San Jose State split a Saturday doubleheader against Air Force on Saturday, with a 7-2 loss in the first game and 9-5 win in the second. With the three-game series originally scheduled to begin on Friday evening, rain prompted the opening game to be moved to Saturday for a morning-afternoon doubleheader.
In the first game, Air Force made 13 hits to San Jose State’s 8. For the first six innings, winning Falcons pitcher Griffin Jax (3-1, 1.38 ERA) held the Spartans to three hits and no runs and struck out eight batters. For San Jose State, Josh Nashed (0-3, 6.26 ERA) took the loss. In five innings, Nashed gave up nine hits and six earned runs, with three strikeouts.
Air Force did not make any hits in the first two innings but got on the board in the third inning with two RBI’s. First, Adam Groesbeck hit a triple to right field that scored Travis Wilkie from third base. Earlier, Wilkie hit a leadoff single then advanced to second off a sacrifice bunt by Russell Williams. Spencer Draws then made a sacrifice grounder that brought Groesbeck to home plate.
In the fifth inning, Air Force pulled away with five runs to take a 7-0 lead. Groesbeck hit a single to center field to score Williams. Bradley Haslam followed with another single that scored Groesbeck from second. Nic Ready doubled to left field, and Draws beat the tag for an unearned run. Tyler Zabojnik wrapped up Air Force’s run with a single down the left field side that drove in runs from Ready and Haslam.
San Jose State broke the scoring drought in the bottom of the seventh inning, off a single by Aaron Pleschner that drove in Corey Olivet before stranding two runners. Mitch Ravizza scored on an unearned advance from third base in the bottom of the ninth inning. However, San Jose State abandoned five runners on base in the final three innings. Two runners were also caught stealing, first Aaron Pleschner in the third then Shane Timmons in the eighth.
The bats came alive for San Jose State in the second game. After a lead-off walk by Pleschner, the Spartans used small ball plays, including six singles, to take an early 6-0 lead. Joe Stefanki bunted for a single and to advance Pleschner to second, and Josh Nashed followed with a right field single to load the bases. David Campbell then singled to center to send Stefanki and Pleschner home for a 2-0 lead.
Timmons then singled and reached second base after an errant throw by Air Force third baseman Nic Ready, an error that allowed Campbell to reach third and Nashed to score. After a Hunter Tidwell single that scored Campbell, Dillan Smith hit a sac bunt to the pitcher to score Timmons. Michael Breen put himself and Tidwell on the corners with a single that landed between the mound and second base. Breen and Tidwell followed that with a double steal off a wild pitch.
Logan Handzlik started the second half of the doubleheader and held Air Force to one run in the first four innings. After the officials ejected Air Force head coach Mike Kazlausky in the top of the fourth inning, Air Force pulled within 6-2 in the fifth inning with no outs, after singles by Groesbeck, Draws, and Haslam that scored Groesbeck. These plays led to Hilario Tovar being substituted in for Handzlik. Tovar’s first two batters faced grounded and flew out, but these sacrifice plays led to a Draws RBI. Tyler Jones singled to score Haslam, and Shaun Mize walked after being hit by a Tovar pitch and put the tying run on base. Air Force would leave the top of the fifth inning down 6-4, after Wilkie ended the comeback with a right side fly out.
San Jose State immediately put the offense back in action. In the bottom of the fifth, Campbell hit a one-out triple that rolled to the right field corner. That hit would pay off after Wilkie botched the catch on a potential swinging strikeout by Ozzy Braff that would have ended the inning, as the bad catch allowed Braff to advance to first and Campbell to score and extend San Jose State’s lead to 7-4. Braff stole second, but Tidwell fouled out to end the inning.
Air Force responded in the sixth with another RBI, this time off a Draws single that scored Williams from second, after Williams singled and stole second to get Air Force within 7-5. Air Force again put a possible tying run on base with a single by Haslam, but Ready flew out to center, and Zabojnik struck out to end Air Force’s inning.
Determined not to allow Air Force to come back, San Jose State methodically filled the bases with walks by Smith and Breen to lead off the bottom of the sixth. A wild pitch by Austin McDaniel advanced both runners one base, and Pleschner singled to deep left to clean them up and extend the lead to 9-5.
Matt Brown relieved Tovar in the seventh inning and earned his first save of the season, for holding Air Force to one hit for the rest of the game. Tovar earned the win and improved to 2-2 with a 4.08 ERA. Air Force starter Jacob Devries (2-2, 8.64 ERA) took the loss.
San Jose State head coach Dave Nakama cited missed opportunities to score with runners on base as a reason behind the morning loss and credited Air Force pitcher Griffin Jax.
“We scored runs when we had opportunities,” added Nakama about the afternoon win; he also praised his team’s six-run performance against Devries as a “huge lift”.
“[Air Force] knew it was going to be tough to score any more runs after we put up six, they were just trying to stay close, and they put some good at-bats together,” said Nakama about Air Force’s fifth-inning rally.
“We always make an error or walk a crucial guy, and it allows a team to have a big inning,” explained Nakama about his team’s defense. “We gotta clean up our defense a little bit and improve on the mound.”
San Jose State is now 6-9 (2-3 Mountain West), while Air Force is now 9-4 (3-1 MW). Nakama’s career record at San Jose State is now 55-132. The series concludes on Sunday at 12:00 p.m., on a day with a high chance of rain.