By John Philip Wyllie
Sometimes life comes down to being a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond. Take San Diego State pitcher Andres Esquibel, for example. A year ago, the hard-throwing right-hander out of Oceanside was enjoying his senior year as the star pitcher of the Vista High School Panthers. He set several school records during his tenure there including one for most career strikeouts and another for the most innings pitched in a career. Following the season, Esquibel was selected a first-team All-Palomar League pitcher and also qualified for the San Diego Union-Tribune All-Academic team.
By contrast, his first season with the Aztecs has seen him on a struggling team sharing the spotlight with many other pitchers. Esquibel began his SDSU career as a starter and amassed a 2-4 record before being moved into the bullpen. Recently, he has been getting his work an inning at a time.
“I started all through high school and started here (at the beginning of the season) so, it has taken a little while to adjust. (Closing requires) a whole different mindset,” Esquibel explained. “You have all week to prepare for a start, but if you are closing, you might not find out until the fifth inning. You have to get pumped up a lot faster.”
Esquibel remains pumped up about the Aztecs season despite the team’s losing record (9-21 and 4-5 within the Mountain West Conference) and his comparitive lack of playing time.
“I’ve been very satisfied with my decision (to attend SDSU). I have learned a lot from (assistant) coach (Rusty) Filter in the short time that I’ve been here. It is close to home, so my parents have been able able to watch almost all of my games and I can go home whenever I want to. That was a big factor in deciding to go here.” Esquibel’s close- knit famiy has been behind him every step of the way and he credits them with much of his success.
“My Mom is a teacher, so my parents have been on me about the importance of doing well academically since elementary school. My Dad is always out here supporting me every time I pitch. They are there behind me (regardless) of whether I do well or badly.”
Esquibel hopes that the team’s success last weekend in taking two out of three from the University of New Mexico will act as a catalyst for continued improvement.
“Coming into that series we knew that we had to step it up. We really needed some victories. The guys are still upbeat about the season and ready to play. Nobody is giving up. It has been a very tough since the beginning of the season, but everyone is trying to turn it around. People are starting to hit now and the defense has been playing well.”
Their regular season record will become irrelevent once the MountainWest Tournament begins. The team knows from previous seasons that winning the regular season conference championship does not insure a coveted berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“We are just hoping to get on a roll so that once we get into the conference tournament we are red hot.”