Jim Dietz began taking that walk all San Diego State starting pitchers dread in the first inning, but not even senior left-hander Rick Navarro, one of the most successful Aztecs ever, could blame him.
Moments before heading to the mound, Dietz, the Aztec coach, had watched the first four USC batters hit a home run, two sharp singles and a deep fly ball.
The Trojans' fifth batter, catcher Bobby Hughes, entered Tuesday's nonconference game with two more homers (six) than every Aztec combined.
What followed was a rout.
Thing was, it was SDSU doing the scoring in a 14-4 victory over USC in front of 792 at Smith Field.
"We're sort of stuck for anything clever or witty to say about this one," Trojan Coach Mike Gillespie said. "We played hopelessly. It was a mismatch."
After the rocky start and Dietz's brief counseling, Navarro settled brilliantly--striking out nine in six innings--and came away with his 23rd career victory, which left him alone in fifth place on the all-time victory list at SDSU.
And Navarro had plenty of support.
The 14 Aztec runs were the most USC had given up since Stanford scored 15 on April 15, 1989. SDSU scored in all but the third inning.
The Aztecs scored on singles, doubles and triples. They scored on a sacrifice fly, wild pitch, balk and an error. They were helped by 10 Trojan walks.
Things were going so well, in fact, the Aztecs even got a home run. Left fielder John Wagner hit one out in the second inning. It was his second of the year, tying him for the team lead.
In the fifth inning, SDSU scored five times to take a 10-2 lead and take whatever remaining life out of USC.
If there was one key hit among the Aztecs' 14, Dietz said it belonged to first baseman Matt Cleek, who drove in a run with a double to right in the bottom of the first. That tied the game, 2-2, and Navarro was a different pitcher after that.
"The big blow by Cleek really changed things," Dietz said. "It enabled (Navarro) to regroup and start pitching aggressively. He wasn't pitching aggressively in the first inning, and I went out and told him that."
Navarro, who was only supposed to pitch maybe four innings because he is scheduled to start against Western Athletic Conference rival Brigham Young on Saturday, said he thought Dietz was coming out with the intention of pulling him.
"Coach Dietz has been known to do that," Navarro said.
Dietz: "I always have the hook in the back of my mind."
After the first four batters, Navarro got the next two to fly out, and he yielded only two hits and a walk over the next five innings.
After three Aztec relievers worked parts of the seventh and eighth innings, junior transfer Benji Grigsby struck out all four batters he faced to end the game.
Navarro, who is nine victories shy of Aztec career leader Billy Blount, improved to 5-0 this season and has now struck out 36 in 30 2/3 innings. Grigsby, who is also 5-0, has 46 strikeouts in 26 1/3. The Aztecs have struck out 214 in 194 innings.
SDSU (16-6) has won five in a row and nine of its past 10.
"I was very impressed with San Diego State," said Gillespie, whose unranked club fell to 13-13 after being 17th before the season. "That little lefty (Navarro) is a good one. He's very pesky. And that Grigsby is a legitimate star. I'm glad we don't have to face him again."
For its part, USC is trying to rebuild a team that lost two-thirds of its starting lineup from a year ago, and the Trojans did not throw any of its top pitchers. All that did not ease the discouragement Gillespie felt.
"We're at the halfway mark," Gillespie said. "We can't use that alibi anymore about being young. We should have these things ironed out by now.
"What did we give them, 10 walks? They're a good club. They're a club that doesn't need help, and we gave them plenty. I'm surprised they didn't score 20."