The Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team opened the 2018 season over the weekend with a series sweep of the Michigan State Spartans, 5-4, 9-4, 2-1 and 5-4.
Solid pitching and timely hitting gave the Bulldogs their first series win of the season at Pete Beiden Field in Bob Bennett Stadium.
After taking opening night in walk-off fashion, the Bulldogs slugged their way to a big win in Game 2, survived a pitching duel in Game 3 and outlasted the Spartans in Game 4.
Offensively, Fresno State’s Carter Bins, JT Arruda and Korby Batesole headlined the weekend. Bins chipped in eight RBIs along with a homer. Arruda hit two home runs, including his first career homer for Fresno State. Batesole powered his team to victory in Game 2 with a four-hit day.
Fresno State had the offense but, more importantly, the pitching. In Game 1, sophomore right-hander Ryan Jensen, making only his second career start, tossed seven innings, allowing two hits while striking out five batters. Redshirt freshman reliever Oscar Carvajal, making his first appearance as a Bulldog, went five scoreless innings for the win.
Preseason All-Mountain West selection Edgar Gonzalez got the win in Game 3 after he went seven innings, striking out seven Spartans. Lastly, freshman Jaime Arias guided the Bulldogs to a 5-4 victory on Sunday.
In Game 1, Jensen collected four strikeouts in the first three innings and five total in the game.
Junior Jeremiah Burks got the Diamond Dogs started in the third when he was hit by a pitch. He stole second. Then leadoff hitter Zach Ashford knocked a double down the left-field line to give the Bulldogs their first score.
In the seventh, Burks and Ashford hit back-to-back grounders up the middle and on both occasions the ball was misplayed, allowing the Bulldogs to reach safely.
Batesole then was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with two out and setting the stage for Carter Bins. Bins smacked a two-run double to left-center field, bringing the Red Wave to their feet and giving the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
That lead would be short-lived. After Jensen was pulled in the top of the eighth, J Santa Cruz and Jamison Hill came into relieve but combined to give up four earned runs, including a two-run bomb by Michigan State’s Chad Roskelly. Hill was able to rescue the inning after surrendering the lead, 4-3.
With the bases loaded and one out, Ashford smacked a low ball back into the Spartan pitcher allowing Ashford to get aboard, scoring Nikoh Mitchell, making it 4-4.
Hill took command with a mix of pitches in the ninth to strike out the side and give the ‘Dogs a chance.
A walk and a bunt single put runners on first and second. Joseph Mendez took the field for his first appearance as a Bulldog, and the freshman came through in the clutch. Mendez smacked the ball into shallow left field, allowing Arruda to score from second, giving the ‘Dogs their first win of 2018.
“We knew his potential. He is a true freshman and also a redshirt freshman and a few years ago, all the top baseball people knew exactly who he was and before he leaves Fresno State he is going to be an offensive force,” Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole said
The Bulldogs picked up where they left off in an eventful Saturday doubleheader.
Senior shortstop Batesole put on a show as he tied his career-high with four hits in the game, including a triple.
Batesole also tied his career-best with three runs scored along with a lone RBI. Carvajal made his debut on the mound and made his presence felt, striking out six over five scoreless innings.
With Batesole on base, Arruda hit his first career homer into right-center field to take an early 2-0 lead.
Zach Ashford and Batesole set the table, before Bins stepped up and hit a three-run home run over the left-field wall in the fourth to extend Fresno State’s lead to 5-0.
The Bulldogs ended up winning 8-0.
The Bulldogs also took Game 3 in a classic pitching duel, 2-1.
Gonzalez took the mound and showed why he was selected to the all-conference team in a duel with Ethan Landon from Michigan State.
Landon held the ‘Dogs scoreless until the sixth inning when Bins and Arruda each singled with one out. Outfielder McCarthy Tatum sacrificed to bring in Bins and give the ‘Dogs the lead, 1-0.
Freshman designated hitter Zach Presno then hit a grounder to second where it was misplayed, allowing Arruda to score the eventual game-winning run.
“It was a great team effort today by everyone, offensively, defensively and pitching wise,” coach Batesole said. “If we can continue to play like that and get contributions from everyone, we will be able to make some noise.”
After allowing two runs in the top of the first on Sunday, Arias and the Bulldogs settled down for the final series victory.
“You saw the freshman come out today and make adjustments,” Batesole said of Arias. “It is easy to forget who you are, and Jaime is a great location pitcher and early on tried to be a power pitcher. Once he settled down, he was outstanding and to be able to get a freshman to make an in-game adjustment like that in his first career appearance shows you that we might have something special on our hands.”
Marty Bechina hit a two-run home run for the Spartans, giving the visitors the early momentum. Luckily for Fresno State, Arruda and Co. were coming up to bat.
After Bins drove in Ashford to cut the Spartans lead to one, Arruda hit his second career home run to take a 3-2 lead.
The Bulldogs increased their advantage in the bottom of the fourth after Burks singled through the left side to score redshirt senior Nick Warren.
Michigan State wouldn’t go away that easy. After Arias was replaced by freshman Chad Wilson, the Spartans tacked on two runs through a Zack McGuire two-run shot in the top of the sixth.
Then in the seventh, shortstop Batesole singled, and Bins did the rest. Bin hit a double down the left-field line for the game-winning run.
On a day when the 1988 Fresno State baseball team was honored, including legendary coach Bob Bennett, the Bulldogs pulled out a clutch victory to truly honor a great time in the team’s history.