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’ Jordan Brink earns second MW pitcher of the week award

Fresno State sophomore Jordan Brink has been selected as the Mountain West Conference pitcher of the week after firing six innings of one-hit, one-run ball in the Bulldogs’ 2-1 victory over Nevada in 10 innings on Thursday, the first of what turned out to be a three-game sweep.

Brink, a Central High grad, entered the game in the fifth inning, after left-hander Tyler Linehan had opened with four scoreless innings. He struck out eight batters, three coming in the ninth inning. It is his second pitcher of the week honor this season – the first came following a 5-3 victory over Air Force in which he struck out a career-high 12 batters.

Fresno State opens the MW Tournament against Nevada on Wednesday at Beiden Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

 

Bulldogs go slugging the night away in sweep of Air Force

Jordan Brink had three triples for the Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday in a doubleheader sweep of the Air Force, going 5 for 6, driving in four runs and scoring two more. Austin Wynns, Chris Mariscal and Jordan Luplow all had four hits over the two games, while Jake Alvarez, Taylor Tempel and Aaron Judge had three.

Included in the three hits by Judge was a towering two-run homer in the second game, an 8-5 victory.

Add it all up, and the Bulldogs hit .418 in the two games and had a slugging percentage of .642 – total bases into at-bats. That is a bit higher than it has been as they have scuffled their way through the first 34 games of the season. Coming in, the ‘Dogs slugging percentage was .420.

 

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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With losses adding up, Batesole changes plans for use of Jordan Brink out of bullpen

The plan for Fresno State Coach Mike Batesole and pitching coach Steve Rousey was to start right-hander Jordan Brink on Tuesday at home against San Jose State, and again next week in a four-game series at Cal.

Sunday, when the Bulldogs will be playing USC at Beiden Field, was down on the schedule as a bullpen session for Brink, a side session. But needing wins and to straighten out a struggling bullpen, if a game-situation presents itself that day against the Trojans, Batesole said Brink would do that throwing when it counts.

‘’If that spot happens to come up where there’s a three-out or a six-out opportunity, we’ve got to get this going in the right direction, I think we’ll run him out there,’’ Batesole said. ‘’(Rousey) and I talked about that, and if it doesn’t come up then it will probably be a bullpen start on Tuesday. But we’re going to do whatever it takes to win this weekend, and if that means getting him to the bullpen a week or more earlier than we expected, then that might be what it means.’’

There is no telling if the Bulldogs will get that shot with Brink, which is one of the problems in developing closer or setup roles in college baseball.

‘’It’s not like the big leagues where you play every day or you play 13 of 14 days and there is going to be some close situations in there,’’ Batesole. ‘’You might go two weekends in a row without a save situation and then one of your best arms hasn’t pitched in two weeks … what the heck are you doing?

‘’It’s always a toss-up whether you’re going to put somebody in that closer role or not because what we’ve done the last two weekends is, one of our best four arms hasn’t pitched on the weekend and, as you know, we’ve run into some situations where we certainly could have used him.’’

Fresno State, at 1-6, has had five losses pinned on the bullpen. Freshman Tim Borst left his first start, against UC Santa Barbara, with a 2-0 lead after six innings and the ‘Dogs lost 11-3. In all three games at Stanford, the losing pitcher came out of the bullpen. And on Tuesday at Cal State Bakersfield, Brink left in the fifth with a 3-1 lead, the bullpen allowed an inherited runner and another runner to score to tie it and the Roadrunners won it with a run in the eighth.

‘’Every game that we’ve lost, they’ve had at least a three-run inning (against the bullpen). Well, what if you had run Brink out there? Would it have happened? Who knows?” Batesole said. ”But that’s kind of where we’re at right now. Sunday, is that situation comes up, we’re going to go ahead and run him out there.

‘’But, it may not. I mean, flip a coin whether it’s going to happen. Who knows if that’s going to be a save situation or not?’’

 

Bulldogs’ baseball notebook: Nerves set aside, Munro takes step forward

William Munro had known for a couple of days that he would make the start on Friday, when the Fresno State Bulldogs opened the season against UC Santa Barbara, and by the time he made it out to the mound the butterflies had plenty of time to go from larva to pupa to sprouting some really big wings.

Nervous? Yes, Munro, a sophomore who had logged just 32 career innings for the ‘Dogs, was nervous. ”Lots,” he said.

But he got some comforting words from catcher Austin Wynns and first baseman Trent Garrison, the only two seniors on the team, in the dugout right before going out and throwing five scoreless innings in the Bulldogs’ 8-1 victory at Beiden Field.

‘’What really calmed me down was the fact that Wynns and Trent were both nervous and they told me that after the anthem,’’ Munro said. ‘’It was good to know I wasn’t the only one. But, definitely having Wynns back behind the plate definitely helps – there’s nothing to worry about, so there’s no reason to be nervous. That calmed me down right away.’’

Munro had command of his pitches from the start, throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of the Gauchos’ hitters. He got through the first two innings easily enough and when facing a mild challenge in the third with a runner at third and one out, working with a 2-0 lead, he struck out Cameron Newell looking and Parker Miles swinging. Newell is the Gauchos’ leadoff hitter.

Then in the fourth, UCSB loaded the bases with two one-out walks and a sharp single to right. But Munro got Robby Nesovic to line into a double play to shortstop Chris Mariscal.

‘’Big stepping stone for him,’’ Wynns said. ‘’He’s going to do better next time. That’s the process – everyone has to keep getting better and better.

‘’He got that first-pitch strike and worked from there. He kept them off balance with his off-speed stuff. He did a great job. (Pitching coach Steve Rousey) did a great job calling the game.’’

 

BATESOLE ON MUNRO

Coach Mike Batesole on Munro: ‘’He’s grown up. How many guys play varsity baseball in high school when they are freshmen? Very few. That’s the same thing here. When a freshman is playing and playing a lot, that’s a rare talent. He got his chances last year, I think he had 30-some innings, and he handled them like a freshman. Now he’s not a freshman anymore and he’s doing what we expected him to do.

‘’He’s one of the best pitchers in San Diego high school history and so when we signed him we expected him sophomore and junior year to be a weekend starter and then probably away he goes after that. For one night, he’s right on schedule.’’

 

JUDGE OFF TO SLOW START

Aaron Judge, the Bulldogs’ preseason All-American, had a rough start to the season. He went 0 for 5, taking a called third strike with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning and another called third strike in his next at-bat with one out and a runner at second base. He also struck out in the eighth with a runner on base.

Judge did not strike out three times in a game all last season.

 

LESSONS LEARNED

There was a point midway through last season that the Fresno State hitters couldn’t work a count, were going down meekly in a lot of at-bats, swinging at first pitches in and out of the strike zone.

There were some hard-learned lessons there, which paid off when the Bulldogs pulled things together in May and made a run through the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament.

And they carried over, the Bulldogs taking some very good at-bats against UC Santa Barbara left-hander Andrew Vasquez and right-hander Jared Wilson, a fifth-year senior.

Sophomore left fielder Jordan Brink went 0 for2 but had some of the best, reaching base twice on walks, and in his four plate appearances saw 27 pitches, 6.8 per.

His first two plate appearances were against Alvarez, a lefty-on lefty matchup.

‘’We went through a lot of pain and suffering last February and March,’’ Batesole said. ‘’Those freshmen were fighting their way through it and the last four or five weeks of the season they played very well. But at the beginning, you remember the struggles they went through.

‘’That’s why we let them do it. That’s why Brink played against all those left-hander last year, so when he’s a sophomore and junior he can handle it. That’s called growing pains, right?’’