Fresno State coach Mike Batesole chose the pitcher who usually is the team’s closer to start the opener of Friday’s crucial series against Mountain West Conference leader Nevada.
The move, however, didn’t work as right-hander Jake Shull was tagged for five runs in five innings, including three in the fifth, as the Bulldogs fell 5-4 in front of 1,329 fans at Beiden Field.
It was only the Bulldogs’ fifth loss at home, all by a margin of one run, but their sixth straight defeat overall.
Nevada struck first, scoring on Trenton Brooks’ sacrifice fly in the top of the first.
The Bulldogs (16-18, 7-6) responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning on Kevin Viers’ bases-loaded two-run single and Joe Prior’s sacrifice fly.
Fresno State got one run in the fourth on Austin Guibor’s RBI double to right-center.
But the narrow lead wouldn’t hold, as the Wolf Pack (27-7, 13-3) got to Shull, plating one in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth with a two-out rally.
With two outs and two on via walks, Nevada tied the score on Brooks’ RBI single and retook the lead on Kewby Meyer’s two-run triple down the right-field line.
“You’ve got to throw strikes,” Batesole said. “Three of the guys that touched home for them were put on by a walk, one of them pushed up by an error. Baseball hasn’t changed in 110 years.”
The Bulldogs also had three errors.
“Today we gave ’em six free base runners,” Batesole said. “If you’re going to beat a quality team you can’t do that. We’ve got to throw the ball over the plate and play solid defense.”
Redshirt freshman Anthony Arias relieved Shull to start the sixth and kept the Wolf Pack at bay.
Arias retired the first eight he faced, three in a row by strikeout, and pitched hitless ball for three innings.
But the Wolf Pack also had a loaded-for-bear reliever up their sleeves in Jojo Romero.
With the Bulldogs within striking distance with one out in the bottom of the sixth after a Ryan Dobson single and back-to-back walks to Taylor Tempel and Taylor Ward, in came Romero to face Guibor.
Guibor, who entered Friday night with a team-best .347 batting average, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Romero went on to retire the side in both the seventh and eighth innings, including a string of five strikeouts in a row.
Wolf Pack closer Adam Whitt took over in the ninth. He retired all three Bulldogs batters to help the Wolf Pack win their fourth straight over Fresno State this season while picking up his 12th save of the season. Nevada also swept when the teams met to open the conference season.
Tempel went 2 for 4 and scored a run. Viers added two RBIs, and Ward was 1 for 2, with two runs scored and three walks.
• Flags flew at half-staff and a moment of silence was held in honor of Fresno State graduate and Fresno City College President Tony Cantu, who died earlier this week.