Aztecs’ ace, Rebels not in same league

In a few months, San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg might be trying to throw fastballs past major league hitters. It certainly would be much more stressful than the challenge he faced Thursday.

Strasburg struck out 13 in six innings and made easy work of UNLV during the Aztecs’ 15-4 win before a season-high crowd of 1,073 at Wilson Stadium.

The fans came out to see Strasburg, a 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound junior who is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the major league draft in June. If he signs, he could be in the majors by late summer.

“I’m not even talking about any of that. It’s all about the team right now,” said Strasburg, who allowed one run in an effort he described as “pretty good.”

According to an American League scout, Strasburg’s fastball topped out at 99 mph and was consistently between 96 to 98 mph.

“He was average tonight because he didn’t have to be more than that,” San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn said.

The Rebels (15-17, 4-6 Mountain West Conference) were outclassed in the opener of a three-game series, but they did show Strasburg is not untouchable. Brian Gilbertson’s RBI double in the second inning was one of seven UNLV hits against Strasburg.

“He’s one of the best guys I’ve faced, if not the top guy,” said Gilbertson, who lined a Strasburg changeup to the left-field wall.

San Diego State (24-11, 7-3) took an 11-1 lead in the fifth on Erik Castro’s three-run homer off Justin Baca, the third of six pitchers used by Rebels coach Buddy Gouldsmith.

In his eighth start of the season, Strasburg improved to 7-0 with a 1.49 ERA.

“Strasburg threw a lot of breaking balls early, and it kept us at bay a little bit,” Gouldsmith said. “We put together some hits, but he gets his strikeouts and we couldn’t score runs, and that’s a tribute to his skill.”

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