The Fresno State baseball team suffered its third loss of the 2019 season Sunday against UNLV in the ‘Dogs’ second game of their Mountain West opening series by a score of 7-3.
The game was a continuation from Saturday when the contest was postponed due to a rain delay.
A perfect storm of early UNLV offense and the ‘Dogs’ struggles with their own bats caused Fresno State to fall into a hole they could not dig their way out of.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two out, bases loaded walk by second baseman Nolan Dempsey, the ‘Dogs were unable to hold the lead in the top of the third.
‘Dogs pitcher Nikoh Mitchell, who entered the game with an ERA of 4.82, worked a clean 1-2-3 inning to start the game Saturday and followed that with a scoreless second frame on Sunday.
But the Rebels flexed their offensive muscle in the third. Mitchell loaded the bases, only to allow freshman second baseman Edarian Williams to launch a no-doubt grand slam to left field and the Rebels suddenly had a 4-1 lead with one swing of the bat.
Mitchell was able to limit the damage to four runs over the four innings that he pitched.
Bulldogs coach Kevin Batesole said he was proud of the way Mitchell battled through adversity.
“I saw a kid that was extremely tough and took one for the team,” he said. “He had his best fastball last night… and threw a shutout inning. You have to give him a lot of credit for taking the ball and going out there for the team.”
The problem was the ‘Dogs couldn’t get their own offense in gear. That is, until the eighth inning.
Freshman outfielder EJ Andrews Jr. started the rally with a leadoff walk, which senior outfielder Zach Ashford followed up by reaching on an error by UNLV’s Williams.
After a passed ball allowed both runners to advance 90 feet, catcher Carter Bins and shortstop JT Arruda both made non-productive outs, leaving it up to third baseman McCarthy Tatum to salvage something from the inning.
Luckily for the ‘Dogs, Tatum came through with a one-hop, sharply-hit ground ball to third base that was mishandled, allowing Tatum to reach first and Andrews Jr. to score.
Still, Fresno State trailed by two when pinch hitter Ryan Higgins singled to center field to score Ashford.
The ‘Dogs were unable to muster anymore runs in the frame, but they still had hope that they could complete the comeback.
UNLV added some insurance runs in the form of a pair of two-out, RBI base hits to push the lead to four, and the ‘Dogs couldn’t answer in the bottom of the inning.
Batesole said that he thinks his pitchers didn’t attack the strike zone enough, which made it more difficult to navigate through a potent UNLV lineup.
“We need to do a better job of staying out of three-ball counts, which we have been fantastic with all year,” Batesole said. “You get good hitters like that in three-ball counts, you’re going to walk some guys and they are going to get more hits.”