As captain of Fresno State’s pitching staff, senior Garrett Mundell must lead in a variety of ways: Vocal leadership, thorough practice habits and game performance.
Nothing, however, gets his teammates’ attention and earns their respect quite like putting up multiple zeros on the scoreboard, even when he’s tiring down the stretch.
Mundell did just that Sunday, throwing six scoreless innings while fighting off fatigue to power Fresno State to a 4-0 victory against UNLV and a three-game Mountain West series sweep Sunday at Beiden Field.
“That was huge for us,” Mundell said. “We won the series (Saturday) but that doesn’t mean we take it easy. It kind of puts more of an emphasis on the day to finish it. That’s what we’ve been working with — finishing pitches, games, at bats. That was a big thing today.”
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Mundell (1-0, 3.31 ERA) scattered three hits and three walks and got out of a crucial jam in the sixth when UNLV left runners on second and third despite the 6-foot-7 pitcher throwing a fastball that dipped to about 84 mph.
Nonetheless, Sunday was Mundell’s strongest outing through three starts.
“That’s what it’s all about and that’s way more important than getting just 3-4 innings of outs,” Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole said. “That’s what captains are made of. You need seniors to do that.
“He kind of ran out of gas those last two innings. But when you’ve got a heart like that, you can pitch on heart for two innings and get six outs with not much left in the tank. That’s why you have seniors and you give them the ball on Sundays.”
Mark Reece and Jake Shull pitched on back-to-back days for the first time to help close out the game, blanking UNLV for 2/3 of an inning and 12/3 innings, respectively. Reliever Casey Rodriguez also contributed 2/3 of an inning of scoreless play between Reece’s and Shull’s appearances.
Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward supplied the game’s lone run through the first five innings with a solo homer in the fourth. Ward, who is hitting .349, leads all Mountain West hitters with five home runs.
“The big difference is he goes to the opposite field so well that they have to pitch him in,” Batesole said of Ward. “His freshman year, he couldn’t hit the ball hard to the right side of the field. So they always pitched him out there.
“Last year, he figured out how to do that. And now he’s so good at it, they’ve tried to come in on him. Every once in a while, he gets into one.”
Fresno State (6-5, 3-3), which entered the weekend on a five-game losing streak, evened its conference record against a team that last season played in the NCAA tournament. And the Bulldogs did it primarily through pitching, particularly reducing their walks.
The Bulldogs issued 23 walks while getting swept in three games the previous weekend at Nevada. But Fresno State responded by limiting their walks to eight over the past three days.
Fresno State’s bullpen didn’t allow a run in the series, combining to throw 71/3 innings of scoreless ball.
“You never want to let up on Sundays just because you have the series,” Ward said. “To get the third one is definitely icing on the cake. Everyone was doing their job.”