Returning to Fresno after being swept by Michigan State in Grand Rapids, the Bulldogs baseball team rebounded to take two of three games over Mountain West Conference foe Air Force at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.
The ‘Dogs took care of business Thursday night after sophomore Edgar Gonzalez tossed 7 2/3 strong innings to go along with a career-best eight strikeouts. Senior outfielder Jake Stone belted a three-run bomb to go along with a career-high four RBIs in a single game.
Fresno State defeated the Falcons 7-5 in the first game of the series.
In a game that featured 15 runs and over 20 hits, the Bulldogs were unable to match Air Force after giving up nine unanswered runs to lose Game 2 of the series on Saturday, 10-5.
After battling back and forth in Game 3, the Bulldogs (18-17, 7-6) scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings against Air Force (15-18, 5-12). The ‘Dogs eventually walked off on Zach Ashford’s game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 10th.
Behind eight solid innings from pitcher Rickey Ramirez and an offense led by Scott Silva’s three-run homer along with RBI singles from Jesse Medrano and Korby Batesole, the team won a tough series in walk-off fashion.
“It is amazing how this game is. You just show up and do your thing,” Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole said. “It’s amazing to come and watch these guys fight every game. What Rickey did out there was really special. He pitches with so much heart, it’s hard not to pull for him.”
Game 3 started off fast for Ramirez when he opened the competition with a first-pitch flyout and seemed to gain confidence as the game went on.
With one out in the top of the fourth, Falcon shortstop Tyler Zabojnik hit a double to the left- center gap, giving the Falcons a runner in scoring position. However, Ramirez got out of the inning with a strikeout to preserve the scoreless tie.
The action picked up in the top of the fifth inning after Ramirez surrendered a one-out, two-run bomb to right center. Senior Austin Guibor gave chase, but was unable to reel the ball in. The Falcons’ leadoff hitter, Adam Groesbeck, launched his fourth home run of the season.
The damage was contained after Ramirez retired the Falcon batter for the final out.
The ‘Dogs responded in the bottom of the fifth with two hits to give them runners on first and second. After a flyout by Silva, Guibor attempted to steal second base. The throw from the catcher missed its target, and the ball rolled into center field, allowing Carter Bins to score from third. Guibor made it to third on a close play at the bag.
Atkins drove a pitch into center field with two outs, and the ‘Dogs tied the game on Guibor’s run. With runners on the corners, the game was tied 2-2.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Bins laid down a perfectly executed bunt to give the ‘Dogs runners on first and second with one out.
Silva stepped up to the plate and crushed a three-run homer to center field past the 400-foot sign. It was his sixth home run of the season and second of the series, giving the ‘Dogs a 5-2 lead.
After consecutive hits in the top of the seventh inning, the Falcons had the bases loaded with one out. With the lead hanging in the balance, Ramirez struck out the Falcon third baseman for an important second out.
The Falcons would get back into the game after consecutive run-scoring singles brought them back to close the deficit. With one out in the inning, the ‘Dogs lead was cut to 5-4.
In the top of the ninth, in need of a run, the Falcons scored three runs on a home run to right field into their own bullpen. The ‘Dogs’ relief pitcher, freshman Ryan Jensen, allowed a hit and hit a batter before giving up a three-run homer.
In the bottom of the ninth, in need of a comeback, the ‘Dogs started off hot when Stone smacked a double down the first base line.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Medrano connected for a base hit over the second base bag, bringing Stone home. The lead was cut to 7-6.
Ashford stepped up to the plate and hit a bloop single to left, giving the ‘Dogs runners on first and second with one out.
The ‘Dogs scored the tying run when Batesole knocked in Medrano. Still with one out, the ‘Dogs winning run was 90 feet away. However the ‘Dogs were unable to capitalize.
In the bottom of the 10th after a leadoff single by Arruda, Stone hit a double down the first base line, giving the ‘Dogs’ runners on second and third with none out. Jeremiah Burks stepped up to the plate and patiently earned himself a walk.
With no outs in the bottom of the inning, the ‘Dogs had the bases loaded. After a force out play at home, Ashford delivered the game-winning RBI after a sharply hit ball passed the first baseman, giving the ‘Dogs the series win.
Although the ‘Dogs earned an important victory, there is still a long road ahead of the team.
“I don’t know what is in front of us. We were pretty locked into this weekend,” Batesole said. “There are no easy D1 college baseball wins, and that’s what we know.”
The ‘Dogs return to the diamond on April 19 at nonconference opponent Pacific.