In the eighth inning,
chants for Fresno State pitcher Ryan “Sully” Sullivan grew louder and louder on
opening night. UC Irvine second baseman Riley Kasper came up to plate and the
Anteaters had runners on second and third base — Jake Palmer and Jake Cosgrove.
Sullivan had already
thrown two strikes, and the crowd roared in unison, “Sully, Sully, Sully.”
Sullivan then gathered himself and threw a fastball to strike out Kasper,
leaving two runners on base and handing the Anteaters their third out.
The Fresno State
baseball team went on to beat the UC Irvine Anteaters 3-1 at Pete Beiden Field
From the start, it was a
battle between the two starting pitchers — Bulldogs’ Jaime Arias and Anteaters’
Trenton Denholm. Both pitchers were All-Americans last season, and both started
the game off strong.
Arias’ fastball hovered
around 89 mph, and he threw 12 strikes in the first two innings, giving up only
Bulldogs head coach Mike
Batesole said Arias was determined tonight.
“Jaime came out and beat
an All-American,” Batesole said. “I think he knew going in, that guy (Denholm)
was an All-American. Jaime was an All-American last year and wasn’t a preseason
All-American, so I’m pretty sure that was in his craw a little bit tonight.”
The Bulldogs’ outfield
was a big help for Arias as well. Right fielder Nate Thimjon made two big plays
in the second inning, catching a ball by the wall in right-center and sliding
for another one to end the half-inning.
The Anteaters countered
with strong pitching and fielding as well. Denholm retired the first hitter of
the night, E.J. Andrews Jr., and held the ‘Dogs to zero hits in the first two
Both pitchers threw
three scoreless innings to begin the game, but the momentum shifted by the
UC Irvine right fielder
Nathan Church hit a single up the middle for the Anteaters’ second hit of the
night. Church then stole second base and scored off a single to left field by
center fielder Mike Peabody.
Anteaters head coach Ben
Orloff said he was impressed by Church’s play on Friday.
“He’s a great player,”
Orloff said. “That was his first college game ever, so he’s going to be a
really good player for us.”
The Bulldogs battled
their hitting woes in the fourth inning and answered back. Thimjon, the leadoff
hitter, hit a solo home run along the left-field line to tie the game
After the Anteaters
finished the fifth inning scoreless, the ‘Dogs were in trouble on the plate
with two outs as second baseman Andrew Kachel stepped to the plate. Kachel then
hit a single right to Anteaters shortstop Taishi Nakawake for the Bulldogs’
second hit of the night.
Fresno State shortstop Jeff Jamison was next to bat, and he blasted a home run to the left-center field near the scoreboard giving the ‘Dogs a 3-1 lead — their first lead of the game.
In the sixth and seventh
inning, the Anteaters tried to capitalize on two consecutive errors by Fresno
State. Church hit a fly ball straight to Kachel, and he dropped the ball,
giving UC Irvine a runner on first.
Arias was able to make
up for that mistake, picking off Church at first base.
In the seventh inning,
Anteaters designated hitter Adrian Dalma stepped up to bat and hit a fly ball
right to Kachel. As the ball flew, Kachel waited, but dropped the ball once
again, and gave the Anteaters a runner on first.
The ‘Dogs recovered once
again as pitcher Nik Cardinal was able to get UC Irvine catcher Griffin Mazur
to strikeout. Anteaters first baseman Andre Antone was next to bat and hit a
ground ball up the middle right to Jamison.
Jamison then ran to second
and filled the ball to Fresno State first baseman Ivan Luna for a double play
to end the half-inning, sending Damla and Antone back to the dugout.
Despite the recovery,
Batesole said the team has to do better in the infield.
“We asked Jaime on a Friday night to get four outs twice. You’re not going to win a lot of Friday nights when you’ve got to get four outs twice,” Batesole said. “We were lucky to back that up with a pickoff and a double play. The timing of those was pretty good, but that’s not going to happen every Friday. We’re going to have to clean that up for sure.”
Anteaters had one last chance in the ninth inning with Peabody on third base.
Mazur was next to bat, and Bulldog pitcher Kevin Larson managed to strike him
after, Antone hit a fly ball out to center field, and Andrews Jr. caught it,
giving the Bulldogs the win.
got his first save of the season, and Batesole said he was ecstatic.
was the highlight of the game, seeing Larson come in and answering back after
his last outing (against Stanford in 2019),” Batesole said. “Good for him —
it’ll go a long way confidence-wise with what happened tonight.”
for the Anteaters, Orloff said the team missed out on a few key opportunities.
had a couple of opportunities where we didn’t score,” Orloff said. “I thought
they pitched really well especially out of the bullpen and got us in big spots
like Sullivan in the middle of the eighth.”
picked up his seventh career win for the Bulldogs. He had three strikeouts,
gave up three hits and one run in six innings.
pitched for 5.2 innings, had six strikeouts and two walks along with giving up
the game, the Bulldogs racked up only four hits, but Batesole said every game
against Denholm is tough.
you get a win off a kid like that, you’ve got to fight it out every pitch,”
Batesole said. “We really got three pretty good swings off of him. That’s how
good he was.”
State and UC Irvine will play two more games this weekend as part of a
three-game series at Pete Beiden Field. The second game of the series will
start on Saturday at 2:05 p.m.