Aztecs Are One Victory From WAC Title
San Diego State’s Rick Navarro worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning Friday to preserve a 5-3 victory over Brigham Young and leave SDSU one victory away from its first Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament title since 1986.
The Aztecs, 45-20 and winners of 12 in a row, meet the winner of Friday night’s late game between Wyoming and BYU (41-21-1) tonight. An SDSU victory would give the Aztecs their second WAC tournament title in 12 years and a berth in next week’s NCAA regionals. A loss would force a winner-take-all second game.
Aztec starting pitcher Erik Plantenberg was sailing along with a 5-1 lead and a five-hitter until the ninth.
“Then I just got a little ahead of myself and tried to finish it too fast,” Plantenberg said.
Navarro, with 12 starts in 17 previous appearances, picked up his first save. He had missed 3 1/2 weeks with a hyper-extended elbow before returning last week.
SDSU built its 5-1 lead with a three-run third inning. Consecutive one-out singles by Eric Christopherson, Jeff Barry and Darin McGhee loaded the bases, and Brian Grebeck’s sacrifice fly brought in a run. Anthony Johnson walked to reload the bases for Rick Page’s two-run single to right.
And there it stayed until the top of the ninth, when Plantenberg walked the first two batters and gave way to reliever Rusty Filter.
Filter then hit Marc DiCarlo to load the bases before inducing the WAC home run leader, Gary Daniels, to hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in center.
But when Filter hit Matt Norman to reload the bases, in came Navarro. He struck out Randy Wilstead, then walked Blaine Milne to force in a run before inducing Burt Call to ground out.
Late Thursday, after winning their previous 10 games by an average of 11 runs, the Aztecs won a rare close one in the opener, beating defending champion Hawaii, 5-4, in the bottom of the 11th.
SDSU was just 7-9 in one-run games before McGhee bounced a one-out single through the left side of the infield to score Scott Dennison with the winning run.