Fresno State right-hander Jake Shull created some trouble for himself on Friday in the first of a crucial three-game series at San Jose State.
But he ended up giving the Bulldogs just what they needed in a 4-0 victory at Municipal Stadium. His five walks allowed, including two that led off innings, proved to be just minor inconveniences as he worked his way through the Spartans lineup.
Shull allowed just one hit in the Bulldogs’ first complete-game shutout this season, an infield single in the hole between short and third by Michael Breen with two outs in the sixth inning. Shull earned himself a pat on the back for the effort, but not much more from coach Mike Batesole, who was looking ahead minutes after the final out with the Bulldogs needing wins to secure a better seed at the Mountain West Tournament.
“He had really good stuff, but those two things are red flags going forward,” Batesole said. “You walk five guys on a Friday night, you walk two leadoff men on a Friday night, eventually that’s going to get you. So you better recognize that going forward and get that cleaned up. You take your ‘W’ tonight. He did those things and you still got a ‘W’ because he did some really good things, but you still have to recognize that and make sure you clean that up because we’re going to be facing some really good pitchers on Friday nights.”
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Boiled down to its simplest: “Good job, but keep getting better,” he said.
Shull despite the walks had a strong hold from the start. The junior walked the leadoff batter in the second and third but put down those innings without incurring any damage.
San Jose State had two runners on base in an inning only once, in the eighth when Dillan Smith reached on an error to lead off and Shull followed with a walk to Kyle Morrison. Shull faced only three batters with a runner in scoring position, struck out three and had three double plays turned behind him.
The hardest hit ball all night was a drive into the gap in right-center by Tyler Olivet that was run down by center fielder Taylor Tempel. He had a long way to get to the ball.
“We had just came in on the guy and I saw it up in the air and I just had to go up and get it for my team, and luckily it just fell in my glove,” said Tempel, who also had a career-high four hits, including a towering two-run home run in the sixth inning, and three RBIs.
A no-hitter, Shull said, never crossed his mind, but the Spartans were not getting good swings.
“Had no clue what was going on,” Shull said. “I focused just on going out there and making my pitches that I had to make. The defense out there, I trust in our fielders out there to make the plays behind me.”
The last Fresno State pitcher to throw a no-hitter was Dick Ruthven against Long Beach State on May 5, 1972 — Rob Cruess had a seven-inning no-hitter against Sacramento State on April 3, 1976, and Greg Gonzalez had one against Hawaii on April 10, 2010.
The victory here was enough. Coupled with a New Mexico loss to Nevada, the Bulldogs (22-24, 12-10 MW) are one game out of third place behind the Lobos with a chance to climb as high as second on the conference.
“Any series, we can’t afford to slip up. But this one we need to get down to it and we need to beat these guys two more times,” Tempel said.
“Jake threw phenomenal tonight. That was a good game for him, the defense was outstanding, too. We had one error, but overall it was a great game for us.”