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.

In tough season, left-hander Tyler Linehan keeps Fresno State alive in MW Tournament

It has been a rough year for Tyler Linehan, the Fresno State Bulldogs’ left-hander. Any good outing was followed by a bad one, and there were far more of those through February, March and April. He couldn’t gain any traction, struggling with his mechanics and to find the strike zone – he walked 22 batters and hit six others in his first 34 1/3 innings, his ERA at that point 8.39.

Fresno State left-hander Tyler Linehan

But the Bulldogs’ junior made two solid starts at the end of the regular season, throwing three scoreless innings in a victory over Hawaii on May 7 and four scoreless innings in a win over Nevada on May 16, kindling the thought he could contribute come the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

That, he said after that victory over the Wolf Pack, would be awesome. For the Bulldogs, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, he did and it was, Linehan building on his late-season run on Friday by taking out Nevada 10-1 in an elimination game at Beiden Field and carrying the ‘Dogs into another must-win game at 3 p.m. against San Diego State, the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

‘’The beginning of the season was tough, a really slow start, not doing what you want to do and stuff,’’ said Linehan, who allowed only five hits and one run while striking out a season-high eight batters in his complete game victory. ‘’But working with (pitching coach Steve Rousey), he’s a great coach, working things throughout the year he stuck with me. We fixed some things the last couple weeks and just got it rolling and got momentum and got confidence going out there.’’

Linehan was sharp from the start, retiring the first eight batters he faced before a two-out walk in the third. He was getting ahead of the Wolf Pack hitters and pounding the strike zone – 16 of his first 20 and 24 of his first 34 pitches were for strikes.

He gave up only that single run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Hugo Hernandez. And, while in tight at that point, the Bulldogs ended up putting the game away with four runs in the bottom of that inning, three coming on a home run by left fielder Brody Russell.

Fresno State (23-32) added five more in the bottom of the eighth, including a three-run home run by leadoff hitter Jordan Luplow.

 

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.’’

 

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.”

Read more →

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.’’

-

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.’’

-

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.’’

-

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.’’