The last two seasons did not go according to plan for the Fresno State baseball team.
The Fresno State baseball team will begin its 2015 season on Feb. 13 against UC Irvine. (Katie Eleneke/Collegian file photo)
The rough stretch marked the only times the Bulldogs finished with a losing record under the leadership of head coach Mike Batesole.
But a new season has arrived, and the Bulldogs have reasons for optimism. Unlike the previous two seasons, the Bulldogs have an older roster.
“I like that we’re a lot older,” Batesole said. “Last year, we had a first-year guy at every position in the infield. Now we have everybody returning in the infield.”
Particularly on the mound, the Bulldogs come into this season with a lot more experience.
“Pitching is going to be the main thing,” Batesole said. “We’re not only old, but we’ve had some guys who had some success playing summer ball — quite a bit different than the last two years on the mound. That’s what wins — old teams coupled out with being old on the mound.”
In 2014, the Bulldogs struggled as they were unable to react quickly on defense. Batesole expects that to change this season.
“Last year, a lot of times we were chasing the ball during the game,” Batesole said. “If you’re thinking during the play, you’re in a lot of trouble. We’re in a position now where we have some experience, and they’ll be able to think it through before it even happens and react a lot better.”
Senior outfielder Taylor Tempel is one player that has grown from last season’s experience.
“The last few years, we haven’t lived up to expectations,” Tempel said. “But this year we have a chance to do some big things.”
Last year, Tempel registered three multi-hit games and one multi-RBI game. He owned a .196 season batting average, posted 15 runs and six RBIs with a fielding percentage of .979.
Pitcher Garrett Mundell should also play a key role in how far the Bulldogs go this season.
Although Mundell had a chance to play professionally after being drafted, he believed the Bulldogs have a special team this season, so he decided to return.
“We’re going to win some rings this year,” Mundell said. “But the biggest thing is that I want to stay with my boys one more year and get my degree.”
In 2014, Mundell appeared in a team-high 29 games, 26 in relief and three starts. He set the No. 7 all-time Fresno State single-season mark for lowest ERA with 1.58 in 45.2 innings pitched. He also set a career-high for most wins in a season with a 4-0 record.
The Bulldogs will open the season with three games at home against UC Irvine on Feb. 13. They will then host Cal Poly for one game before going on the road for a three-game series against Nevada in Reno.
“The schedule is going to be really tough, but we’re up for the challenge,” Tempel said. “We went to Irvine last year and won two out of three, so that gives us a lot of confidence going into this first series against them. It’s going to be good having the home crowd behind us when we play them.”