Late inning home run cost Bulldogs victory and series

Fresno State senior Zach Ashford attempts to get a hit during the Bulldogs’ 7-5 loss to San Jose State at Peter Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium on March 24, 2019. (Jose Romo Jr./The Collegian).

After a split of the first two games of a three-game series, the Fresno State baseball team welcomed the visiting San Jose Spartans to Pete Beiden Field to finish off a short homestand.

The Spartans proved to be rude guests as they took the rubber match against the ‘Dogs, 7-5 on the strength of a three-run ninth inning.

Fresno State, having already come back from a three-run deficit earlier in the game, found itself down again, this time in the eighth inning.

Down by a run, the ‘Dogs refused to go quietly into that good night. The pinch-hitting Ryan Huggins started the inning off in style, lining a double just inside the right-field foul line. Jeff Jameson was then sent in to pinch run for Huggins.

But there was still work to do.

Following a wild pick off throw from the Spartan pitcher to second base that allowed Jameson to advance to third, San Jose State intentionally walked the next hitter in sophomore first baseman Zach Presno, setting the inning up for outfielder Nate Thimjon.

Thimjon came through in the clutch for the ‘Dogs, successfully laying down a bunt to score Jameson and tie the game.

It wasn’t the first time that Thimjon came up big for his team in the contest.

The fourth inning saw the sophomore slug a monstrous homer to left field to score he and Ryan Dempsey, making the score 3-2, still with a lot of baseball left to play.

Thimjon said that he had a good feeling about what the pitcher was going to throw on the home run.

“It was a 3-2 count and I had fouled off a few fastballs and [the ball] came about belt-high, and I was just waiting for it and got the result I wanted,” Thimjon said. “I doubt he would throw anything else.”

Thimjon’s home run was his second in the team’s last four games. He finished the game going one for two with a run scored and two RBIs.

But the ‘Dogs were only up by one run at that point. It proved to be not enough in the ensuing inning.

The Spartans led off the ninth with a home run by Ryan Strahm off of ‘Dogs reliever Jaime Arias to deadlock the score at five.

San Jose State wasn’t done quite yet, though. With two outs and a runner on base, Arias just needed to sit down one more batter to get the ‘Dogs to the bottom of the inning with the score tied.

Instead, Troy Viola doubled to score catcher Johnny Mendoza giving the Spartans a 6-5 lead, followed immediately by a double from Richard Kabasinskas to score Viola.

Although Arias gave up the lead, ‘Dogs head coach Kevin Batesole was supportive of his pitcher.

“[Arias] has been great. He has pitched the toughest innings of the year, and he gets to keep doing that because I don’t bump guys out for giving up hits,” Batesole said.

The ‘Dogs now look to regroup as they face an extended stretch of road games. Fresno State plays its next 13 contests away from Pete Beiden field, including series against San Diego State, the University of Oregon and Air Force, along with single games against CSU Bakersfield on March 27 and Stanford on April 2 before returning home April 13 for a three-game series against Air Force.

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