In tough season, left-hander Tyler Linehan keeps Fresno State alive in MW Tournament

It has been a rough year for Tyler Linehan, the Fresno State Bulldogs’ left-hander. Any good outing was followed by a bad one, and there were far more of those through February, March and April. He couldn’t gain any traction, struggling with his mechanics and to find the strike zone – he walked 22 batters and hit six others in his first 34 1/3 innings, his ERA at that point 8.39.

Fresno State left-hander Tyler Linehan

But the Bulldogs’ junior made two solid starts at the end of the regular season, throwing three scoreless innings in a victory over Hawaii on May 7 and four scoreless innings in a win over Nevada on May 16, kindling the thought he could contribute come the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

That, he said after that victory over the Wolf Pack, would be awesome. For the Bulldogs, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, he did and it was, Linehan building on his late-season run on Friday by taking out Nevada 10-1 in an elimination game at Beiden Field and carrying the ‘Dogs into another must-win game at 3 p.m. against San Diego State, the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

‘’The beginning of the season was tough, a really slow start, not doing what you want to do and stuff,’’ said Linehan, who allowed only five hits and one run while striking out a season-high eight batters in his complete game victory. ‘’But working with (pitching coach Steve Rousey), he’s a great coach, working things throughout the year he stuck with me. We fixed some things the last couple weeks and just got it rolling and got momentum and got confidence going out there.’’

Linehan was sharp from the start, retiring the first eight batters he faced before a two-out walk in the third. He was getting ahead of the Wolf Pack hitters and pounding the strike zone – 16 of his first 20 and 24 of his first 34 pitches were for strikes.

He gave up only that single run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Hugo Hernandez. And, while in tight at that point, the Bulldogs ended up putting the game away with four runs in the bottom of that inning, three coming on a home run by left fielder Brody Russell.

Fresno State (23-32) added five more in the bottom of the eighth, including a three-run home run by leadoff hitter Jordan Luplow.