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.

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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Bulldogs’ Velazquez takes a step forward in loss at Stanford

If the focus were only on the starting pitching on Saturday, Fresno State likely would have been in much better shape against No. 15 Stanford. Instead, there were too many mistakes, missed opportunities, and, ultimately, a walk-off, three-run, pinch-hit home run in the 10th inning by Brett Michael Doran that sent the Cardinal out with a 7-4 victory at Sunken Diamond.

But Derick Velazquez, the transfer from Merced College, took a big step forward pitching his way through a game in which the Bulldogs made five errors in the field.

It started in the first inning, when second baseman Brody Russell fielded a routine ground ball and fired well wide of first base for an error, which led to an unearned run. Velazquez got out of that inning with a double play ground ball, with runners at first and second.

In the second inning, center fielder Aaron Judge mishandled a single up the middle, allowing Stanford runners to move up to second and third. But Velazquez escaped unscathed, retiring Cardinal leadoff hitter Drew Jackson on a ground ball.

In the fourth, Stanford put its leadoff hitter on base on an error by shortstop Chris Mariscal. In the fifth, Justin Ringo reached base on catcher’s interference, pushing a runner into scoring position. And in the eighth, Russell made a second error of the game on a wild throw trying to double up Dominic Jose – a poor decision, with little chance to complete the double play there.

Velazquez ended up giving up four runs, but only two were earned.

‘’That’s a gutsy performance. That’s a tough kid that can keep it together,’’ Coach Mike Batesole said. ‘’He had to get four outs a couple times against a really good team in a tough atmosphere, and down the line that’s going to play out for us.

‘’Unlike some of the other guys where, you know, we’ve talked about their heart is their No. 1 tool, he’s got a big heart, but he’s also got outstanding stuff and he came into his own a little bit today and controlled the zone a lot better than he did his first time out.’’

The sophomore right-hander also kept the Bulldogs’ streak of impressive starts working – five, in as many games.

Will Munro is 1-0 in his two starts with an ERA of 0.73. Velazquez is 0-1 in two starts with an ERA of 4.15. And Tim Borst, who will go to the mound on Sunday against the Cardinal, got a no-decision in his first start, throwing six scoreless innings against UC Santa Barbara.

The Fresno State starters have an ERA of 2.01.


Fresno State baseball notebook: Borst keeps starting pitching a surprising bright spot

Fresno State pitcher Tim Borst throws in the early innings against UC Santa Barbara at Beiden Field on Feb. 17, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Fresno State freshman Tim Borst took to the mound on Sunday to make his college debut, pitching the last of a three-game series against UC Santa Barbara, and the first two hitters that he faced might have given him reason wonder what exactly was going on.

The first batter he faced, Cameron Newell, hit a squirrely ground ball off the end of his bat that went for an infield single. The second batter, Peter Maris, then rifled a shot right through the middle, missing the Bulldogs’ young right-hander by maybe a few inches.

But Borst rallied from there, working backward and using the Gauchos aggressiveness at the plate against them, throwing his off-speed pitches when they were looking fastball and vice versa. He ended up working six scoreless innings in what became an 11-3 loss at Beiden Field, extending a nice run by the Bulldogs starters in a series they dropped two of three games.

“I thought we got two and a half good starts out of three this weekend and his was the best one,” coach Mike Batesole said. “We wanted to get him to about 75 pitches and I think he was over 80, at 81. You saw him just as the other two guys (Will Munro and Derick Velazeuez) did, right when they got to about 65 to 70 pitches, all of a sudden it wasn’t 91 (miles per hour) anymore it was 85.

“He was on fumes finishing it and emptied his tank for us and I was really proud of what he did, but the starting pitching was excellent all weekend.”

Starting pitching was as big a question as the Bulldogs had entering the season, but in their opening series the three they sent out there (Munro and Velazquez sophomores and Borst a freshman) pounded the strike zone, allowed only 14 hits in 17 innings while striking out 12 and posted an ERA of 2.12.

“The main thing was making quality pitches up there,” Borst said. “The coaching staff preaches simplicity, so even though they got the two base hits I was trying to make things simple on myself and go on from there. We’ve got a plan for this stuff. (Pitching coach Steve Rousey) talked to us before the game and told us when we get out there we just need to attack hitters and, like I said, just make things simple on yourself and go right after them.

“If they’re going to be real aggressive, we’re going to use that against them and try to come out on top.”

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