Bailey Gives Aztecs a Surprising Lift, 6-4 : Pinch-Runner Scores, Later Hits Two-Run Homer to Beat USD

You're Jim Dietz, the San Diego State baseball coach, and your best hitter, first baseman Harry Henderson, is also your worst baserunner.

In the top of the eighth inning of a 3-3 tie against the University of San Diego Tuesday, Henderson gets his third hit of the day, a line drive down the right-field line that, because it is kicked around by USD's Mark Trafton, should be good for three bases.

But Henderson is running with his head down, doesn't see Trafton boot it and stops at second. You pull Henderson for a pinch-runner, Robbie Bailey, reasoning that Bailey is better suited to score the go-ahead run.

As it turns out, you're going to be lucky this day.

San Diego State defeated USD, 6-4, Tuesday afternoon at Cunningham Stadium, and the winning margin was provided by Bailey, whose first hit of the season is a two-run homer in the ninth.

"When we took Henderson out, it didn't look like his spot in the batting order would come up again," Dietz said. "But it did, and Bailey really surprised us."

It's no surprise Dietz was surprised, since SDSU had hit only two home runs in its first 11 games. Tuesday, the Aztecs matched that number with Nikco Riesgo's home run in the second inning to put SDSU ahead, 2-0, and with Bailey's in the ninth.

Bailey scored the go-ahead run in the eighth when he ran for Henderson, stole third and scored when USD catcher Dave Rolls bounced his throw into left field. Bailey's homer then made it 6-3 in the ninth before USD scored a run on two SDSU errors in the bottom of the ninth.

All of this was nearly enough to overshadow the performance of Henderson, who went 3 for 3 and is hitting .692 (27 for 39).

In the first inning Tuesday, Henderson singled to left to drive in a run. In the third, he singled to center. After being intentionally walked in the fifth, he doubled to right in the eighth.

Henderson is finding his hot streak hard to explain.

"It's like I can't be fooled right now," he said. "Just about every pitch that's thrown, I know it's coming."

Henderson didn't start on opening day for the Aztecs (8-4) but has played in the last 11 games. Of his 27 hits, he has 4 doubles and a home run, in addition to 20 RBIs.

"If we're talking about this kind of batting average in a couple of months, we'll have quite a story," Dietz said.

As for USD (5-7), an early-season struggle continues. First baseman Sean Baron, the Toreros' cleanup hitter, missed his second straight game because of a bad ankle, and after taking a 3-2 lead in the bottom of third, USD found the going tough against SDSU reliever John Marshall.

Marshall (3-0) allowed just four hits and a walk over seven innings and before the ninth inning, he had allowed just three runners to reach second base.

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