Fresno State got a glimpse at its future while fighting for seeding in the Mountain West Conference — and, on Sunday, both looked pretty good.
Freshman left-hander Ricky Thomas, making his fifth career start and first in conference play, pitched 61/3 innings of shutout ball in a 3-0 victory over San Jose State, working off his fastball in recording a lot of quiet outs after an inauspicious start.
“Ricky and (Anthony Arias) are both Friday night guys on Sunday, and you saw some Friday night flashes today,” Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole said. “There were three or four spurts there when he had to go in and get some where you went, ‘Hey, there it is.’ ”
“Someday that’ll come out for seven innings straight. He has a chance to be special, and so does Arias. We just have to keep running them out there. It’s tough to give guys experience when you need to win, but they’re in a position now where the guys in front of them fumbled the ball too many times and now they’re getting it, and good for him for going out there and doing it when he got the chance.”
Thomas walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and started the second 2-0 to get Fresno State’s bullpen stirring and a visit from pitching coach Steve Rousey. But Thomas settled in nicely after that, getting out of the first with no damage and taming all challenges the Spartans could muster to pitch the Bulldogs (23-25, 13-11) into a tie for third place with New Mexico with two series remaining, at UNLV and against the Lobos at Beiden Field.
The biggest threat came in the third when the Spartans’ Corey Olivet led off with a single and Thomas plunked Andre Mercurio with his next pitch.
San Jose State bunted both up a base and into scoring position, but Thomas came back to get the left-handed hitting David Campbell on a grounder, deftly pitched around cleanup hitter Shame Timmons and then got out of the inning by retiring Chris Williams on another grounder. The Spartans were 0 of 5 with runners in scoring position and 0 for 8 with a runner on base against Thomas.
“Basically, it was try to get first pitch strikes, attack the hitters, make sure I’m pitching at a downhill angle consistently and use my teammates to get outs, too,” said Thomas, who over his past three starts has allowed 12 hits and only two runs in 14 1/3 innings.
“I go with the same mentality every time, but overall, just make sure I get those first-pitch strikes because if you work ahead it makes it a lot easier.”
Thomas didn’t get a high percentage of first-pitch strikes — 15 of 28 — but was efficient with his pitches. Fresno State needed just that in what Batesole said was a “very dirty” offensive game for the Bulldogs.
Korby Batesole got Fresno State off to a fast start, drilling a 3-2 pitch through the middle with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning. But the Bulldogs struggled to add on, as they did the entire series against a pitching staff that came in with an ERA of 6.75 and had allowed opposing teams to hit .317.
Fresno State hit 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position Sunday with only one of those hits producing a run — the single by Batesole — and just 7 for 34 in the series (.206). The Bulldogs left 27 runners on base in the three games.
“We strike out on three straight fastballs with the bases loaded looking, don’t even get a swing off; we have a couple of bunts we don’t get down, a couple of bunts we do get down; we miss a hit and run. … A lot of dirty stuff, but in the end we were so good on defensive and so good on the mound, we covered it up,” Mike Batesole said.
“It’s like we talked about the other day — good job, but you better get better.”