PROVO — During his 20-year professional baseball career, Tony Gwynn became one of the most consistent contact hitters in the sport's history. His .338 lifetime batting average and 3,141 hits earned him a ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, however, as the San Diego State coach, Gwynn is proving he knows how to develop solid pitchers.

Aztec starter Nate Solow surrendered just three earned runs and struck out six batters in eight innings to lead SDSU to a 9-5 victory over BYU Saturday at Miller Field.

Two days earlier, starter Stephen Strasburg defeated the Cougars by giving up just two hits and striking out 15 in an 8-1 win.

BYU jumped out to an early 1-0 advantage in the first inning Saturday afternoon, but SDSU exploded for five runs in the third, highlighted by Brandon Decker's RBI single that gave the Aztecs their first lead — a lead they did not relinquish.

"That's the turning point when you put up a five-spot," said BYU coach Vance Law.

Law added that the Aztecs might have been relaying pitching signs in that inning.

"It's easier to hit when you know what's coming," he said. "I feel that happened in that inning. It's not a big deal, that's part of the game. They swung like they knew what was coming."

While BYU battled back to within one run at 5-4, Decker struck again in the fifth, crushing a two-run home run. For the game, Decker went 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Troy Hanzawa and Cory Vaughn also recorded two hits for SDSU. BYU starter Blake Torgerson (5-4) pitched five innings and gave up eight runs on eight hits and was saddled with the loss. SDSU's Solow improved to 5-6 on the season.

Four Cougar batters — Sean McNaughton, Dan Vargas, Kent Walton and Brandon Relf — collected two hits apiece.

While the Aztecs (30-22 overall, 16-8 in the Mountain West Conference) committed four errors, the Cougars (20-33, 8-13) left eight runners stranded.

Saturday's loss marked BYU's final home game of the season. A crowd of 1,255 turned out to Miller Field.

This week, BYU travels to Franklin Covey Field for a three-game series against Utah, beginning Thursday. Both teams, which sit near the bottom of the standings, are jockeying for seeding position in the MWC tournament, which begins May 20.

"We always want to play well against Utah," Law said. "We need to go up there and take care of business and gain momentum for the tournament."

UTAH: The Utah baseball team rallied in the bottom of the sixth in the doubleheader opener for a 6-3 win over Air Force. The Utes (20-24 overall, 8-12 MWC) won the second game 17-3 for their fourth straight win.

The Utes pounded out 35 hits on the afternoon. In the opener, they tallied 12 hits, led by the 2-for-3, two-RBI effort of Jesse Shriner. Austin Jones went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as well.

In the second game, Cody Guymon went 4-for-5 with a team-best four RBIs and three runs. Dustin Hennis went 4-for-6 with three RBIs for the Utes, who had 23 hits in the nightcap.

Utah pitcher Brian Budrow got the win in Game 1, allowing nine hits and three earned runs. Reliever Robert Chimpky came on in the ninth to pick up his sixth save of the year.

Reliever Bryn Card got the win in Game 2.

On Friday, the Utes broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Falcons.

Jones hit a two-run homer in the eighth for Utah. Beltran went 4-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, and Fred Ferguson added a two-run double for the Utes.

Stephen Fife got the win on the mound, allowing two runs, eight hits and a walk with 12 strikeouts. Chimpky came on in the ninth inning to earn the save.

SOUTHERN UTAH: Seniors accounted for three home runs and eight RBIs as the Thunderbirds captured an 11-5 win over Centenary College on Senior Day. Joe Wright homered and Keli'i Zabian tripled for SUU (26-24 overall, 13-10 Summit League), and Alec Reichle, allowing one run on five hits in six innings.

On Friday, the T-Birds split a doubleheader with Centenary, which won the opener 4-2 before SUU won the second game 2-1.

Wright homered in the first game, and Chester Wilson knocked in the winning run in the nightcap. Mac Nelson pitched eight innings to earn the Game 2 win.

UTAH VALLEY: First baseman C.J. Ziegler hit three home runs and drove in four runs as No. 19 Arizona topped Utah Valley 10-4 on Friday night in the opening game of a three-game series.


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com