The Horned Frog baseball team is finishing up its seven-game road trip on the right foot and with the right attitude.The Frogs (25-17) will take on conference foe San Diego State in a weekend series starting tonight at 8 p.m. This series will be a rematch from earlier this month when the Aztecs beat the Frogs 9-7 in the Mountain West preseason tournament.
Despite that loss, sophomore pitcher Jake Arrieta said the team is coming into the series this weekend fully confident.
“Walks really hurt us against them last game,” Arrieta said. “I don’t think they beat us; we beat ourselves. If we cut down on our mistakes as much as possible, then there is no doubt in my mind we can win all three games this weekend.”
The confidence coming from Arrieta and the rest of the team could stem from their recent hot streak. The Frogs have won 13 of their last 16 games, including their current streak of six wins out of seven games.
Senior outfielder Ryan Pack said the Frogs’ early season struggles can be attributed to a sense of complacency to begin the year.
“In the beginning we kind of just expected things to fall into our laps,” Pack said. “We have a mental focus now that everyone on the team shares.”
Pack said players are just starting to crack down individually on little areas that are important to the game.
“In the batter’s box, batters became more focused on hitting a good pitch,” Pack said. “Pitchers became more focused on throwing good strikes, and on defense we became more focused in deciding what we’re going to do with the ball before we even get it. Our overall point of intensity has just picked up.”
Sophomore pitcher Sam Demel said he knew things would turn around for the Frogs given the right amount of time.
“We had a lot of guys who needed to get their feet wet and realize the college game is a lot different than high school,” Demel said. “It took time to gel, but we’re where we want to be right now – on top of the Mountain West Conference.”
Arrieta will take the mound for the Frogs in game one and will face Aztecs ace Justin Masterson. Masterson has 84 strikeouts this season and leads the Aztecs with a 4.06 ERA. Arrieta said he and the Frogs are ready for the challenge Masterson will present.
“We know we’re facing a pretty good pitcher,” Arrieta said. “The key will be sticking to our routine and me going out there and doing my job on the mound.”
The Frogs stuck to the routine last game, pounding out 17 hits and 16 runs against Texas at Arlington. Sophomore shortstop Bryan Kervin said the team has hit a groove and is doing the things it wasn’t doing early this season.
“We’re executing bunts, scoring with runners on second and third and scoring a lot with two outs,” Kervin said. “It’s a big turnaround from what we were doing prior to this run.”
Demel said the team just has to continue on with the same mind-set, intensity and approach to the game for this weekend series and the games beyond the weekend in order to continue winning.
“We just have to keep playing the game one pitch at a time and not start thinking too far ahead,” Demel said. “Let whatever happens to just take its course. We have to take it day by day, game by game and pitch by pitch.