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.

Batesole contemplating a bullpen shakeup after rough outings at Stanford

Fresno State Coach Mike Batesole played the percentages on Sunday, got the matchups out of the bullpen that he wanted. But his moves didn’t work out in a 7-4 baseball loss at Stanford, and very soon more freshmen could be seeing opportunities out of a struggling bullpen.

Mike Batesole relieves pitcher Garrett Mundell in a game last May at Beiden Field. Catcher Austin Wynns joins the meeting. (Fresno Bee photo by John Walker)

Up 3-2 into the sixth inning, Batesole pulled freshman starter Tim Borst with a runner at third base and one out, bringing in Tyler Stirewalt to face the right-handed hitting Alex Blandino. The Cardinal third baseman did not even have to get the bat off his shoulder before Stanford had tied the score – the first pitch from Stirewalt went to the backstop, the run scoring on the wild pitch.

Stirewalt went on to strike out Blandino, but then walked Lonnie Pauppila and Drew Jackson, each on five pitches, and with a left-handed hitter due up in Wayne Taylor, Batesole went to left-hander Tyler Linehan.

Linehan lost that matchup, giving up an RBI single, and the Cardinal had a lead.

Then in the eighth, after the Bulldogs had tied the score on a solo home run by Aaron Judge, the bullpen faltered again. Garrett Mundell gave up the go-ahead run on a one-out single to Jackson followed by a double down the left-field line by Taylor. Mundell got Brett Michael Doran for the second out of the inning and with another lefty due up in Danny Diekroeger, Batesole summoned left-hander Aaron Gilles.

Gilles lost that lefty-on-lefty matchup as well, Diekroeger drilling a two-run homer over the wall in right.

‘’You play the odds, you play the percentages, and nothing is foolproof in this game. You still have to go out and do it. Just because you bring in a lefty in to face a lefty doesn’t mean he’s out,’’ Batesole said.

In just 1 2/3 innings, the Bulldogs bullpen gave up four hits, four walks and four runs, all of them earned. That’s a lot of damage for only 53 pitches – Stirewalt threw 18, Linehan 16, Mundell 13 and Gilles six.

Fresno State has a freshman left-hander in the bullpen in Connor Chase, and the Bulldogs’ coach said Chase could start to get some of those situational opportunities. Chase has pitched in two games, working one inning and giving up one hit and no runs.

‘’You bet,’’ Batesole said. ‘’He’s got an appearance or two and he’s going to continue to get his chances. We have several freshmen that didn’t get in this weekend and that’s because those older guys have earned their chances as well and so they get the first chances and I think you’ll see more of those freshmen Tuesday (at Cal State Bakersfield) and beyond.’’