By: Alex Riggins
San Diego State senior catcher Jake Romanski finished his 4-for-5 day from the plate with a walk-off RBI single to right field that scored Tim Zier from second base to give the Aztecs (16-15, 7-4 MW) a 5-4 win over Nevada (17-13, 5-6)on Saturday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
“It’s a great feeling, it’s the best,” Romanski said of being mobbed by his teammates after his game-winning hit. “There’s 35 guys competing for a win, and when that happens it’s awesome.”
It’s the second time this season that Romanski has driven in the walk-off run, but the first time he’s done it with a hit. On March 24 against UNLV, Romanski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Aztecs a 5-4 win over the Rebels.
On Saturday after falling behind Nevada 4-1 in the top of the sixth inning, SDSU scored twice in the bottom of the sixth and once in the eighth on a Ty France solo home run to set up Romanski’s ninth-inning heroics. Freshman closer Bubba Derby (3-1) faced just one batter in the ninth but it was enough to earn the win, while Nevada’s Sean Prihar (2-1) took the loss for the Wolf Pack.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth Prihar hit Zier in the back with a fastball to put him on first base. Zier advanced to second base on a single to left field by Ryan Muno, which chased Prihar and made Nevada bring in right-handed pitcher Michael Fain to face Romanski.
Romanski hit the ball hard enough into right field that it seemed like SDSU third-base coach Mark Martinez might hold Zier at third base. But Martinez had no such plan and Zier slid headfirst into home plate to beat the high throw from Nevada right fielder Brooks Klein.
“Tim’s got major wheels, he’s a fast guy and he’s probably running right when he saw it off the bat, so I was excited when I hit it,” Romanski said.
Romanski finished the day 4-for-5 with a double, a run scored and the game-winning RBI, while Zier was 2-for-4 with the game-winning run.
Romanski’s big hit wouldn’t have been possible though without France’s third home run of the year. The freshman third baseman led off the eighth inning with a solo shot to left-center field off Nevada right-hander Colby Blueberg to tie the game at 4-4. SDSU relievers Justin Hepner and Bubba Derby held the Wolf Pack scoreless in the ninth to give Zier and Romanski the chance to win it.
Nevada jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth off SDSU starter Philip Walby when a two-out Kyle Hunt double scored Ryan Teel from first base. The Aztecs tied it at 1-1 in the fourth inning when Greg Allen singled home Danny Sheehan, who had reached second following a single and an Evan Potter sacrifice bunt.
Despite the early run, it looked as though Walby might match last night’s performance by teammate Michael Cederoth, who struck out 14 Wolf Pack batters on Friday. On Saturday, Walby struck out six through the first three innings and looked to be cruising, but he ran into trouble again in the top of the fourth inning when Nevada’s Brett Jones hit a mammoth home run over the Aztec Wall of Fame in right field.
In the top of the sixth, Kyle Hunt again came up with a big hit for Nevada, driving in two runs with a two-out single to center field to give his team a 4-1 lead.
The three-run lead was short lived for Nevada, as SDSU scored twice in the bottom half of the sixth. Romanski led off the rally with a single, then the Aztecs loaded the bases for Steven Pallares, who hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Romanski from third. Sheehan followed Pallares with a hit-and-run single to left field that scored Haynal from second and moved France from first to third. But Greg Allen struck out to end the inning and leave the Aztecs trailing the Wolf Pack 4-3 until France’s blast in the eighth and Romanski’s walk-off in the ninth.
Sheehan had a good day at offensively, finishing 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Brad Haynal returned to the SDSU lineup after missing 11 games with a hairline fracture in his hand. He was 1-for-2 with a run scored and also reached safely on a catcher’s interference.
Coach Tony Gwynn asked France to bunt in both the fourth and sixth inning with runners on first and second base. He was successful both times, laying down a nice sacrifice in the fourth and getting credited with a hit in the sixth when his bunt was too far from the pitcher for a play to be made at first. In the eighth France finally got to swing – and deposited a 400-foot shot over the fence in left-center