DeRuyter summer tour to begin

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter will begin his summer stops throughout the Valley, starting Monday in Visalia.

DeRuyter will hold five meet-and-greet events and discuss some of the goals and expectations going into this season. The Bulldogs, who won a share of the Mountain West title last season in DeRuyter’s first season, will aim for an outright championship this coming year and perhaps grander goals there after.

Each stop is open to the public and fans are welcome to stop by, and get autographs and take photos.

Here are DeRuyter’s scheduled stops while he visits the Valley:

Monday (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) — Lunch Meet and Greet at The Planing Mill – Artesian Pizzeria in downtown Visalia
Tuesday (4-6 p.m.) — Afternoon Meet and Greet at the Firestone Walker Taproom in Paso Robles
Wednesday (4-6 p.m.) – Me-n-Ed’s Meet and Greet in Bakersfield (9000 Ming Ave)
Friday (9-11 a.m.) — Morning Meet and Greet at Madera Auto Center

Friday, (3-6 p.m.) Buffalo Wild Wings Meet and Greet in Fresno

For more information about each stop, contact (559) 278-DOGS.

Friday (4-6 p.m.) – Buffalo Wild Wings Meet and Greet in Fresno – Happy Hour

Salazar has predraft workout with Braves, Giants next

Kerman High pitcher Carlos Salazar flew across country and back all within a 24-hour span to throw 24 pitches before the Atlanta Braves brain trust.

Salazar, a potential first or second-round pick for next week’s MLB Amateur Draft, was among 20 to 25 players who were invited to Atlanta for a pre-draft workout with the Braves on Tuesday morning.

Salazar’s fastball registered as fast as 93 mph, though he’s thrown as fast as 98 during the season, according to Lions coach Jay Preuss.

The Braves have taken a keen interest in Salazar all year, following him throughout his senior season with as many as three scouts.

“They said they really liked what they saw,” said Preuss, who also flew to Atlanta for Salazar’s workout. Unlike Salazar, though, Preuss’ trip was not paid for by the Braves.

“It was about 6 in the morning California time when he was throwing for them, so he wasn’t at his very best; he wasn’t as alert as he’d usually be,” Preuss added. “I spoke to their West Coast cross checker, talked to the assistant GM. They’re very interested in Carlos.”

The Braves aren’t the only ones.

Salazar, who signed with Fresno State, is scheduled to next pitch before San Francisco Giants personnel at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Park.

The Milwaukee Brewers also offered to fly out Salazar for a pre-draft workout, but he declined since it conflicted with Kerman’s graduation Thursday.

Nonetheless, Salazar appears to be leaning heavily on going pro and bypassing college baseball.

“They’ll wait till they have to make that decision sometime after the draft,” Preuss said. “If he’s drafted in the first day, I don’t think he’ll be a Bulldog.”

Salazar finished this past season at 10-2 with a 0.09 ERA and struck out 147 in 44 1/3 innings. He was named the Gatorade State Player of the Year for baseball on Tuesday.

Pebley a finalist at San Diego State?

Women’s basketball coach Raegan Pebley might be ready to leave to Fresno State after one season.

Pebley is a finalist for the San Diego State job, according to a report by KGPE (CBS 47) that cites unnamed sources.

Raegan Pebley speaks to the media after helping Fresno State reach the NCAA Tournament in her first season with the Bulldogs.

Though she guided Fresno State to a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and a 24-9 overall record, Pebley hardly endured a stress-free season as players initially were hesitant to the change of coaches and systems, and a portion of Bulldogs fans kept yearning for the return of former coach Adrian Wiggins.

Still, Pebley helped Fresno State finish second to San Diego State in the Mountain West regular-season standings, then upset the Aztecs in the conference tournament championship to secure an NCAA Tournament automatic bid. A 15th-seeded Fresno State team challenged second-seeded Cal, an eventual Final Four team, for a while before falling 90-76 in the first round.

A few weeks after the season, top player Ki-Ki Moore said she was transferring to Pacific for her senior season despite a news release from Fresno State just prior to the regular-season finale that stated she was ending her basketball career because of injuries.

Pebley said she was disappointed that Moore wasn’t finishing her career at Fresno State but said she was not surprised.

The San Diego State job became open after coach Beth Burns unexpectedly retired in April following her 16th season with the Aztecs.

San Diego State finished 27-7 last season and had an RPI that ranked 49th in the country, but was surprisingly left out of the NCAA Tournament following its upset to Fresno State in the conference championship. The Aztecs went on to play in the WNIT and were eliminated in the second round.

Pebley, 37, signed a five-year contract in April 2012 that was to pay her among the top half of Mountain West coaches, athletic director Thomas Boeh said upon hiring her from Utah State. Pebley’s exact salary at Fresno State was not immediately known Friday evening.

Before coming to Fresno State, Pebley was the winningest coach in Utah State history despite a 110-155 overall record. But her efforts were most notable in resurrecting an Aggies women’s basketball program that had been defunct for 16 years.

Pebley also was a standout player at Colorado and played in the WNBA.

 

Want the Grizzlies’ replica Giants World Series ring? Get in line — now

Want a San Francisco Giants World Series ring?

Better get in line.

Like sometime Friday would’ve worked, for good measures.

Fans started showing up as soon as 11 a.m. Friday to wait outside of Chukchansi Park for the replica World Series rings that the Fresno Grizzlies will give away before Saturday’s game against the Tucson Padres. General admission gates open at 6:05 p.m.

Only 2,500 fans (who aren’t season-ticket holders) will receive a ring, which means you’ll need to be among the first 625 fans to enter among the four gate entrances (one entrance along Fulton Mall and three entrances basically along H Street), if each gates receives an equal amount of ring giveaways.

And if past Grizzlies’ promotions serve as any indication, it’s going to be a wild atmosphere before the game as people wrap around Chukchansi Park to get into the ballpark and try to get the limited-edition ring. Fresno does love its freebies, ya know.

Saturday’s giveaway is the same replica ring that the San Francisco Giants gave out to 40,000 fans at AT&T Park during their World Series rings ceremony earlier this month. A quick glance on ebay showed rings selling for roughly $100, with bidding still going on.

“Oh, I’m keeping mine,” said Lemoore resident Jimmy Robbins, who along with wife Patty was the first in line for the ring. “Probably going to wear mine a few times.

“To camp out for something like this, I’ve never done it before. But it’s that important. I love the Giants. Been a Giants fan forever. Everybody and their brother is going to be here for this. We wanted to make sure we got one.”

And don’t try to show up at the gate with five tickets and try to get five rings all for yourself. The Grizzlies front office has made it clear that it’s one ring per person who is present with a ticket — not one ring per ticket.

Fewer than 1,000 tickets remained as of Friday evening.

There was a line of about 30 people along H Street on Friday.

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Ex-Fresno State star Tanner Scheppers in line to shine in MLB?

Former Fresno State star pitcher Tanner Scheppers finally is starting to make a significant impact in the major leagues — to a point that fantasy baseball owners might want to take notice.

Scheppers appears to have earned the trust of Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington and is being used in a setup role for closer Joe Nathan, often entering in critical situations.

Given the responsibility to pitch late in games and often to hold onto leads or mantain ties, Scheppers is 2 for 2 so far this season in successful appearances, and his teammates have responded offensively each time he has taken the mound.

Scheppers pitched a perfect eighth inning and notched one strikeout while the Rangers were tied 2-2 with the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Then the Rangers scored a run during the bottom of the eighth to put Scheppers in position for the win. With the Rangers ahead 3-2 going into the ninth, Nathan got the ball and locked up the game to give Scheppers a win.

In Scheppers’ first appearance of the year on Wednesday, the 6-foot-4 righty came out of the bullpen with two outs in the seventh inning, with the Rangers up 1-0 but the tying run on second base for the Houston Astros.

Scheppers induced a pop up to end the threat. Then the Rangers responded with a three-run eighth to give Scheppers a 4-0 lead when he went back on the mound. He got one more out then gave up a single before he was replaced for Michael Kirkman. Nonetheless, Scheppers was awarded a hold (a stat given to relievers essentially for maintaining close leads).

Why get so excited about two measly appearances? It’s important to note the situations that Washington has used Scheppers in so far — two pressurized moments. And with Scheppers being used in a setup role, that could eventually mean he’s in line to become a closer should he continue to perform well.

Nathan, after all, is 38-years old. And Neftali Feliz, the Rangers closer in 2011, won’t be returning any time soon after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, which has landed him on the 60-day disabled.

So should anything happen to Nathan, Scheppers’ biggest competition to become the Rangers closer would be righty Jason Frasor, who was the Toronto Blue Jays closer for a brief stretch in 2009, and lefty Robbie Ross, who likely would be reserved for lefty-vs.-lefty situations.

Fresno State’s Linehan finds his form. An ace again?

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.

Left-hander Tyler Linehan re-discovered his mechanics against San Diego State and threw a shutout in a 1-0 win.

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.”

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Mountain West deal with ESPN should get Fresno State more exposure and money

Expect some Fresno State football games back on ESPN. Maybe a few Fresno State men’s basketball games on ESPN as well.

The Mountain West Conference and ESPN are finalizing a seven-year media rights deal for the sports network to televise up to 22 football games, as well as 25 men’s basketball games annually, according to ESPN.com

Fresno State fans can expect some Bulldogs football games to be televised on an ESPN channel again, most likely games against Boise State.

And that means more potential exposure and money for Fresno State.

The deal with ESPN brings the Mountain West’s media rights deal up to $116 million through 2019-2020, roughly $18 million per year. The conference still is negotiating the rights to the Mountain West championship football game, which would generate more revenue.

Fresno State had played some of its football games on ESPN’s stable of channels while the school was in the Western Athletic Conference.

But that type of national exposure went away at the start of this current school year when Fresno State joined the Mountain West. Since the Mountain West didn’t have any agreement with ESPN or ABC, most of its top football games were televised on the NBC Sports Network.

There appears to be some caveats with the pending deal, however, and it favors Boise State more than any other program in the conference. That was to be expected as part of the Boise State’s agreement to stay in the Mountain West rather than join the Big East in football.

Of the 22 football games to be televised on ESPN, all six of Boise State’s home games will be included, and much of the monies with the ESPN deal are tied to games involving the Broncos.

At the least, Fresno State fans can anticipate the football game against Boise State to shown on an ESPN network, based on past history. Each time the Bulldogs and Broncos faced each other while in the WAC, ESPN televised the game.

But the return to ESPN also will likely mean playing games on non-Saturdays again as Fresno State often did at the network’s request while in the WAC.

Fresno State’s schedule last season was the first time in more than 10 years that the Bulldogs played all of their regular-season games on Saturdays.

CBS and CBS Sports Network remains the primary holder for Mountain West games and still gets first pick of the best games.

WR Dean returns from injury, back for spring camp

Derek Carr wasn’t fully paying attention to who he was throwing to during one drill, simply knowing he was supposed to hit his receivers who were striding downfield with a deepball pass.

But upon launching one 30-yard pass into the endzone and seeing a set of long arms reach up to make the catch, Carr realized one of his throws had gone to Victor Dean.

Victor Dean, one of Fresno State’s favorite redzone targets, is back from a broken femur.

“I couldn’t believe that,” Carr said. “I saw him running a route. It blows my mind the things they can do now. He breaks his femur and he’s back in spring football. To be able to see that gives me a lot of comfort. I know he’s excited.”

Dean, who suffered the broken femur bone on Nov. 3, is expected to be fully healed and maybe even in top form by the start fall camp starts in August. For now, Dean will sit out contact drills as a precaution during spring practices.

But the fact that Dean already was running near full speed and participating in noncontact drills Monday was a strong sign that he should be able to build on his performance last season.

The 6-foot-6 Dean was just finally getting more involved in the gameplan, even featured on some plays and considered the primary target, around the midpoint of last season.

He caught 30 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns.

But then Dean went down during Fresno State’s 45-10 win against Hawaii during the Bulldogs’ third-to-last regular season game, going up to catch a pass in the endzone but instead breaking his femur after an awkward landing.

The injury caused Dean to lose much of the weight he initially gained last season. He lost 20 pounds and returned close to the weight he had as a true freshman at 205 pounds.

He’s currently at 208 pounds but would like to play at 225 pounds to provide more protection on is long body and help absorb hits.

“For the most part, I don’t think I surprised myself at all,” Dean said. “Obviously, you never really know when you’re going to come back from that type of thing. Once you start running, it gives you a lot of confidence to get back to where you were.

“There’s been a lot of support from a lot of people. That’s the main thing that pushed me this offseason to get back quickly. I’m just happy to be back. I feel pretty good.”

Dean had to have two incisions, one at his hip and the other on his knee, to help repair his femur. He said he still feels a little pain from time to time on his hip, but other than that, feels fully recovered.

“For the most part, athletically, everything is falling into place pretty good,” Dean said. “Condition wise, I feel good. There were a couple of times I had to accelerate to the ball and it just happened normally. That gives me more confidence to keep running hard.”

Dead added that though he’ll sit out the contact drills, he plans to test and push his body as much as he can during noncontact drills and stay focused in the classroom when the team is learning plays and concepts.

“For the most part, the spring is a lot of learning and strengthening myself again,” Dean said. “But I think this spring is going to be more of a mental thing for me. We have some new things coming into the system.

“The biggest thing for me is to get back to where we had our offense before, get back to where I was before, and kind of try to add that to whatever new things we have coming.”

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