SACRAMENTO – Fresno State chose a great time to pick up its first Western Athletic Conference (WAC) series win of the season.
The defending national champions swept the Sacramento State Hornets in a four-game series over the weekend at Hornet Field to improve their conference record to 12-12 and clinch the No. 3 seed in this week’s WAC Tournament in Hawaii.
The Bulldogs came into the series in last place, but leap-frogged Nevada and Hawaii in the standings. Fresno State has an identical conference record with New Mexico State, but since the Bulldogs won two games against conference champion San Jose State, the Bulldogs moved into third place.
After winning Thursday’s game 15-7 and Friday’s contest 4-3, Fresno State needed only one win to clinch a spot in the postseason tourney.
Game one of Saturday’s doubleheader provided a chance for Fresno State’s young talent to be part of the Wonderdogs legacy.
Freshmen outfielders Dusty Robinson and Brennan Gowens each hit home runs in the top of the ninth inning after the Bulldogs were down 8-6 going into the inning.
Robinson’s two-run blast over the left field wall tied the score at 8-8 and Gowens’ three-run roundtripper put the ‘Dogs up 11-8.
Senior right-hander Holden Sprague pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the win and secure the team’s birth in the tournament.
Sprague finished the weekend with two saves and a win.
Tom Mendonca did what he does best and brought the Bulldogs back from a 6-2 deficit. The junior third baseman hit a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning to tie the score at 6 apiece.
Although most of the dramatics happened on Saturday, the performance of freshman right-hander Derek Benny was nothing to forget.
After two consecutive bad outings, Benny regained form and put on a beautiful display in front of his friends and family from down the road in Roseville.
He pitched 7 1/3 innings, surrendering no earned runs to pick up the victory.
Benny (3-3) was consistently clocked in the mid-90s and struck out three batters to give the pitching staff a much-needed shot in the arm.
The Bulldogs finished out the sweep by winning the seven-inning game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, 7-6, thanks to homers from Isacc Vivas and Gavin Hedstrom.
Fresno State will face New Mexico State in the first game of the WAC Tournament on Wednesday at Les Murakami Stadium in Hawaii.
The Bulldogs split four games with the Aggies back in April at Pete Beiden Field. Coach Mike Batesole will likely send junior Matt Morse (3-2) to the mound in game one.
Morse pitched 7 1/3 innings against the Aggies back in April and only surrendered an earned run and struck out seven, but picked up a loss in the 2-0 final.
Check back at The Collegian Online for WAC Tournament results.