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Baseball Set To Kick Off 2009 Campaign At MLB Urban Invitational

Cory Vaughn, who hit six homers as a freshman last season, is expected to be the starting right fielder when the season opens on Friday.
Cory Vaughn, who hit six homers as a freshman last season, is expected to be the starting right fielder when the season opens on Friday.

Feb. 18, 2009

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San Diego State opens its 2009 campaign at the MLB Urban Invitational at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., with a contest against Bethune-Cookman on Friday, Feb. 20, at 2:00 p.m. Action continues on Saturday, Feb. 21, when the Aztecs square off against Southern University at 6:00 p.m. San Diego State's final game of the Invitational is against the University of San Diego and will be played on Sunday, Feb. 22, at USD's Cunningham Stadium. This marks the ninth time in the past 11 seasons that SDSU has opened away from home.

The annual MLB Urban Invitational spotlights Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs in an effort to provide them with national exposure. HBCUs Bethune-Cookman University (Daytona Beach, FL) and Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA) will face off against NCAA Division I schools University of San Diego and San Diego State University. The three-day event will be held at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. The complete schedule for this weekend's second annual MLB Urban Invitational is as follows.

Friday, February 20
Teams                          Site     Time (PST)
Bethune-Cookman vs. SDSU.......MLBYA.....2:00 p.m.
Southern vs. USD...............MLBYA.....6:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 21
USD vs. Bethune-Cookman........MLBYA.....2:00 p.m.
San Diego State vs. Southern...MLBYA.....6:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 22
Southern vs. Bethune-Cookman...MLBYA.....1:00 p.m.
San Diego State at USD.........USD.......1:00 p.m.
Five of the six games in the tournament will be played at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. Sunday's contest between San Diego State and the University of San Diego will be played at USD's Cunningham Stadium.

Both of Saturday's games at the Urban Invitational will be televised live on the MLB network. The Aztecs will play Southern University that evening at 6:00 p.m. (PST). The MLB Network is available in San Diego on Cox Cable Channel 130 (330 HD) and Time Warner Cable Channel 489 (789 HD). It is also on channel 213 on DirecTV.

This weekend's games against Bethune-Cookman and Southern will be the Aztecs' first-ever meeting with each of those institutions. San Diego State leads its series with University of San Diego by the count of 59-46-3 since the teams first squared off in 1962. Last year the teams opened the season with a four-game series that saw SDSU win three of four. Since 2000, USD holds a 15-9 edge in the series with SDSU winning four of the last five meetings.

San Diego State has a record of 46-23-1 in season openers since 1936. Since attaining Division I status in 1969, the Aztecs are 25-14 in their annual debuts. SDSU has won only three of its last 11 season debuts, those victories coming last season at home vs. University of San Diego, 2007 at Cal Poly and in 2004 at Hawai'i-Hilo. When opening the season away from home, SDSU has an all-time record of 19-14 and the Aztecs are 13-8 as a Division I school when beginning on the road.

SDSU's pitching rotation for the opening weekend includes Stephen Strasburg on Friday, Jon Berger on Sunday and Tyler Lavigne on Saturday. Strasburg (8-3, 1.57) was a consensus All-American last season and a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing last summer. Berger (2-7, 8.54) made eight of his 15 appearances last season in a starting role. Lavigne (8-3, 1.13 in 2008) is a transfer from College of Southern Nevada where he won All-America and all-region honors during his two years there.

San Diego State had a total of five players drafted by major league clubs last June. In addition one other signed as a free agent. Among the signees were juniors Hanzawa and Romero. Senior signees included Green, Kaufman and pitcher Brandon Pullen. In addition, Murphy signed a free agent contract.

Five of San Diego State's new players have been drafted by Major League teams at least once during their playing careers. That list includes:

Easton Gust........Cleveland (2006)
Andrew Leary.......Boston (2006)
Brandon Meredith...Tampa Bay (2008)
Goldy Simmons *.....Atlanta (2007)
Ryan O'Sullivan....San Francisco (2008)
* was also drafted by Oakland in 2006
In addition, a total of seven returning players have been previously drafted by pro clubs: Zach Babitt, Eric Martinez, Brett Miller, T.J. Thomas, George Snyder, Nate Solow and Cory Vaughn.

San Diego State has been picked to finish second the regular-season Mountain West Conference baseball standings. In a vote of the six MWC head coaches and a select media panel, the Aztecs received 56 points to finish behind favorite TCU, which is favored to win the league title for the fourth consecutive season. The 2009 MWC Preseason Poll:

Rk. Team (1st place votes)  Pts
 1. TCU (9)..................75
 2. San Diego State (1)......56
 3. New Mexico...............52
 4. Brigham Young............47
 5. Utah.....................31
 6. UNLV.....................30
 7. Air Force................14

Two of the five Aztecs who garnered all-Mountain West Conference honors are back in 2009. That duo includes first-team honoree Stephen Strasburg along with second-team member outfielder Pat Colwell. SDSU's other three all-conference selections included Troy Hanzawa (SS), Nick Romero (3B) and Shane Kaufman (RHP).

SDSU placed one player on the 2009 preseason all-Mountain West Conference team in a poll of the league's head coaches and selected media. Junior right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg was picked as one of two starting pitchers on the squad. Strasburg was the Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year last season.

Stephen Strasburg has received numerous honors prior to the start of the 2009 season. He has been named to the preseason All-American team by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association,, and Ping Baseball. He is also on the lists of top candidates for both the Golden spikes Award and the Brooks Wallace Award. Each is presented to the top collegiate player in the nation at season's end. Strasburg has also been dubbed the preseason national pitcher of the year by Collegiate Baseball, and

Four Aztecs have bee named to Baseball America's preseason all-Mountain West Conference team. Joining Strasburg, who it picks as pitcher of the year, are starting pitcher Nate Solow and closer Addison Reed. Outfielder Cory Vaughn has also been named to the squad. Among the MWC's top newcomers, the publication rates shortstop Ryan O'Sullivan second and pitcher Tyler Lavigne fourth. BA also lists Strasburg and Solow one-two on its list of the conference's top prospects.

Of the 34 players on San Diego State's 2008 roster, 19 are upperclassmen. However, the roster includes nine junior college transfers and six true freshmen making their collegiate debuts in 2009. Of the 19 players back from a year ago, 16 are returning letterwinners, but only four have seen regular playing time while at SDSU. Three of those four regulars (Pat Colwell, Brando Decker, Erik Castro) are juniors in their thirds season of Division I baseball. The other, sophomore Cory Vaughn, is in his second year at SDSU. Of the other 15, only five are position players and three of those five redshirted in 2008. The remaining 10 are returning pitchers.

Three players on the 2009 roster are the sons of former Major League players. Outfielder Cory Vaughn is the son of Greg Vaughn, who had a 15-year career with the Padres, Braves, Reds Devil Rays and Rockies and was a four-time all-star. Second baseman Zach Babitt is the son of Shooty Babitt, a second baseman who played for the Oakland A's and is currently an MLB player evaluator. Pitcher Goldy Simmons is the son of Nelson Simmons, who played for both Detroit and Baltimore in the mid-1980s.

Video of all of San Diego State's home games will be available on the SDSU web site ( again this season. Fans can go to the calendar on the Aztec home page and click "Watch Live" to view all the action. The video broadcast of these games is free of charge. An audio broadcast of all home and away contests will be carried on the SDSU web site as well.

After the MLB Urban Invitational this weekend, San Diego State will open its 2009 home season with a contest against fifth-ranked Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 6:00 p.m. (PST) at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Aztecs will then be in action two days later for the start of the annual USD Tournament with four games at SDSU. They open that event against Nevada on Thursday (Feb. 26) at 6:00 p.m.