggles like the one Friday.
Trailing 7-4 in the eighth, Maat Haar--the fifth Aztec pitcher--escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam to keep SDSU close. SDSU scored twice in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI groundout by Nikco Riesgo and a double steal that saw Montejano steal home while LeVasseur was beating a throw to second. In the ninth, one-out singles by Bob Parry and pinch-hitter Dave Campagna set the stage for Montejano’s game-winner, a line drive to right-center on a 2-2 pitch from Hawaii reliever Joey Vierra.
“He pitched me very well in Hawaii,” Montejano said. “I owed him one.”