It seems that the Bulldogs have figured something out, at least at home anyway. Fresno State jumped to an early lead against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and never let go.
With the 8-6 win, the Bulldogs have won nine of their last 12 home games. In a fortunate turn for coach Mike Batesole and the Bulldogs, the team will have no reason to play a game away from Beiden Field until the NCAA regionals at the earliest, due to their hosting of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
“It’s tough to win on the road. We played very well,” Batesole said. “At home, things seem to go your way just a little bit more, enough to push you over the hump.”
This game was all Bulldogs (17-29, 10-14 MW) at the start.
Junior Tyler Linehan got the starting nod for the Bulldogs. The veteran southpaw has had an off year this season with a 1-7 record and an 8.39 ERA heading into the game.
He found a groove on Tuesday night though and shut out the Rainbow Warriors for the first three innings.
Batesole credited Linehan’s control for the strong outing. He said Linehan was locating all three of his pitches — fastball, cutter and curveball — with consistency.
“That’s probably the best control I’ve seen him have in three years,” Batesole said. “I mean, he was spotting the ball pretty well.”
Linehan had one of the best pitching performances of the season for the Bulldogs on March 15 against San Diego State. He threw a complete game shutout, still the team’s only nine-inning shutout of the season.
Batesole said he hopes the game can be a jumping-off point for Linehan, leading to him going deeper into games.
The team will need him heading into the final games of the regular season and the conference tournament that follows.
“Maybe he’s in a position now where maybe he can go five (innings) next time and then maybe seven,” Batesole said.
William Munro continued Linehan’s scoreless streak for two more innings before he gave up a run to Hawaii in the sixth.
At the plate, the Bulldogs did not see much they did not like from the Hawaii pitching staff. It was a big night for much of the lineup, particularly sophomore third baseman Kevin Viers.
He got the first hit of the night for the Bulldogs with a double in the first inning. He went on to provide two more of those. His second double of the night, a ground rule double in the fourth inning, resulted in two runs for Fresno State making it a 4-0 game.
Following his third double in three at-bats — he walked in the third inning — Fresno State’s offensive powerhouse, center fielder Aaron Judge, hit his ninth homerun of the season to give the team a 7-1 lead.
Not every Bulldog pitcher could find the groove Linehan set at the start of the game though. Garrett Mundell got the call in the seventh and proceeded to give up four runs to let Hawaii back into the game at 7-5.
However, Tim Borst would stop the bleeding for Fresno State. He earned the final out of the eighth inning on one pitch and kept Hawaii from adding any more runs in the ninth. The outing earned him his team-leading third save of the season.