The long road toward the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., begins today when the Bulldogs take on UC Santa Barbara at Beiden Field at 6:35 p.m.
This marks the first year in which the Bulldogs will compete in the Mountain West Conference. The other coaches of the conference do not seem too scared of Fresno State. Despite the return of College Homerun Derby champion Aaron Judge and preseason all-conference honoree Trent Garrison, a preseason poll of the six conference coaches has the Bulldogs ranked fourth, receiving no first place votes. New Mexico, San Diego State and Nevada all placed ahead of the Bulldogs in that order.
Regardless of what the other coaches think, Fresno State managed to draw hosting duties for the Mountain West Tournament in late May. Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said it was just a lucky situation for the team.
“That’s done by a rotation, so each school will have their opportunity,” Batesole said. “So we won’t have it again for another seven years unless the conference changes again. It’s just luck of the draw, and we drew the short straw.”
In addition to hosting the tournament, Fresno State will host all five of its Mountain West foes at home fora three-game series each. The team will also travel to all those schools for three -games series on the road.
As it just so happens, those conference road games will be the only games that send the Bulldogs outside state lines. The rest of the Bulldogs’ road games — against CSU Bakersfield, Sacramento State and Pacific — are within close proximity.
However, there are two big road series on the docket early in the season for coach Batesole and the squad. A trip to Palo Alto from Feb. 22-24 to play Stanford starts the team’s first road trip. The Cardinal are ranked No. 7 in preseason polls by USA Today Coaches the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The Bulldogs will return to the Bay Area for a four-game series against Cal in Berkeley March 7-10.
Batesole said he hopes facing close opponents in nonconference play will lead to more Bulldog fans making it out to road games.
“We go to Stanford, which is great because all out Red Wave fans can travel with us,” he said. “We come home for USC, and then we go back to the Bay Area for Cal — again, a team that’s been in the World Series recently. And it’s close enough for everyone to travel to. Then we’re going to have to be ready because it’s (conference play) on.”
As Batesole said, when the team returns from its road trip with Stanford and CSU Bakersfield it will have the USC waiting. The Bulldogs will start March off in a three-game series with the Trojans, before playing a single home game against former Western Athletic Conference rivals San Jose State.
The Bulldogs will play 12 games outside of California this season, 10 games against the Pac-12 conference, nine games against teams that made it to last season’s NCAA Tournament — six with New Mexico and three with Stanford — and three games against former conference rivals — two with Sacramento State and one with San Jose State.