Fresno State (39-14-1) opened the Stanford Regional with a bang.
Four hits in a row to start the game, five runs in the first inning and defensive gems in the field, there was a special ingredient in Friday night’s 9-2 win at Klein Field.
Former TRAC standouts –– J.T. Arruda, Zach Ashford, Zach Presno and McCarthy Tatum –– were the catalyst for the Bulldogs in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ashford, a former Buchanan standout, finished with three hits and a walk, and four runs, including the game’s first hit after battling back from an 0-2 count. Tatum, a former Cougar, had three hits, including a double and three RBIs, while former Bears Arruda and Presno finished the game with a combined three hits and three RBIs.
In the first inning, Ashford, Arruda, Carter Bins and Tatum reached base with Tatum bringing Ashford home on a single to right field.
Matt Ottino then reached on an error by the UC Santa Barbara third baseman, allowing Bins to score, pushing the lead 2-0. Presno doubled Fresno State’s lead with a two-run single to left field.
The Bulldogs were having their way with Gauchos pitcher Ben Brecht. Brecht was 10-1 and led the Big West with 101 strikeouts, but against the Bulldogs, he didn’t record one.
Brecht only lasted a little more than an inning.
Fresno State chased him off the mound. Brecht allowed eight hits, seven runs and four earned runs.
Already up 4-0 in the first inning, Fresno State added a fifth after Presno was picked off trying to steal a base, allowing Ottino to sneak home for the score.
With a commanding lead already, the Bulldogs only looked to keep adding pressure. Even though UC Santa Barbara was one of two teams in the entire country to lose less than 10 games on the season, the Bulldogs had other ideas.
Two doubles in the second inning by Arruda and Bins drove home Ashford and then Bins. Fresno State had a 7-0 lead and looked unstoppable at the plate, and also on the mound.
After scooping up Pitcher of the Year honors for the Mountain West, Jensen looked ready for a run in the postseason. As a winner in his last nine decisions, Jensen was in good form and that continued.
He held the Gauchos hitless through the first six innings, allowing only two earned runs over seven-plus innings.
With a seven-run lead in hand, the Bulldogs played strong defense, including Nate Thimjon who made a superman-like catch in right field saving a run.
Fresno State made it 8-0 in the top of the fourth inning after an Ashford base hit set up an RBI double by Tatum.
UC Santa Barbara added two runs and Fresno State added another late in the eighth inning, but the early onslaught by the top of the Bulldogs order was more than enough for Fresno State.
Fresno State scored its most runs in an NCAA postseason game since defeating Georgia, 19-10 in game two of the College World Series on June 24, 2008, and so far this season, the Bulldogs’ top hitters have all come from Clovis.
Ashford leads the team in batting with a .393 average, Tatum leads the team in hits, home runs, total bases and slugging percentage. The infielder has 12 home runs, 74 RBIs, 80 hits and a slugging percentage of .605 on the season.
Tatum’s dominant season led to the Tony Gwynn Co-Player of the Year as well. Since Fresno State’s run to Omaha more than 10 years ago, this might be the strongest team they’ve had since, and when Fresno State gets hot late in the year, magical things can happen.
The Bulldogs enter day two of the NCAA Regionals in the winners’ bracket for the first time since its 2008 World Series run and will square off with top-seed and No. 11 nationally ranked Stanford at 7 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.