The folks over at Mountain West Connection have been a great friend to us this week as the Mississippi State Bulldogs get ready to take on San Diego State tomorrow. We caught up with Matt Hoffman to learn a bit more about the three seed in Lafayette.
1) The Aztecs made the tournament the hard way by winning the Mountain West tournament bid. How was the competition in the Mountain West, who also sent New Mexico as an at large, and in the out of conference schedule for San Diego State?
The competition in the Mountain West was tough, and it was surprising that New Mexico was knocked out early. What wasn't surprising was San Diego State and UNLV playing each other. It seemed fate would have it especially after they dropped 5-4 to them earlier in the tournament. Again it came down to a one run game and SDSU was able to prevent a late comeback and win. I talked to coach Mark Martinez and he said he was glad they won, but boy was that a stressful game for him.
2) Even though Tony Gwynn Stadium is rather cavernous, the Aztecs have managed to hit with power. How excited is the team at the prospect of playing in a smaller stadium in the Lafayette Regional?
Tony Gwynn Stadium is a hard one to hit homers out of; the back wall is 412ft which is bigger than most major league parks. I can bet that the guys, and especially Brad Haynal who has 12 homers, are very excited to cut down 10 feet or so off the back wall. In the games I went to I saw a lot hits that were almost there, and I would look for home runs to come from Haynal, Ty France, and Tim Zier.
3) Who is most likely to draw the start for SDSU Friday? How does the team like to use their bullpen?
Getting the start on Friday I believe will be Bubba Derby. He has been very good this season especially seeing as how he is only a sophomore. 8-3 with a 2.69 era isn't too shabby. Look for him to get the nod, Martinez said he is the front runner but not 100%. I would look for him to go 6 or 7 innings then have TJ Kendzora come in relief, with Michael Cederoth closing things out.
4) What is the greatest strength and what is the greatest weakness of this Aztec team?
The greatest strength of this team is their ability to put the bat on ball, they have four guys hitting over .300 and their ability to run. They have stolen 108 bases and only been caught 31 times. Greg Allen is 25 for 30 on stolen bases, and Martinez routinely gives him the green light. As far a weakness, I would say the Aztecs tend to get into trouble late in games. As we saw earlier in the MW Tournament, Cederoth struggled to close out games, seeing as how he was wild on the mound. If Cederoth can hit the strike zone then look for a quick close out with that 90-95 mph fast ball.
5) What will it take for SDSU to advance out of the regional?
To get out of the regionals they have to play their game. They can't conform to Mississippi State and grind it out. They need to put up runs early and keep pounding away at the pitcher. That along with a strong running game and good relief pitching should be enough to carry the Aztecs past the regionals. If the relief pitching gets sloppy, they won't have a chance of making it out.