It wasn’t the ideal beginning to opening night for Fresno State or starting pitcher Ricky Tyler Thomas.
But the junior left-hander, who is one of the nation’s top college pitching prospects, and the Bulldogs quickly cast aside the first-day jitters. Thomas was the winner in a 9-1 victory against Oregon on Saturday night at Beiden Field at Bennett Stadium – the program’s ninth consecutive win to open a season.
Thomas drilled the leadoff hitter with an 87-mph pitch to the helmet. Three batters later the bases were loaded, but Thomas recovered with consecutive swinging strikeouts and marched into the dugout jacked up with energy.
“It definitely increased the intensity and increased the focus,” Thomas said. “I just kept breathing out there, taking little breaths and I was good to go.”
It set a trend as he also retired the next 11 he faced before giving up a solo home run in the fifth to Daniel Patzlaff.
Thomas went six innings, striking out nine, including five straight in the third and fourth. He gave up two hits and the run while throwing 98 pitches, 62 for strikes.
The Bulldogs’ offense provided a sizable cushion in the second, tagging Ducks starter David Peterson for seven hits and five runs. Peterson gave up eight hits in four innings.
Junior right fielder Aaron Arruda got the Bulldogs’ first hit on a leadoff double to center, then scored the first run on Jesse Medrano’s line-drive single up the middle.
Fresno State also worked over the Ducks bullpen in game 1 of the four-game series, ahead of a Sunday doubleheader, getting seven hits off four relievers.
I like how offensively we got some key two-strike hits, had three opposite-field doubles and one opposite-field home run. That’s what it takes to win, especially in (series openers). If you can’t hit with two strikes and hit to the opposite field, you’re not going to win because that’s their best pitcher.
Fresno State coach Mike Batesole
The Bulldogs pulled away in the eighth on Austin Guibor’s two-run homer to make it 8-1. Arruda followed with a solo shot to center and was one of five Bulldogs with two hits.
Madera native and Fresno City College transfer J.J. Santa Cruz (Liberty High) pitched three shutout innings in relief in his Bulldogs debut. He struck out three and allowed two hits.
“It’s what we were hoping for,” Batesole said. “I mean Ricky was a little geeked up, of course, who wouldn’t be? But he got it under control just in time and what I really liked is as soon as he hit that groove he didn’t walk anybody and Santa Cruz came in and did the same.
“I thought we did a good job, offensively, but it was Ricky and Santa Cruz who did it for us.”
FRESNO STATE VS. OREGON
- Schedule: 1:05 p.m. Sunday doubleheader; 6:05 p.m. Monday at Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium
- Radio: KFIG (940 AM)
- Night to Remember: On Monday evening, the Bulldogs will honor Fresno’s unique role in Japanese-American baseball history by wearing replica jerseys of the 1920s era Fresno Athletic Club and recognize Fresno State baseball and football legend Satoshi “Fibber” Hirayama, who turns 87 on Friday. General admission tickets are $5.