After splitting the first two games – a 7-2 victory, a 14-4 loss – the Fresno State baseball team bounced back Sunday and blanked the Air Force Falcons 10-0 to claim a Mountain West Conference series win at Pete Beiden Field in Bob Bennett Stadium.
Sunday’s clinching game was special for two reasons. The Bulldogs celebrated “Salute to Services Weekend,” but also had over 300 youth baseball players from the Central Valley in attendance.
“I just love having the kids out here and to get them out here when they are young and used to being on this field,” head coach Mike Batesole said. “Some place they dream about. That’s how this town used to be in the 1970s and 80s and there wasn’t anyone who lived in the Valley that did not want to play here. It’s great that we played well, and some of them will dream tonight about being a Bulldog, and I love that!”
Fresno State opened the series on Friday behind a gem from junior Edgar Gonzalez. The right-handed pitcher went 7.2 innings, allowing only three hits and two earned runs.
His combination of pitches kept the Falcons off balance all night. The junior recorded 12 strikeouts, and among his dozen punch outs was his 200th. He now stands at 207 strikeouts in his career.
Gonzalez put on a show from the mound but Zach Ashford and Korby Batesole combined to drive the Bulldogs’ offense. The pair had three singles, three runs scored and two RBIs. The middle of the order proved to be the catalyst in the Bulldogs’ opening victory.
In Game 2 on Saturday, the matchup didn’t go as planned for the Bulldogs.
After a series-opening win, Fresno State couldn’t recreate Friday’s formula when a 19-hit barrage Saturday by the Falcons sealed the deal in a 14-4 win.
Ashford extended his on-base streak to 44 games with a walk in the seventh inning, but that was about the lone storyline for the ‘Dogs.
The visiting Falcons built a 9-0 lead off of starter Ryan Jensen. His outing only lasted four innings, while he gave up a career-high 12 hits.
To compound the Bulldogs’ issues on the day, they committed a game-high three errors. Their mental miscues cost them a win, but luckily had a chance to win the series on Sunday.
In Game 3, Jaime Arias got the call for the Bulldogs, and he dazzled the Fresno State crowd. The freshman hurler tossed six shutout innings to give the Bulldogs the three-game series.
“Today Jaime did exactly what we needed him to do and why we wanted him to start because he is a strike thrower,” Coach Batesole said on the southpaw’s performance. “That is the most pitches he has thrown all season but he kept the ball down and we played some pretty good defense behind him. That is what wins baseball games – pitching and defense – and that is what we brought today.”
Although Batesole attributed the Bulldogs’ win to defense and pitching, the team’s offense had a game-high 14 hits. Senior infielder Korby Batesole and sophomore catcher Carter Bins led the offensive charge in Sunday’s clinching game.
The two Bulldogs combined for five hits, three runs and six RBIs, while Clovis native JT Arruda and 6-foot-3 Nate Thimjon recorded two hits and an RBI each.
Even though the ‘Dogs faced Mountain West Pitcher of the Week Ryan Holloway, their bats woke from their Saturday slumber.
After the first inning, Fresno State had already built a 3-0 lead. In just three outs time, the team had almost reached its output from its previous contest.
Bins had a two-run double, which was followed by Arruda with an RBI.
Fresno State continued its aggressive approach at the plate when Thimjon leadoff the second with a home run to left-center field. The freshman from Elk Grove, California, continued his impressive play.
The Bulldogs capitalized on a Falcons’ error in the bottom of the eighth for two runs, sealing their victory.
The Diamond ‘Dogs now improve to 11-3 in the Mountain West Conference before facing Pepperdine on May 1 at home.
Fresno State will then head on its last road trip of its regular season in a three-game series against the Nevada Wolfpack and a single game against California State University, Northridge.