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.

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.”

 

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.

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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