Trouble has been no trouble for Fresno State pitching staff at MW Tournament

Fresno State advanced to a second elimination game at the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Friday and third overall with a 10-1 victory over Nevada, a game which, by the Bulldogs’ standard to this point, was relatively tame.

Left-hander Tyler Linehan shut down the Wolf Pack on five hits, allowing only one run. He struck out eight. Nevada left six runners on base, which is quite a switch from the Bulldogs first two games in the tournament when Nevada stranded 15 runners in a 12-inning victory over Fresno State in the first-round on Wednesday and Air Force left 17 on base in an elimination game on Thursday.

Fresno State pitchers have left 38 runners on base in 30 innings, and allowed the Wolf Pack and Falcons only four hits in 34 at-bats with a runner in scoring position, a .118 batting average.

Bulldogs’ Judge, Mariscal and Quinn earn all-conference honors

Fresno State center fielder Aaron Judge, who is leading the Bulldogs in every major statistical category and is likely to be a first-round pick next month in the MLB first-year player draft, has been selected first-team All-Mountain West Conference.

Fresno State center fielder Aaron Judge was selected first-team All-Mountain West Conference. He leads the ‘Dogs with 11 home runs.

Sophomore shortstop Chris Mariscal and right-handed pitcher Blake Quinn were selected to the second-team, and Quinn shared freshman of the year honors with New Mexico’s Sam Haggerty.

Judge is hitting .373 going into the MW Tournament – the Bulldogs play Nevada on Wednesday at Beiden Field in the first round, the first-pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. He also leads the ‘Dogs with 72 hits including 15 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs and 35 RBI. He hit a home run last week against Nevada that traveled close to 500 feet, almost reaching the fence along Cedar Avenue.

Mariscal, a Clovis North graduate, is hitting .302 this season with 61 hits including 12 doubles and two home runs.

Quinn, who is starting against Nevada on Wednesday, has been one of the top pitchers in the conference over the past month-plus. The former Bullard High ace is 2-2 over his past six starts, but has allowed only 34 hits and nine earned runs over 35 2/3 innings. His ERA in those six games is 2.27.

Fresno State and its bullpen brace for a long weekend (five games in three days) against Air Force

The Fresno State Bulldogs have, at minimum, 41 innings to pitch over the next three days, which would be daunting even for the baseball teams ranked in the upper third in Division I in ERA.

The Bulldogs are not one of those teams – they 254th among 296 teams.

But there is a plan in place that might get them get through two doubleheaders against Air Force and then the series finale against the Falcons – because two games were snowed-out when they were scheduled to play last month at Colorado Springs, they get a seven-inning game followed by a nine-inning game on Friday and Saturday and nine more innings on Sunday.

The Bulldogs, coach Mike Batesole said, will use their starters in the first games of the doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday and hope that Derick Velazquez and Blake Quinn can get through most if not all of the seven-inning games to cut down on use of a struggling bullpen.

Left-hander Tyler Linehan will start the second game of the doubleheader on Friday, with the second game on Saturday to be determined. And on Sunday the Bulldogs will start Jordan Brink, who is coming off back-to-back big games – he allowed only six hits and two run (none earned) in six innings in beating UNLV and then allowed seven hits and three runs in a no-decision in a loss at New Mexico.

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Former Bullard High ace Blake Quinn provides some relief for ‘Dogs struggling bullpen

The first three weeks of the baseball season have been a struggle for the Fresno State Bulldogs’ bullpen, which is the home to more than a few bloated earned run averages. But on Sunday, in a 14-3 victory over USC at Beiden Field, it got a jolt from former Bullard High star Blake Quinn.

In his first appearance of the season, the freshman right-hander struck out five of the six batters that he faced working the eighth and ninth innings and Coach Mike Batesole said he could get a chance to move up into situations that have been a big problems in the ‘Dogs 3-7 start.

‘’He certainly took a step forward and we had a couple guys, let’s be honest, take a step backward,’’ Batesole said. ‘’When I sit down with (pitching coach Steve Rousey) to talk about the pitching for next weekend it’s very possible that some guys jumped up and some guys took a step back.’’

In striking out five of the six batters that he faced – two in the eighth and three in the ninth – Quinn in two innings now has more strikeouts than Garrett Mundell has in 5 1/3 innings (four) and almost as many as Tyler Linehan has in 6 2/3 innings and Aaron Gillis has in 4 2/3 innings (six).

Mundell on Sunday came in to pitch with one out in the sixth and runners at first and second, but with a 14-2 lead. Strikes would seem mandatory in that spot, but he walked the first batter that he faced, gave up a sacrifice fly and then hit a batter before getting out of the inning.

Luke Wiechec followed Mundell and gave up a hit and a walk while retiring just one batter.

The Bulldogs need sharper innings out of the bullpen as the ERAs will attest – Wiechec has a 13.50 ERA, Linehan is at 12.15, Tyler Stirewalt is at 10.80, Aaron Gillis is at 9.64, Connor Chase at 6.75, Mundell at 5.06 and Jake Shull at 4.50. The bullpen also has been tagged with five of the ‘Dogs seven losses.

‘’We’ve been waiting to get Quinn in there and the one benefit that Quinn had was some of these other young guys and tried to do too much, you’ve seen them all 92 (mph), 94, belt high, chest high, and Quinn has got to sit back and watch (Will) Munro and (Tim) Borst now … you’re still going to throw with your best velocity you can with a downward angle and with good location,’’ Batesole said.

‘’You get away from the downward angle and the location, you get ripped. I don’t care if you’re throwing 94, we’ve seen that happen to some of our guys. Instead of going out and learning that on his own, he’s had the ability to sit back and watch the other guy’s performances and learn. You saw him go out there today with good location – I’ve seen Quinn pump it in there at 92 or 93 and he wasn’t doing that today because he was throwing the ball downhill with good angle.’’

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Borst put together another solid start for the Bulldogs, allowing nine hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings. It was not without incident, but that is where he did some of his best work.

The freshman faced eight batters with a runner in scoring position and one or no outs in each of the first three innings and did not allow a run, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the third by getting Jake Hernandez to take a called third strike.

That was his only strikeout of the game, but it came at an opportune time.

‘’That when you’ve seen him and (Will Munro) at their best,’’ Batesole said. ‘’When they get in a little trouble you’ve seen them make some big pitches.’’

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The Bulldogs had a meeting, players only, after they lost the first game of the series against the Trojans on Friday night, their seventh loss in eight games to open the season. There was another with Batesole on Saturday morning, and they both seemingly have refocused this team.

‘’It’s just a matter of us all coming together and right now we’re really making an effort to come through with that. We have leaders on this team who are doing a great job of getting, especially us young guys together, and really getting to play the game, really buy into the system, and play the Fresno State Bulldog way,’’ said Borst, who picked up his first college win.

‘’We started playing as a team more instead of focusing on our own individual at-bats,’’ said Aaron Judge, who went 4 for 6 on Sunday with four RBI.

‘’We decided, you know what, just go out there and play as a team, have some fun out there. That’s really sparked us and has us going out there and playing baseball again.’’

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Center fielder Jordan Luplow, who left the game in the sixth inning after injuring his left shoulder, will have a MRI on Monday. The Bulldogs play San Jose State on Tuesday at Beiden Field, and Batesole said Judge likely would be in center field. ‘’You’ve seen Brody (Russell) play in the outfield, Judge has played center field obviously and done a great job and we also have (Taylor) Tempel, who went out there (Sunday), so we have some guys who can step up and take his place for a week or two hopefully,’’ Batesole said. … The 14-3 victory over the Trojans was the largest by the Bulldogs in a series that now spans 68 games. This is the first time the teams have played since 2003.