It took the San Diego State baseball team until the second inning Saturday night to start scoring but that was more than enough to sail past UNLV, 14-5, to claim its fifth Mountain West Championship in six years.
Eastlake High School alum Dean Nevarez started the Aztecs off with a two-run homer, his eighth of the season, and that was followed by two impressive innings that sealed UNLV’s fate at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Aztecs scored four runs in the fourth and five runs in the sixth.
“We talked about playing with mental toughness and these guys answered the bell,” Aztecs coach Mark Martinez said. “I’m so proud of them. We have created a high-standard culture of winning and we expect to win.”
This is Martinez’s fourth season as coach and he’s become the fastest coach in Mountain West Conference baseball history to win three postseason championships.
In the fourth inning, the bases were loaded when Casey Schmitt stepped up to the plate and delivered a double that scored Chad Bible and Julian Escobedo. An error by Rebels third baseman Dillon Johnson allowed Matt Rudick to advance to second base and Nevarez and Schmitt to score.
Another costly error by the Rebels at the bottom of sixth allowed SDSU to score five runs and take control of the game. With two on base, Rudick singled to center field where Kyle Isbel miffed the ball, allowing Schmitt and Jacob Maekawa to score. Rudick ended up on third base and scored on a David Hensley single. Both Chase Calabuig and Jordon Verdon recorded one RBI each to end the inning.
The Rebels’ only big inning was in the fourth where they scored four times.
Jacob Erickson came through on relief and shut down the Rebels in 3 2/3 shutout innings, striking out two and allowing only one hit.
“Our bullpen was lights out this weekend, and really all year,” Martinez said. “We really leaned on those guys all year long and they came through in the clutch.”
Schmitt was named Mountain West Championships Most Valuable Player, while Nevarez, Garrett Hill, and Erickson were named to the All-Tournament team. All nine SDSU batters had at least one hit, eight scored a run and six had at least one RBI.
“We all get along, we’re all just one big family,” Schmitt said of the team’s chemistry. “We all love each other. I think that’s one it is.”
SDSU now waits to find out who it is playing in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday.