The Fresno State baseball team kicked off its first season as a member of the Mountain West Conference this weekend when they took on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in a three-game series. The Bulldogs concluded the series with a 1-2 record — including an 11-3 loss to the Gauchos on Sunday.
Fresno State wasted no time on Sunday, striking first in the bottom of the first inning. Right fielder Jordan Luplow started things off with a single. After a pop fly from second baseman Brody Russell, center fielder Aaron Judge hit a double to deep left field, scoring Luplow.
On the first pitch of the next at bat Judge stole third. First baseman Trent Garrison made Judge’s steal worthwhile, when he slapped a single up the middle to bring Judge home, giving the Bulldogs an early 2-0 lead.
Though the Bulldogs did not score any runs in the bottom of the third, it was a big moment for one member of the team, when Russell, a freshman who was starting in his first game, got the first hit of his college career with a single.
The Gauchos threatened to score in the top of the fourth, getting a runner to third with two outs. Following a hit batter, Santa Barbara tried to confuse freshman pitcher Tim Borst with a steal of second. He did not take the bait though, and the Gauchos had two runners in scoring position, much to the distain of Bulldog fans, who did not hide their feelings. Burst got the last laugh though when he struck out right fielder Joseph Deroche-Duffin to continue the shutout.
Fresno State knocked out Gaucho starting pitcher Justin Jacome in the bottom of the forth when they got two runners into scoring position with two outs. Santa Barbara brought in Kenny Chapman from the bullpen and he promptly got his team out of the inning unscathed.
Despite the continued shutout from Borst, Bulldog head coach Mike Batesole decided to bring in Tyler Stirewalt to start the seventh inning.
Batesole said that pulling Borst had nothing to do with his performance, but more to do with pitch counts.
“We were hoping to get five (innings) out of him and somewhere around 70 and 75 pitches so it was a nice surprise,” Batesole said. “He really came out and did his part.”
Borst delivered 81 pitches in six innings, giving up four hits.
Batesole made another switch following a walk to Woody Woodward, who had come in to play left field in the fifth, and brought in Tyler Linehan.
Linehan gave up six hits, one walk, and one hit by pitch after facing nine batters. All but one of those hits was a single.
“He’s had two outings, and they were both messy,” Batesole said. “He’s got some things to clean up. We’ll have him in here on Tuesday to look at the video. We’ll look at it tomorrow, but Tuesday we’ll look at it with him and try to get him going in the right direction.”
After Santa Barbara batted around in the inning, Batesole brought in Jake Shull to face Parker Miles, who pinch hit earlier in the inning, but struck out. He fared better off Shull when he knocked a single to score Woodward from second. The Gauchos put up eight runs in the inning, taking an 8-2 lead over the Bulldogs.
Fresno State brought in its fifth pitcher of the game to start the top of the eight in lefty Aaron Gillis. He would have better luck than the last three pitchers, as he would give up only one hit to keep the Gauchos lead at six.
In the bottom of the eighth, Judge hit a ball deep over the left field scoreboard for his first home run of the season, cutting the Bulldogs deficit to five runs.
Connor Chase came in to face leadoff hitter Cameron Newell and gave up a single, allowing two more runs to score. Then a wild pitch brought in the runner from third to make it 11-3 Gauchos going into the bottom of the ninth.
Batesole said his biggest disappointment following the first series was the lack of rhythm on offense.
“I think that’s why you saw us leave so many guys on base,” Batesole said. “Yesterday it was seven or eight hits and one run. Today it’s nine hits and three runs, so just finding that rhythm offensively is hopefully not going to take to many more weekends.”