Wynns was on the field for about 90 seconds, not nine innings, but still had big impact for Bulldogs

A year ago at tournament time, when Fresno State was making its way through the bottom half of the bracket to emerge as champions of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, Austin Wynns caught every inning of every game, 58 in all including 18 over two games in one day, in temperatures that hit a high of 101 degrees in the opening game against Hawaii.

Fresno State catcher Austin Wynns

Coach Mike Batesole thought better of that on Thursday, when the Bulldogs faced an elimination game against Air Force in the Mountain West Conference Tournament at Beiden Field.

Wynns, a senior, didn’t start. But he kept pestering Batesole to get onto the field and he ended up playing a huge role in the Bulldogs’ 6-4 victory that kept them alive for a chance to extend their streak of conference titles, either regular season or tournament, to eight.

Coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, after the Falcons had closed to within one run in the top half, Wynns punched a 1-0 pitch into right for a two-run single to give Fresno State and its bullpen a bit of a cushion to get through the eighth and ninth innings.

‘’He was nudging me all day to get in there and he wanted to start and catch today,’’ Batesole said. ‘’But I was thinking there’s a chance if we’re going to get through this he’s going to have to catch five (games) in three days so we tried to get him a little break and good for him for coming in and doing what a senior is supposed to do.’’

When it comes to pitching, Bulldogs’ freshman Tim Borst got a win in victory over Air Force … and a save

Fresno State used three of its best pitchers in Blake Quinn, Derick Velazquez and Jordan Brink in the opening game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, only to fall into the deep end of the bracket with a 12-inning loss to Nevada.

So on Thursday, in an elimination game against the Air Force, the Bulldogs needed a strong start from freshman Tim Borst, not only to win the game but to preserve some pitching for the remainder of the tournament.

Fresno State freshman Tim Borst

With the help of some stellar defensive play, they got it. Borst went seven innings in the Bulldogs’ 6-4 victory over the Falcons, scattering 11 hits and allowing three runs – not bad considering the Falcons had 18 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position and left 12 runners on base when the freshman right-hander was in the game.

‘’That was huge,’’ Coach Mike Batesole said. ‘’He’s our toughest pitcher, and that’s why we picked him instead of some of the other choices we had. We had to have him. We knew with the short turnaround, being here late last night and getting here early this morning, that it probably was going to take our toughest guy to get through that and that’s what he is and that’s what he did.’’

With Borst taking seven innings out of the equation, the Bulldogs were able to keep some solid options for an elimination game on Friday against either San Diego State, Nevada or New Mexico. They are to play the lowest losing seed from games four and five in the tournament.

Left-hander Tyler Linehan remains on the board, as does freshman Jake Shull. Garrett Mundell and Will Munro have yet to pitch in the tournament. And Batesole said there is a possibility that Quinn and Velazquez, who threw 60 and 63 pitches, could come back to pitch.

‘’I’ll have to talk to (pitching coach Steve Rousey) and see,’’ he said. ‘’I don’t think Brink will be able to, but the other two guys he might be able to run enough (to loosen up). We can’t run Brink into the ground because he’s going to be playing. But the other guys we might be able to run some of it out of them and get them out a day early. I don’t know, we’ll see.’’

With the prospect of two games on Friday, pitching will be at a premium. And the Bulldogs have some after the outing by Borst, who had been working mostly out of the bullpen the past two months. The seven innings against Air Force was a season-high.

”You have to give Borst some credit,” Batesole said. ”I mean, that kid was out there throwing on Thursday and Saturday (against Nevada) and now back out here again and dumps in 120 pitches. That’s a pretty gutsy performance from a pretty tough little freshman.”

 

Two in a row bodes well for the Bulldogs’ Tyler Linehan going into MW Tournament

Fresno State left-hander Tyler Linehan has now done it back to back, put together solid outings in a May 7 victory over Hawaii and on Thursday in a 2-1 win over Nevada, and that might just mean that he is in fact … well, back.

Tyler Linehan

The Bulldogs’ most experienced pitcher has had a rough year, but through it there have been some solid outings including a 1-0 victory over San Diego State on March 15 in which he allowed eight hits while striking out seven batters, a season-high. Until Thursday, when he worked four scoreless innings against the Wolf Pack, he had not put together two solid games in a row.

He worked a scoreless inning out of the bullpen against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 15, then two days later gave ups six hits and seven runs (three earned) while recording just two outs against the Gauchos.

He was not scored upon in a short (two-thirds of an inning) stint on Feb. 24 at Stanford, then gave up nine hits and six runs (four earned) in a March 1 loss to USC.

He had another short appearance against Cal on March 7, retiring one batter without giving up a run, then two days later gave up three hits and one run in a loss to the Golden Bears.

Then there was that complete game shutout victory over the Aztecs. The next time Linehan went to the mound, he gave up 13 hits and 12 runs (eight earned) in just 4 1/3 innings of a loss at Air Force.

It has been that way all year. But a mechanical adjustment has him throwing strike one much more consistently, and for Linehan that is hugely important.

‘’Strike one,’’ Coach Mike Batesole said. ‘’What was it, 13 out of 15 or something like that today? That’s his whole deal. When it’s 0-1, it’s a different game. When it’s 1-0, it’s a completely different game. Why that’s a bigger factor with him than it is with some other guys, I don’t know, but it is.’’

Linehan did have to work to set down some of the Wolf Pack batters – he threw 72 pitches in his four innings. First things first, but it appears the Bulldogs have what could be a very important piece to take into the Mountain West Conference Tournament next week.

‘’I just have to fix those three-ball counts,’’ Linehan said. ‘’That’s something that (pitching coach Steve Rousey) and I will work on. Once we fix that, I know I have a great defense behind me, I just have to trust that, too, and know that we can get them out, then the pitch counts should go down and I should be able to go longer.’’

 

Bulldogs still taking cautious approach with Jordan Luplow, coming back from shoulder injury

Fresno State Coach Mike Batesole pulled right fielder Jordan Luplow in the third inning of the Bulldogs’ 9-8 victory over New Mexico on Sunday, lifted him for a pinch-runner after reaching on a fielder’s choice. It was an odd move at that point, given what Luplow can bring to a lineup that had struggled mightily in the first two-plus games of their series against the Lobos.

But Batesole still is being a tad cautious with the former Buchanan High star following the left shoulder injury that he suffered trying to make a diving catch in the outfield in a March 3 victory over USC.

Luplow missed more than one month, going 2 for 4 in his return on April 5 in a loss to UNLV. Fresno State was just 4-10 in the games that he missed in that stretch.

‘’You saw him on Friday night, he almost dove for a ball,’’ Batesole said. ‘’Then he got that breaking ball out in front … just being cautious. Maybe smart is a better way of saying it. We’ve got to get him to the finish line and every time he does something extends that thing I’m afraid it’s going to come out again.

‘’That’s the way he plays. That’s just in his blood. He’s not going to take himself out. I don’t even ask him, because if I did ask him he’s going to say he’s fine.’’

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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Fresno State loses tough one, but Luplow makes immediate impact in return from shoulder injury

Fresno State blew a ninth-inning lead, giving up three runs to lose 9-8 on Friday to UNLV at Beiden Field in a game there were few bright spots for the Bulldogs, who are now just 7-19 and 2-6 in the Mountain West Conference.

One was the return of Jordan Luplow, who in his first plate appearance showed a bit of what they have been missing since he went down with a left shoulder injury in a victory last month over USC.

Luplow was in the lineup as the designated hitter, batting ninth. His first at-bat he fouled out to the catcher, but that came at the end of a 10-pitch battle with Rebels’ starter Erick Fedde. His next at-bat he struck out, but knocked eight more pitches off of Fedde’s pitch count. He ended the night with a RBI double in the seventh and another in the eighth, finishing 2 for 4 with two RBI.

”Nice to have him back, and it’s been five weeks since he had a live at-bat,” Coach Mike Batesole said. ”That’s why we hit him down at the bottom and we’ll probably do that all weekend, let him get his feet wet and get 10 or 12 at-bats, and then next weekend we’ll probably move him back into the middle of it. But we’ve been missing that for sure.”

Fresno State outfielder Jordan Luplow nearing return from shoulder injury

Fresno State coach Mike Batesole referred to Jordan Luplow, the sophomore right fielder, as a difference maker. And the Bulldogs could get a chance soon to see how much a difference the former Buchanan High star can make in turning around what has been a disappointing season, with Fresno State only 7-18 after a victory over Pacific on Tuesday at Beiden Field and 2-5 in the Mountain West Conference.

Luplow, out since suffering a left shoulder injury trying to make a diving catch in a March 2 victory over USC, is expected to take another step in his rehab on Wednesday and could be back within the next two weeks.

”He’s been running the bases, been running balls down in the outfield,” Batesole said. ”He took some infield (Tuesday) and he’s been swinging the bat a little bit better each day. I think we’re inside of two weeks now.”

Luplow, the Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter coming into the season, was hitting only .212 (7 for 33) when he was injured, but had an on-base percentage of .395, which is the second behind only Aaron Judge (.420). In the first 10 games, he also scored 10 runs. More than one month and 15 games later, that still ranks in a tie for third on the team behind Judge (14) and Austin Wynns (11). Jordan Brink also has scored 10 runs.

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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Bulldogs’ Jordan Luplow ruled out this week with shoulder injury

Fresno State center fielder Jordan Luplow has been ruled out of the Bulldogs’ game on Tuesday against San Jose State at Beiden Field as well as a four-game weekend series at Cal with a left shoulder injury suffered in a 14-3 victory on Sunday over USC.

Luplow was injured trying to make a diving catch on a ball in left center field off the bat of the Trojans’ Jake Hernandez. It went for a double.

The sophomore from Buchanan High had his left arm in a sling after the game and was to have a MRI on Monday, Coach Mike Batesole said. The results of the exam were not released, but the Bulldogs’ coach confirmed in a statement from the athletic department that Luplow is out.

‘’Jordan will not play this week and will continue to rehab until he is released by out doctors and trainers,’’ Batesole said. ‘’He is being given the best care available.’’

 

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.