For a second straight night, Fresno State was in a tight one with UC Irvine late. And again, the Bulldogs came back to win.
A 7-5 victory Saturday night clinched the season-opening series with one more to go at Beiden Field.
“That’s two gutsy wins against a heckuva ball club,” coach Mike Batesole said. “To get (UC Irvine) and get them twice out of the gate speaks well for these guys.”
Trailing 5-1 in the seventh, the Bulldogs rallied for six runs on seven hits while chasing three Anteaters pitchers off the mound.
Right-hander Matt Esparza, the Anteaters’ starter who had only given up two hits and one run while striking out eight Bulldogs through six innings of work, started the bottom of the seventh by walking Kevin Viers — the walk-off hero in the Bulldogs’ 5-4 opening night win Friday.
That was enough for UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie, who brought in lefty Matt Fielding.
The change didn’t solve the problem as pinch-hitters Taylor Tempel and Aaron Arruda knocked back-to-back singles to load the bases.
Fielding was yanked for right-hander Matt Majors, but that also didn’t quell the rallying Bulldogs, as redshirt sophomore Kenny Corey pinch-hit for Korby Batesole and singled for the first run of the inning.
Ryan Dobson hit a high chopper that bounced over the second baseman’s head for a two-run single to bring Fresno State within one.
“You gotta be strong to do that, those guys have been in the weight room a lot,” Batesole said. “To hit a ball that hard and have it bounce that high, you’ve got to be strong to do that.”
Brody Russell tied the game on a liner to left before Taylor Ward brought him home for the go-ahead run with a soaring triple that fell at the warning track in deep center.
Joe Prior capped the seven-hit rally with an RBI single to put the Bulldogs up two. Fresno State had 10 hits in the game by 10 different players.
It was a tough mountain to climb for the Bulldogs (2-0), who fell behind after a four-run first by the Anteaters.
“That’s the nature of this team,” Batesole added. “Those four guys at the bottom, at least at the beginning here, there’s going to be a lot of platooning going on and they’re picking each other up.”
The Anteaters went ahead on a two-run double from Jerry McClanahan and doubled the lead on Andrew Martinez’s first home run of the night, a two-run shot that pinged off the left-field foul pole. Martinez hit a solo shot off Bulldogs first-year starter Dylan Lee in the top of the third.
Austin Guibor’s home run got the Bulldogs on the board in the fifth.
In his starting debut for the Bulldogs, Lee, a junior left-hander coming off a JC All-America campaign for College of the Sequoias, went three innings. He allowed seven hits and five runs.
The Bulldogs regrouped behind solid scoreless innings of relief from Mark Reece, Dominic Topoozian and Brennon Williams.
William Munro pitched the ninth and earned the save, loading the bases with one out before inducing a 4-6-3 double play.