Fresno State’s baseball present remains shaky but the future offers hope after a freshman came up with one of the biggest swings of 2017.
Carter Bins blasted a two-run home run – his sixth in 169 at-bats – and the Bulldogs scored three in the second inning and three more in the third before blowing it open on Jake Stone’s grand slam in the fifth as Fresno State routed Nevada 15-5 in seven innings Friday afternoon to stay alive at the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Albuquerque, N.M.
An uphill climb remains to win the tournament and clinch the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
34 hits for Fresno State in two games at the Mountain West Tournament. The Bulldogs have scored 25 runs.
Fresno State (33-24) at noon Saturday will face New Mexico (30-26-1), which lost 9-8 to San Diego State (40-18) in a Friday winners’ bracket game.
Win there and the Bulldogs would still need to beat San Diego State twice in the double-elimination format, with the first of those games to follow at 4 p.m. Saturday.
But for one day, Bins’ bat, plenty of support from the rest of the lineup and the arm of sophomore right-hander Edgar Gonzalez have Fresno State still dreaming big.
And for that matter feeling confident about the future.
Bins on Thursday was named co-Mountain West Freshman of the Year after the catcher out of Rodriguez High in Fairfield hit hit .266 in 30 conference games with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, 20 runs scored and 14 RBIs.
Overall, Bins is hitting .288 with 25 RBIs, a first-year level of success that should not be all that surprising for a 6-foot, 180-pounder who was a 35th-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 Major League Draft.
Bins’ homer was a hard hit but sinking liner that stayed aloft just long enough to get over the fence in left. It came one batter after Korby Batesole’s one-out bunt with men at the corners brought home Jesse Medrano with the game’s first run.
Junior Jared Akins hit two homers, a solo in the third and a two-run shot in the fifth two batters after Stone’s 415-foot grand slam. Batesole’s double drove in two runs in the third. Batesole finished 3 for 3 and combined with Bins left . Aaron Arruda was 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
“If you can score seven or eight runs in a game, you would be very happy,” Fresno State assistant Steve Rousey said. “Coach (Mike) Batesole has these guys trained on both sides, offensively and defensively. They did well today.”
Much of the damage came against all-conference first-team right-hander Mark Nowaczewski (6-6), who had beaten the Bulldogs twice during the regular season but was chased one out into the fifth after allowing 10 runs on 11 hits and four walks. Nevada also eliminated the Bulldogs in the tournament a year ago.
Gonzalez (6-4), an All-Mountain West second-teamer, faced the minimum through five scoreless innings before tiring in the sixth, a bad spot to be in the altitude of Albuquerque where mistakes generally end up over the fence.
Nevada (19-36) scored five in the inning, the first on a wild pitch and the rest via back-to-back homers by Grant Fennell (three-run) and Mike Echavia. Gonzalez did, however, rally to get the fnal two outs without any further damage and pitched – an important feat given that the Bulldogs figure to need the bullpen available and fresh to pitch plenty of innings over the next couple of days.
At least there is momentum back in the dugout of the Bulldogs, who had won 7 of 8 to close the regular season, including a sweep of New Mexico and a 2-of-3 series win at San Diego State, only to get hammered 18-10 by the Aztecs (with ace Ricky Tyler Thomas allowing 10 runs without getting an out) in Thursday’s tournament opener.
Batesole was tossed while arguing a call in the opener and given a two-game suspension, leaving Rousey in charge.
Mountain West Tournament
Double elimination in Albuquerque, N.M.; champion advances to NCAA Tournament
No. 2 San Diego State 18, No. 3 Fresno State 10
No. 1 New Mexico 7, No. 4 Nevada 2
Fresno State 15, Nevada 5
San Diego State 9, New Mexico 8
Fresno State vs. New Mexico, noon
San Diego State vs. Fresno State-New Mexico winner, 4 p.m.
San Diego State vs. Fresno State-New Mexico, if necessary, noon