The Fresno State baseball team (40-15-1) opened its NCAA Tournament Stanford Regional with a 9-2 win over UC Santa Barbara on Friday, May 31 to take a 1-0 lead in the group of four that included Sacramento State, the Gauchos and Stanford.
Behind a dominant performance from MWC Pitcher of the Year Ryan Jensen, the Bulldogs won their first and behind another dominant pitching performance, the Bulldogs took game two against the Stanford Cardinal 7-2 on Saturday, but slipped on Sunday as they lost their group-advancing chance in a 8-6 loss to Stanford at Sunken Diamond.
Stanford narrowly beat Fresno State, setting up a winner-take-all game Monday night to advance into Starkville, Miss., to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs baseball team who has made four straight Super Regional appearances.
In game two, Davis Moore took the bump and pitched deep into the sixth inning allowing two hits, a single earned run and eight strikeouts. After allowing a first-inning shot to Brandon Wulff, Moore settled down and stymied the Cardinal offense the rest of the way.
At the plate, the Bulldogs did most of their damage in the sixth and seventh innings. Fresno State scored a combined six runs in two innings.
But, Nolan Dempsey’s home run to left center opened the floodgates for the Bulldogs offense and evened the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning.
Fresno State were up against one of the Cardinals’ top players in Will Matthiessen. Both a pitcher and a hitter, Matthiessen led the team in RBIs with 52 and is third on the team in home runs with 12. Add a 3.71 ERA with a 6-1 record, Matthiessen made the Bulldogs work every at bat.
He pitched five innings only allowing six hits and a lone run, courtesy of Dempsey’s big fly. But it was telling how stingy he was after he was pulled from the game. Three relievers took their turns against Fresno State and the Bulldogs’ lineup teed off.
Five hits, six runs and four walks to take control of the game and Stanford Regional over the top team in the group.
With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Emilio Nogales doubled down the left-field line scoring both Carter Bins and J.T. Arruda. Nogales emphatically showing his chest hair to the Bulldog’s bench.
Nogales had a reason to celebrate, for the first time in the game Fresno State took a lead, 3-1 and in a big way with a momentum-changing RBI double.
Nate Thimjon followed with a groundout to second base to score Dempsey, 4-1.
After Bins and Zach Presno reached base in the seventh inning, McCarthy Tatum hit a two-run double down the right-field line. Presno and Bins came around to score, pushing the lead to 6-1.
Dempsey reached base in the seventh inning, which preceded another RBI hit by Nogales to push the lead 7-1.
Stanford had one last thing to say in the final innings after Nick Bellafronto sent a solo shot to left center off Oscar Carvajal, but Carvajal shut down the Cardinal after Moore’s exit for the most part.
Fresno took the game 7-2 and headed into its second game with the Cardinal.
GAME THREE – Sunday, June 2
Fresno State didn’t have quite the start they were hoping for in its rematch with the Stanford Cardinal on Sunday.
Nikoh Mitchell took the mound for the Bulldogs and wasn’t quite himself on the mound. In the first five innings, the Cardinal scored at least one run. A single run in the first and second, two runs in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth inning.
Mitchell also walked a total of seven batters, contributing to the Bulldogs’ infamous stat of 10 on the night.
Jamison Hill replaced Mitchell in the third inning but couldn’t find the zone allowing four runs and walking two.
The Bulldogs found themselves down and out, but a ferocious comeback nearly swung the game in their favor. Two big home runs by Tatum and Presno brought the Red Wave back into the game.
Tatum launched a solo shot to center field and Presno sent deep shot to right field, sending Thimjon and Matt Ottino home. Fresno State tied the game at 4-4, but the Cardinal continued to chip away at the Bulldogs pitching.
In the fourth and fifth innings, Stanford scored four runs to double its score and take an 8-4 lead.
The Bulldogs weren’t done fighting. Jeff Jamison, who robbed a home run in left field earlier in the game, doubled to left center scoring Thimjon. His RBI double set up another score after an error on the Stanford second baseman.
Ashford reached base and Presno came around to score after reaching base before Jamison’s double.
Fresno State cut its deficit to 8-6, but that’s all they could muster.
Although the Bulldogs had a chance to advance, they still have one more shot Monday night against the Cardinal, winner-take-all.