Utah Utes pitcher John James thought it was neat when he saw he would be facing San Diego State ace Stephen Strasburg.
"He's the best pitcher in the country, and it's an honor to go against someone like that,'' James said. "I didn't worry about it."
The outcome? James, the Utes' No.3 pitcher, outdueled Strasburg, and the Utes advanced with a 1-0 victory in an elimination game in the Mountain West Conference tournament on Thursday at Lupton Stadium. Utah (25-27), the No.5 seed, advanced to face No.6 UNLV.
James threw the first complete game of his collegiate career, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out nine. He threw 129 pitches, 81 of them for strikes.
Utah coach Bill Kinneberg called James' outing "a tremendous effort," but also recognized what his team accomplished as well.
"When you beat Stephen Strasburg, you've done something,'' he said.
James (4-7) had season highs in both innings and strikeouts. He kept the Aztecs off balanced, and tried to throw his first pitches for strikes. The adrenaline kicked in, and James admitted he got tired in the middle innings.
"But then in the eighth-ninth (innings), I felt better than in the beginning of the game,'' James said.
Strasburg (8-3), the Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year, lasted seven innings, and gave up five hits, one earned run and three walks. He declined to comment.
"You've got to give their pitcher a lot of credit,'' Aztecs coach Tony Gwynn said. "He threw a lot of strikes and worked the corners."