Fresno State junior Tyler Linehan appears to have reclaimed his form of last season and returned to his role as the Bulldogs’ ace and Friday night starter.
Despite coming into Friday night with an 0-3 record, a 9.82 ERA and more walks issued than strikeouts, Linehan found his touch and tossed a shutout to lead Fresno State to a 1-0 win against San Diego State in a Mountain West Conference opener.
Linehan struck out seven and scattered eight hits and two walks for his best outing by far for the season.
“Things happen for a reason,” Linehan said. “I just went back to last year starting, do your thing, just relax, and then getting that comfortable motion and get everything working. It worked tonight.”
Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole credited Linehan and pitching coach Steve Rousey for identifying a few flaws in his mechanics. Linehan’s windup was taking too long and needed to be quickened as he had been doing the previous two years.
“They made some nice adjustments,” Batesole said. “When a kid puts his heart into making adjustments, you got to let him run. You got to trust the players.”
Should Linehan pitch consistently at a top level, that should alleviate some of the troubles that the Bulldogs have had out of the bullpen.
Batesole based his decision to give Linehan his first start of the season off gut and after seeing Linehan throw three innings in relief against Cal and yield one run. Linehan pitched that game solely out of the stretch, while saving the windup motion for practices leading into Friday.
“He’s been close,” Batesole said. “The last three outings, he’s been really, really close. You could just feel it. You could just taste it. He was that far away.
“And he had a long bullpen. In Cal, he didn’t pitch out of the windup. He cleaned up some things with his arm. Then he had a nice long bullpen session with Rouse.”
Batesole, though, had hedged his bet to some degree and had two of his top pitchers in Will Munro (1-1, 1.96 REA) and Tim Borst (1-0, 3.74) in the bullpen had Linehan faltered early. Now, the two might start Saturday and Sunday against San Diego State.
Regardless of the starting rotation from here out, the Bulldogs can likely expect to see improvement from what’s been an erratic bullpen thus far with Linehan’s insertion to the Friday night starting bumping everyone down on the depth chart.