San Diego State’s baseball team does not hit many home runs.
In fact, in 13 games and 504 plate appearances before Sunday’s third and final game against No. 1-ranked Florida, the Aztecs had hit just five .
But in the bottom of the ninth, SDSU muscled up. Of the four pitches thrown by reliever Tim Cox, two of them landed in the Raggers’ Rail section of Charlie Smith Field beyond the right-field fence.
The first one, a solo shot by Jeff Barry, tied the score. The second, by Billy Miller, also with nobody on, gave the 15th-ranked Aztecs a 5-4 victory.
SDSU improved to 9-5, after having losing three games in a row, including Friday (9-7) and Saturday (10-1) to Florida. The Gators fell to 13-2.
Why the sudden power surge from a team that had three extra-base hits in 26 innings?
Florida Coach Joe Arnold put it simply enough: "(Cox) threw a couple of melons up there, and they squashed them.”
Said SDSU first-base coach Gary Brown, who could have been speaking for just about everybody involved with the Aztecs, “I can’t remember the last time we had two home runs in the same inning. Not here anyway.”
After SDSU gave up an unearned run in the ninth, Florida led, 4-3.
Barry, a speedy, left-handed hitting, center fielder who opened the bottom of the ninth, showed bunt, but took a strike on the first pitch. The second pitch was a flat slider, and Barry jumped on it. Moments later, the line drive cleared the fence, and the score was tied.
On the next pitch, Brian Dunn grounded out sharply to short.
On the fourth pitch from Cox, Miller ended the game with a blast, slightly higher in trajectory than Barry’s that landed in the same vicinity.
“I knew he had to throw a strike,” said Miller, “The whole series we’d been taking the first pitch. Before I got up, I looked at (Coach Jim) Dietz and he said, ‘If it’s there, it’s yours.’
“But Jeff Barry gave me the opportunity. He really clutched up. That’s what pumped me up.”
For Miller, just being in that situation was a surprise. After Saturday’s loss, Miller received a tongue lashing from Dietz for repeatedly yelling at the umpires. He was, according to both, in Dietz’s doghouse.
“I was surprised to be playing,” said Miller.
SDSU, trying to avoid the Florida sweep before about 800 (200 on the Raggers Rail), received fine pitching performances from starter John Marshall and Rob Brown, who is now 3-1.
But the Aztecs were victimized by two errors and at least that many mental ones as they nearly handed Florida the victory. Florida got scored single runs in the second, sixth, seventh and ninth innings. In the second and ninth innings, the Gators scored unearned runs on fielding errors by second baseman Dunn.
The Aztecs got two runs in the first inning on Brian Lutes’ single to right and another in the seventh on Harry Henderson’s single up the middle. Both came with two outs.