Feb. 23, 2008


Around the Bases

Strasburg outduels Matusz as SDSU tops No. 8 San Diego

By Chris Hadorn

In San Diego, Calif., sophomore starter Stephen Strasburg highlighted the Aztecs’ rout by allowing two runs, five hits, one walk and fanning seven in eight innings as San Diego State defeated San Diego 11-2 Friday evening at Tony Gwynn Stadium. In a highly anticipated meeting of aces, Strasburg stole the show by out-pitching Toreros’ preseason All-American Brian Matusz. Matusz, the University of San Diego junior, was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning and ultimately was charged with six earned runs, eight hits and four walks over 4.2 innings. He struck out six.  San Diego State's offense racked up 16 hits and was led by a 3-for-4 performance from their best offensive player, third baseman Nick Romero. Romero connected on a three-run homer off Matusz in the third inning and tallied four RBI. 
Strasburg, the highly-touted right-hander, got off to a slow start. In the first inning, he surrendered a leadoff walk on five pitches to Kevin Muno and gave up a one-out single to Sean Nicol. Strasburg buckled down and got out of the jam by striking out All-American Josh Romanski looking and getting freshman Victor Sanchez to hit into a fielder’s choice. Meanwhile Matusz started the game on fire by striking out the side in the first inning. The southpaw did a marvelous job of spotting his fastball and freezing hitters with his nasty changeup. Strasburg followed by retiring the side in order in the top of the second and added two strikeouts, and Matusz pitched another scoreless frame in the bottom of the inning. Through two innings, the game had the feel of a pitchers' duel.
Everything changed in the third. With little-ball tactics, the Toreros got on the board in the top of the inning with two runs off Strasburg. Kevin Hansen led off with a bloop double to left. Muno got him over to third with a bunt single that was placed perfectly down the third base line. Ryan Davis reached base on a fielder’s choice with another bunt to the pitcher Strasburg, scoring Hansen from third. The Aztecs pitcher scooped up the bunt quickly, but couldn't get a clean toss to his catcher Bubba Ruddy to apply the tag. Nicol came to the plate next, and Muno stole home from third to give the Toreros a 2-0 lead.  It was the last time San Diego would score all night.
In the bottom of the third, the Aztecs took the lead for good by answering the Toreros’ two-run inning with four runs off Matusz. Brett Tanos got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning on a Matusz fastball that barely nicked his jersey. Aztecs shortstop Troy Hawzawa countered with small ball tactics of his own by laying down a bunt single to third to put two runners on with no outs. Romero cleaned the bases by pulling a home run down the line that sailed over the 340-sign in left-field to give the Aztecs a 3-2 lead. With one out, Garett Green hit a ground ball single to left and Brandon Glover drove him in by smoking a triple to right field.
After the third, Strasburg settled down and retired 14 of his last 16 batters. He kept the ball down with his fastball, kept hitters off balanced with his slurve-type of breaking ball and was efficient with his pitch totals per batter.  On the other side, Matusz never found the rhythm he had in the first. He struggled with his command and the Aztecs loaded the bases against him in the fourth before getting out of the inning by inducing a groundout. He was charged with two more runs in the fifth that reached base by a walk and a single. After walking SDSU left fielder Pat Colwell on five pitches, Matusz was pulled after a first-pitch ball to Tanos.  Highly-touted freshman pitcher Kyle Blair entered the game for USD and served up RBI singles to both Tanos and Hanzawa, extending the Aztecs’ lead to 6-2.  

San Diego State added five more runs in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Darrin Campbell to bring the score to 11-2. Hanzawa wound up 3 for 6 with two RBI and two runs.  Tanos, the Aztecs’ designated hitter, finished 3 for 4 with a double, two runs and one RBI.