SAN DIEGO — Jim Dietz, San Diego State baseball coach, was in a foul mood when he arrived at the ballpark Sunday because of his team's uninspired play in Saturday's loss to Cal State Northridge. But his disposition took a turn for the worse when he realized an estimated $700 worth of food had been stolen during the night from the stadium's concession stand.
Then, moments before the game, Dietz was insulted upon learning CSUN Coach Bill Kernan was holding his ace, Craig Clayton, out of Sunday's game so that he could pitch Wednesday against UCLA.
Apparently, Dietz's energy spilled over to his team as they crushed 14th-ranked Cal State Northridge, 12-1, in the final game of the three-game nonconference series.
SDSU starter Mark Gapski seemed to get the biggest lift. Gapski (4-1) never had started a game in his college career and had not gone more than three innings this season, but you wouldn't have known it Sunday.
In going the distance, he gave up just seven singles and a double to a team that came into the game with 45 homers in 41 games. He also struck out four, including Craig Clayton, CSUN's leading hitter, three times.
How many innings did Dietz expect Gapski to pitch?
"I had no idea," Dietz said. "I thought in my mind, probably three."
Dietz said he picked Gapski to start because he was logical choice.
"To beat (CSUN) all you have to do is throw a right-handed pitcher who throws down and away," Dietz said. "And our relievers have been our best weapon lately, so I decided to flip it around."
Gapski was told of the start shortly before the game. "I would have told him sooner, but I couldn't find him," Dietz said.
"I was really nervous when I found out," said Gapski, a sophomore from Grossmont High. "I hadn't started a game since the CIF championship game against Carlsbad my senior year."
Gapski said that was apparent in the sixth inning.
"In the sixth inning, I started telling the third baseman (Tony Robertson) to stay and talk to me a while after he caught the ball," Gapski said. "I was trying to throw three or four warm-up pitches after that."
Although he issued two of his six walks in the eighth, Gapski recovered to retire five of the last six Matadors.
Gapski got all the support he needed in the second inning when the Aztecs (29-10) took advantage of three hits, two walks, an error and a mental mistake by CSUN pitcher Eric Spellman to score six runs.
Bill Dunckel led off the inning with a single, Marcelino Garcia walked and Darin McGhee reached on a bunt when Spellman was late throwing to third trying to force Dunckel. CSUN shortstop Mike Solar then threw away Greg Quam's double play grounder, scoring Dunckel. Robertson's walk forced in the second run and Steve Dietz's grounder to second scored the third. Run-scoring singles by designated hitter Mike Shwartzer and second baseman Scott Dennison and Garcia's bases loaded walk made it 6-0.
Later, Garcia added a homer, his first, with the bases empty and a two-run double.
Kernan said he was not happy with his team's performance or the Aztecs' tactics late in the game.
"They were bunting and running with a 9-1 lead in the eighth," Kernan said. "Nobody does that who has any class. We hope they win their league. We'd like to play them again in the regionals."
Dietz, who pointed out that his team blew an 8-1 lead to CSUN (30-12) Friday night, said he would play it the same way again.
"We were only up eight runs," he said. "This is college baseball. This is not cricket. With aluminum bats, you never know. If they're going to concede the game, they shouldn't have come up to bat again."
Dietz said the Matadors' frustration came out in the ninth inning when Dunckel was hit in the helmet by a Mike Teron pitch.
"It's part of baseball," Dietz said. "I'm glad our guys kept their cool."
However, Dietz said he might have a hard time keeping his cool if he catches the person responsible for breaking into the concession stand.
Dietz said Saturday night's incident was just one of many this season.
"It's been going on for about five weekends now," Dietz said. "Someone broke our tractor, vandalized our golf cart and broke a sprinkler head that almost caused us to cancel a game because the field was flooded.
"With a program like ours, that doesn't receive much money anyway, you can't have that." Fortunately, the Aztecs' performance temporarily made Dietz forget about his troubles.
"That was fun today because we played with some vengeance," Dietz said. "I think Saturday they were satisfied with winning Friday."