Fresno State had a chance to take the lead in the Mountain West Conference baseball race.
But two spectacular eighth-inning defensive plays by San Diego State thwarted a late rally and the Bulldogs fell 4-2 on Friday to open a three-game series at Beiden Field.
Center fielder Denz’l Chapman provided the first gem, throwing out Zach Ashford at the plate as the Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter tried to score the tying run from second on Jake Stone’s line-drive single to center.
With two outs and Stone on second, cleanup hitter Aaron Arruda appeared to hit a two-run homer to give Fresno State the lead only to see left fielder Chase Calabuig make a leaping catch at the wall.
San Diego State (14-30, 6-14) went on to score one more run in the ninth and Jacob Erickson retired the Bulldogs in order in the bottom half.
Fresno State entered Friday trailing New Mexico by a half game. About an hour after Fresno State lost and slipped to 30-17 overall and 17-8 in the conference, New Mexico (31-17, 16-6) fell, too, 11-6 at UNLV.
Fresno State expects to be without top hitter Brody Russell for the rest of the regular season after he injured his wrist late last month. He is expected to return in time for the Mountain West Tournament, which begins May 25.
The Bulldogs moved to 6-2 without Brody Russell, who injured his wrist late last month and is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. Russell led the Bulldogs with a .415 average and 35 RBIs to go with four home runs, 29 runs and a .460 on-base percentage.
Fresno State scored its runs in the second after San Diego State took a 2-0 lead in the top half.
Korby Batesole reached on a run-scoring infield hit and Nick Warren hit an RBI double.
Bulldogs starter Rickey Tyler Thomas (7-4) struck out nine over seven innings, allowing three runs but only one earned on seven hits.
88 strikeouts in 84.1 innings by Fresno State ace Rickey Tyler Thomas after he racked up nine Friday against San Diego State
Fresno State’s ace was outdueled by Aztecs left-hander Dominic Purpura, who scattered seven hits and a walk while allowing two runs in eight innings.
San Diego State scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on Dean Nevarez’s single up the middle.
Friday was the last official game with the Bulldogs’ ballpark known solely as Beiden Field.
Fresno State will hold a pregame ceremony Saturday to rename it Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium in honor of Bennett, who preceded current coach Mike Batesole. Bennett retired in 2002 after 34 seasons and more than 1,300 career wins.
First pitch Saturday is 6:05 p.m.
SAN DIEGO STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Series: 6:05 p.m. Saturday, 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Beiden Field
- Records: Bulldogs (30-17, 17-8 Mountain West); Aztecs (14-30, 6-14)
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: Fresno State will hold a pregame ceremony Saturday to honor former Bulldogs coach Bob Bennett. … The ballpark will be renamed Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium. … Bennett coached at Fresno State for 34 years and recorded more than 1,300 career wins.