LAFAYETTE — San Diego State baseball coach Mark Martinez knows his squad could face both Mississippi State and Louisiana-Lafayette during this weekend’s regional.
Fortunately for the Aztecs, the preparations are the same, since Martinez said he sees a lot of parallels between his first-round-opponent Bulldogs and a potential matchup with the host Ragin’ Cajuns.
“Both of them really want to put the pressure on you,” said Martinez, who has filled in as SDSU boss for the last several weeks while head coach Tony Gwynn continues to battle the ravages of a four-year battle with mouth cancer. “They’ll push it, they’ll drag it, they’re going to try to make us handle the ball and make the plays.”
The Aztecs, who won the Mountain West Conference tournament title for the second straight year last weekend, will open the Lafayette regional against Mississippi State at 1 p.m. Friday at M. L. “Tigue” Moore Field. The host Ragin’ Cajuns will face Jackson State at 6 p.m. Friday in the double-elimination format, with the two winners and two losers set to meet Saturday.
SDSU (42-19) and MSU (37-22) have never met, but Bulldogs coach John Cohen knows the Friday task won’t be easy.
“They’re very experienced, and they defend really well,” Cohen said of the Aztecs. “They have a nice group of guys that can run, and the middle of the order guys can hit it out of the ballpark.”
State is gunning for a fourth straight year with some type of postseason championship after the Bulldogs’ stellar run to the championship round of last year’s College World Series. The Bulldogs, who are in their 34th NCAA tournament, won the Atlanta regional in 2011, the SEC tournament in 2012 and both the Starkville regional and the Charlottesville super regional last season.
But it’s San Diego State that enters Friday on a roll. The Aztecs won nine of their past 11 games, including the final three in the Mountain West meet in Las Vegas.
“They’re hot,” Cohen said. “They’ve won a lot of games down the stretch, and you always have to be ready when you’re facing a hot team.”
SDSU fills the baseball adage of strong up the middle. Catcher Brad Haynal (.313) leads the team in home runs (12) and RBIs (49), with second baseman Tim Zier (.325) and center fielder Greg Allen (.310) part of a lineup that has five .300 hitters. Sophomore right-hander Mark Seyler (8-5, 3.99) is the expected starter.
MSU will counter with junior right-hander Trevor Fitts (4-3, 2.51), one of a bevy of solid arms available for Cohen this weekend. The Bulldogs have seven pitchers who have thrown at least 32 innings and have an ERA of 3.00 or lower.
“They have a very right-handed lineup,” Cohen said. “You look at their tendencies, and we think Trevor gives us a good matchup. He’s pitched on the front end of weekends for us, pitched in the College World Series.
“We have the full strength of our bullpen available, and I think we have some good matchups there.”
That includes stellar junior left-hander Jacob Lindgren (6-1, 0.88), who in 25 appearances has given up only five earned runs and struck out 93 in 51 innings.
Opponents are hitting only .116 against him.