Fresno State used three of its best pitchers in Blake Quinn, Derick Velazquez and Jordan Brink in the opening game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, only to fall into the deep end of the bracket with a 12-inning loss to Nevada.
So on Thursday, in an elimination game against the Air Force, the Bulldogs needed a strong start from freshman Tim Borst, not only to win the game but to preserve some pitching for the remainder of the tournament.
With the help of some stellar defensive play, they got it. Borst went seven innings in the Bulldogs’ 6-4 victory over the Falcons, scattering 11 hits and allowing three runs – not bad considering the Falcons had 18 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position and left 12 runners on base when the freshman right-hander was in the game.
‘’That was huge,’’ Coach Mike Batesole said. ‘’He’s our toughest pitcher, and that’s why we picked him instead of some of the other choices we had. We had to have him. We knew with the short turnaround, being here late last night and getting here early this morning, that it probably was going to take our toughest guy to get through that and that’s what he is and that’s what he did.’’
With Borst taking seven innings out of the equation, the Bulldogs were able to keep some solid options for an elimination game on Friday against either San Diego State, Nevada or New Mexico. They are to play the lowest losing seed from games four and five in the tournament.
Left-hander Tyler Linehan remains on the board, as does freshman Jake Shull. Garrett Mundell and Will Munro have yet to pitch in the tournament. And Batesole said there is a possibility that Quinn and Velazquez, who threw 60 and 63 pitches, could come back to pitch.
‘’I’ll have to talk to (pitching coach Steve Rousey) and see,’’ he said. ‘’I don’t think Brink will be able to, but the other two guys he might be able to run enough (to loosen up). We can’t run Brink into the ground because he’s going to be playing. But the other guys we might be able to run some of it out of them and get them out a day early. I don’t know, we’ll see.’’
With the prospect of two games on Friday, pitching will be at a premium. And the Bulldogs have some after the outing by Borst, who had been working mostly out of the bullpen the past two months. The seven innings against Air Force was a season-high.
”You have to give Borst some credit,” Batesole said. ”I mean, that kid was out there throwing on Thursday and Saturday (against Nevada) and now back out here again and dumps in 120 pitches. That’s a pretty gutsy performance from a pretty tough little freshman.”