Fresno State baseball wins with final hit of the season

Bulldogs' pitcher Nikoh Mitchell throws a fastball against the Pacific Tigers at Pete Beiden Field on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Mitchell struck out six batters and gave up no hits in 2.2 innings pitched. (Vendila Yang/The Collegian)

After the Pacific Tigers tied the game, 6-6, in the top of the ninth inning with Alex LeForestier’s single with the bases loaded, it was Fresno State’s turn to answer. 

The Bulldogs’ Ryan Higgins reached base on a walk, but the Tigers converted a double play as pinch hitter Jake Gentry bunted right to the Tigers’ pitcher Keaton Glover, moving Higgins to third.

With the game still tied up, catcher Zach Presno approached the plate, swung and made contact at the first pitch he saw from Glover. 

Presno and the fans’ eyes followed the ball in the air to left field. It looked like it could be a foul ball, but it was a home run, and the Bulldogs defeated the Tigers, 7-6. 

Presno’s walk-off homer against the Tigers extended Fresno State’s win streak at Pete Beiden Field to seven. 

Before Presno’s walk-off, he was a combined 1-for-13 with 11 strikeouts against Arizona State and through eight innings against the Tigers. 

Presno wasn’t the only junior who made a huge impact for the Bulldogs.

Left-handed pitcher Nikoh Mitchell had come in to relieve teammate Kevin Larson in the fifth inning. Larson had struggled on the mound, giving up three runs on four hits in one inning pitched.

Mitchell couldn’t have picked a better time to have one of his best games. 

Mitchell struck out six of the eight batters he faced. 

Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole talked about Mitchell’s performance after the game. 

“He made some clutch pitches when we needed him in a tight ball game,” Batesole said. 

Mitchell pitched two scoreless innings, which allowed Fresno State to hold onto a 6-5 lead. 

He found the strike zone early in the count, and Batesole said, “When he does that, he can be tough with the two breaking balls.” 

Mitchell was having a dominant season, leading the Bulldogs’ mound staff with an impressive 0.73 ERA.

After both teams had put up one run in the first, the Bulldogs outscored the Tigers, 5-1, in the next three innings.

Higgins was a huge part of that run. Higgins had two double RBIs — one in the third and one in the fourth — scoring Jamison Hill both times. 

The ‘Dogs called upon redshirt junior Oscar Carvajal to close the game in the ninth. He put away the first two Tigers’ batters with strikeouts. 

The Tigers loaded the bases against Carvajal with two outs. LeForestier then singled and scored James McClenaghan to tie the game at six apiece.

 The Tigers battled back late. They had some clutch hitting, especially with two outs in the ninth. But ultimately it was Presno, who was supposed to be their third out to end the ninth, who delivered the knock-out blow. Pacific Tigers’ interim head coach Chris Rodriguez said he never thought about intentionally walking Presno, who leads the Dogs in home runs.

“No, I wanted him to earn getting on base,” Rodriguez said.

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