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?’’

 

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.’’

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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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?’’