Juan Villa / The Collegian
Baserunning, overall execution lead to upset
The Fresno State baseball team ran circles, or rather diamonds around No. 16 San Diego last weekend.
Technically, it was the players doing the baserunning, but it was Fresno State assistant coach Matt Curtis that did the waving, putting pressure on the Torero defense in the Bulldogsâ€™ 2-of-3 series victory.
â€œI think where weâ€™re at as a team â€” weâ€™re not swinging the bats as well as weâ€™d like â€” so when we get a chance to score we gotta just try to be as aggressive as we can,” Curtis said.
Of all the aspects that play out during a baseball game, baserunning can easily be mistaken as an area of unimportance. However, for the Bulldogs, that area proved to be the deciding factor in the rubber game of the series against one of the nationâ€™s top teams.
Before the Bulldogs could even be in a position to win the series against the Toreros, they had to beat perhaps the nationâ€™s best pitcher Friday night in San Diegoâ€™s Brian Matusz. Entering that game, Matusz was coming off his second national pitcher of the week award, with an ERA just over one.
â€œHeâ€™s gonna pitch in the big leagues in two or three years,” Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole said. â€œBeating a guy like that has to give you confidence.”
The Bulldogs scored six earned runs off of Matusz, eventually winning the game 12-4, but followed that performance with a sub-par performance Saturday, setting up Sundayâ€™s showdown.
A constant struggle for the Bulldogs this season has been the way their batters have approached at-bats, and their ability to score runs and execute on the basepaths once again depended on that ability in Sundayâ€™s game.
The teamâ€™s silent leader, Erik Wetzel, got things rolling early in the game, earning a leadoff walk for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the first. Although the Bulldogs wouldnâ€™t go on to score in the first inning, Wetzelâ€™s approach set the tone for the remainder of the Bulldogsâ€™ at-bats, which would produce six runs in the final four innings to win the game.
â€œIâ€™m more of a leader by example,” Wetzel said. â€œIâ€™m not a big talker to the team. I try sometimes, but itâ€™s more of the other guyâ€™s roles.”
It just so happened that the Bulldogs chose the right leader to follow, all the way to a series victory.