It was a nice change for the Bulldogs, something they had only experienced once before this season.
For the first time since March 3 against USC, the Fresno State baseball team won a game on a Sunday. Following back-to -back 9-8 losses on Friday and Saturday, the Bulldogs came into Sunday’s game looking to avoid a sweep, and that is precisely what they did.
Fresno State (8-20, 3-7 MWC) rode the backs of its pitchers, who were asked to do slightly more than usual to get the 5-3 win over UNLV (22-9, 7-5 MWC).
Sunday was a game won by pitching and homeruns. Senior catcher Austin Wynns and freshman third baseman Kevin Viers both hit their second homeruns of the season to give the Bulldogs four of their five runs.
Sophomore right-hander Jordan Brink took to the mound to start the game and, along with freshman Tim Borst, combined to give the tired bullpen a day of rest.
The sixth inning proved to be a big one for Brink. After giving up a single to right fielder Brandon Bayardi, hitting first baseman Patrick Armstrong and walking third baseman Joey Armstrong, Brink found himself with the bases loaded and no outs.
“It gets you thinking a little bit,” Brink said. “But you’ve just got to get on (Steve) Rousey’s (pitching coach) plan and stay down hill with your pitches, your fastball. You’ve got to have good command and just let the defense work.”
Brink followed that plan and sat down the next three batters in order to preserve the 3-2 lead.
Brink far exceeded the pitch count that had been set out for him, but Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said that had to change because of how the bullpen has performed this season.
“We wanted him to go 70 (pitches) max, and he went out there after 94,” Batesole said. “Then he got in trouble and of course everybody was second-guessing themselves right away. Bases loaded and no outs, that was maybe one of the biggest innings that has been pitched on this field all year.”
Batesole gave his starting pitcher credit for being able to earn his second win after pitching himself into and out of a rough situation.
“Well you’ve got to have the stuff to do it, but then to get through that situation you got to have the heart to do it,” Batesole said. “No one’s ever accused Brink of not having heart — the kids full of heart.”
After coming so close in its last two games, Batesole said he was happy that the team was able to grab the lead and hold on to it.
“We put a heck of a lot of work in for one W, that’s for sure, but I think you could feel it in the clubhouse. We know we’re close,” Batesole said. “We know we’ve been losing games by one or two pitches, and very soon we’re going to be winning games by one or two pitches. We’re really, really close.”
Another big story for the Bulldogs this weekend was the return of sophomore outfielder Jordan Luplow, who missed the last five weeks to a shoulder injury suffered while attempting to make a diving catch. Luplow was the designated hitter for all three games in this series, but Batesole is hopeful that they will be able to get him back in the outfield soon.
“A lot of guys could probably be out there this weekend, but he plays with his hair on fire,” Batesole said. “I’m just not going to put (former Major Leaguer) Darin Erstad out there and let him run into walls on day one.”
Batesole said Luplow will return to the field as soon as the coaches are confident that he can play his aggressive style without risking additional injury.
The Bulldogs now begin preparations for their upcoming three-game weekend series in Albuquerque, N.M., against the New Mexico Lobos (16-15, 8-4 MWC).