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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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SDSU Baseball Tabbed Preseason MW Favorites

The 2021 season kicks off Friday, Feb. 19 against the University of San Diego.
By GoAztecs.com
 

For the third straight season, the San Diego State University baseball team was picked first in the Mountain West Preseason Coaches Poll, as announced by the conference office. In addition, the Aztecs had three players selected to the preseason All-MW team in redshirt sophomores Jaden Fein, Troy Melton and redshirt junior Matt Rudick.

Collectively, SDSU garnered 36 points and five first-place votes, topping second-place Fresno State (29 pts,  one first-place vote), while New Mexico and UNLV tied for third with 23 points apiece. Rounding out the remainder of the poll were Nevada (5th, 16 pts), Air Force (6th, 11 pts) and San José State (7th, 9 pts).

The Aztecs, who posted a 10-6 record during  a 2020 campaign  cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, return six starting position players and three starting pitchers from last season's squad. Additionally, SDSU welcomes 20 newcomers, including 13 true freshmen, four transfers from the Division I ranks and three junior college players, all of whom comprise a talented recruiting class that was ranked 22nd nationally by Perfect Game.

Fein, who earned Mountain West Co-Freshman of the Year honors in 2019 to go with Freshman All-America accolades from Collegiate Baseball magazine, recorded a team-high .348 batting average during the abbreviated 2020 season, finishing with one home run, one double, seven RBIs and seven runs scored in 16 games. In addition to all-conference consideration, Fein was named the MW Preseason Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Melton, meanwhile, received all-Mountain West recognition in 2020 after posting a 3-1 record with a 3.22 ERA and 26 strikeouts. The SDSU right-hander shared the conference lead with three victories, which was tied for 23rd nationally, while his strikeouts and opposing batting average (.192) ranked second and third in the MW, respectively. Previously, Melton was rated 79th on D1Baseball.com's Top 100 List of collegiate draft prospects for 2021 and was tabbed the preseason Mountain West Pitcher of the Year by the same website, as well as Baseball America.

Not to be outdone, Rudick merited all-conference distinction for the second straight year in 2020 after posting the Aztecs' third-highest batting average (.313) while leading the team in slugging percentage (.478), hits (21) and runs scored (13). The SDSU centerfielder also topped the squad with 32 total bases and tied for second in the MW with a team-high three triples, which was tied for 10th in the country. In addition, Rudick was the Aztecs' leader with multiple hits in seven games and tied for second on the squad with a six-game hitting streak to open the season. 

In addition to the league's coaches poll, SDSU was projected as the MW favorites this year by numerous outlets, including Baseball America and D1Baseball.com.

The Aztecs are slated to play 45 games during the 2021 regular season, starting Feb. 19-21, when they take on the University of San Diego in a crosstown series. At this time, spectators will not be allowed inside Tony Gwynn Stadium for Aztec home games.

With the Mountain West back to seven teams, the league returns to a double round-robin format for this year. The teams will play a 36-game conference schedule with weekends consisting mostly of doubleheaders on Saturday and a Sunday series finale. The conference tournament has been eliminated and the regular-season champion will receive the league's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.