Jun 01, 2020

Diamond Dogs split opening series

Freshman outfielder Trent Soares makes a sliding catch during the 2008 season opener Friday night at Pete Beiden Field against the UC Davis Aggies. The Bulldogs played on a damp field and through rainy conditions the entire weekend.
Juan Villa / The Collegian

Preseason awards, two straight conference titles and a stocked arsenal of returning starters.

The 2008 Fresno State baseball team came into this weekend’s opening series with all of these things working for it.

What the Bulldogs did not expect, however, was to splittheir opening series with the UC Davis Aggies.

UC Davis is playing its first year in Division-IA this season as a member of the Big West Conference and was picked to finish last by the coaches’ poll.

The Aggies edged out the Bulldogs in the season opener, 4-2 and also won the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 3-1.

Junior right-hander Tanner Scheppers picked up his first win of the season Saturday, striking out 10 batters in seven  shutout innings. Scheppers is a nominee for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top player.
Juan Villa / The Collegian

Coach Mike Batesole wasn’t discouraged by the opening two-game skid, but recognizes where his team was lacking.

“They weren’t tight, but maybe they were trying a little too hard,” Batesole said. “We’re just feeling our way through it. We’d like to feel our way through it with some more wins.”

But through all the rain and cloudy skies this weekend came a glimmer of hope in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader. It was the right arm of junior pitcher and Golden Spikes Award nominee Tanner Scheppers.

Senior left fielder Steve Susdorf crashes into the wall during Saturday's doubleheader against UC Davis.
Juan Villa / The Collegian

In game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, Scheppers pitched seven shutout innings to go with 10 strikeouts and no walks, leading the Bulldogs to a 7-0 victory. He said his fastball, which was clocked around the low nineties by major league scouts in attendance, was his best pitch Saturday.

“The offense made it easy for me, they produced runs and I had [Danny] Grubb calling a good game,” said Scheppers, who is recovering from an injury to his rib cage.

After losing the first two games, Scheppers felt that he needed to give the Bulldogs a little something extra.

“We finally came out with a little more energy,” Scheppers said. “I kind of felt the first two games we were a little down, but we picked it back up.”

Batesole described Scheppers’ performance as outstanding and much needed.

“Scheppers, the way he pitched today, that’s what we’re hoping to get out of him,” Batesole said. “It was really encouraging.”

After poor offensive showings in the series’ first two games, the Bulldogs produced seven runs and 15 hits in game three, ignited by a three-run homer from shortstop Todd Sandell.

“It felt good because I was struggling at the plate,” Sandell said. “Things just take time and you got to tip your cap to UC Davis, they played a couple great games.”

Sandell said he and his teammates were pressing at the plate and weren’t relaxing.

Fresno State’s main problem offensively in games one and two was not being able to capitalize with runners in scoring position.

The Bulldogs did not play like the No. 18 team in the nation this weekend, but Sandell realizes that it is still too early to be discouraged

“I’ve been here for four years and it seems like we always start off slow,” Sandell said. “National rankings, all of that stuff – none of that matters right now. We’re just worried about where we’re going to be in June.”

The Bulldogs received stellar pitching efforts from Justin Wilson on Friday night and Clayton Allison in Saturday’s day game, but both received losses due to little offensive support.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Scheppers said. “A lot of freshmen getting used to the environment.”

The Bulldogs pulled off their second win Sunday afternoon with a score of 6-0, despite a two-hour rain delay.

After Saturday night’s offensive onslaught and Sunday’s six-run performance, the Bulldogs may have shaken off the rust.

“We’re a few weeks from everything shaking out,” Batesole said. “We’ll get there.”

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