Courtesy of San Diego State Athletics
SAN DIEGO – San Diego State pitchers TJ Fondtain (Clovis, Calif.) and Kelena Sauer (Mililani, Hawaii) were taken on the final day of the 2023 MLB Player Draft in Seattle, Washington, giving the Aztecs three picks overall this year and 31 selections since 2015.
Fondtain was chosen by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 14th round (423rd overall) on Tuesday, while Sauer was snapped by the Toronto Blue Jays shortly thereafter in the 15th round (454th overall).
With their selections, Fondtain and Sauer give the Aztecs 227 MLB Draft picks since 1965 after teammate Cole Carrigg went to the Colorado Rockies in the Competitive Balance “B” Round late Sunday following the second round. As a result, SDSU has had multiple players selected in six of the last seven years and nine of the last 11 overall.
In addition, San Diego State’s three picks were the most by a Mountain West school this year after Nevada and UNLV had two selections apiece, followed by Air Force, Fresno State, New Mexico, San José State and UNLV with one each.
The 2023 Mountain West Pitcher of the Year, Fondtain emerged as the genuine ace of the Aztec staff, logging a 7-4 record for the season with a 2.82 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 92.2 innings across 15 starts. The Aztec left-hander led the MW in several categories, including ERA, fewest earned allowed (29), opposing batting average (.192), innings pitched and games started while tying for the top spot in victories.
On the national level, Fondtain finished ninth in the country with a 0.96 WHIP for the year and was slotted 13th with an average of 6.22 hits per nine innings.
For his efforts, Fondtain garnered four All-America accolades following the season as a utility player, earning second-team honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA/Rawlings), D1Baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball newspaper to go with third-team recognition from Baseball America.
Fondtain burst onto the national scene after tossing the eighth no-hitter in program history to highlight SDSU’s 4-0 home shutout of Nevada on April 21. The Aztec junior came tantalizingly close to a perfect game, issuing one walk to lead off the ninth inning.
Carrigg played a key role helping the Aztecs clinch a share of the Mountain West regular-season championship after batting .340 with 20 RBIs and 23 runs scored against conference opponents while adding a league-best 14 stolen bases.
Not to be outdone, Fondtain displayed his versatility at the plate during the season, compiling a .272 batting average with a team-high nine home runs. The Aztec junior also topped the squad with a .879 OPS and ranked second with 35 RBIs, logging 26 starts at designated hitter and 16 in left field.
With his talents, Fondtain was named one of five finalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award by the College Baseball Foundation. The award will be presented later this summer.
In two seasons as a full-time starter for the Scarlet and Black, Fondtain compiled a 10-11 record with a 3.59 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 165.1 innings across 29 appearances. In parts of four years as a hitter, he batted .287 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs, contributing 17 doubles and 33 runs in 89 games at the plate.
Meanwhile, Sauer received first-team all-Mountain West distinction for the first time as a collegian after posting nine saves in conference play to lead all MW relievers. In 16.0 innings, he issued just two walks against 16 strikeouts and finished with 11 scoreless appearances against league opponents.
For the season, Sauer led the Mountain West with 12 saves, which was tied for ninth nationally. The Mililani, Hawaii, product recorded back-to-back saves in SDSU’s victories over UNLV on April 28-29 to earn MW Pitcher of the Week honors for the first time in his career.Additionally, he earned a spot on the midseason watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year Award.
With his efforts this year, Sauer became the first Aztec to record double-digit saves in a single season since CJ Saylor notched 13 during the 2017 campaign. In addition, he climbed into sixth place on the school’s all-time charts with 18 saves for his career.
In three full seasons on The Mesa, Sauer compiled a 3-8 record with a 4.70 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 90 innings across 61 appearances, which featured nine starts. He established a career-high with nine strikeouts in a home start vs. UNLV on March 12, 2022.
After an 0-5 start to the 2023 campaign, San Diego State regrouped to claim a share of the Mountain West regular-season title with an 18-11 mark in conference play. The Aztecs’ MW regular-season championship was the program’s third overall and first since 2004.