Fresno State pitchers made two major unforced errors Thursday, recovering from one early but not the other late in falling 9-7 to Air Force to open the Bulldogs’ run at the Mountain West Tournament.
The result sends top-seeded Fresno State into a 2 p.m. Friday eliminator at Santa Ana Star Field in Albuquerque. The Bulldogs (36-21) will play sixth-seeded San Diego State or No. 3 Nevada.
Leads of 3-0 and 7-4 failed to stand up for the Bulldogs, who took a one-run advantage into the ninth only to see sophomore right-hander Rickey Ramirez walk .154-hitting Justin Graham (2 for 13) with two outs to force in the tying run before giving up a go-ahead two-run single to Russell Williams.
Earlier, it was sophomore ace Ricky Tyler Thomas with the big mistake, throwing away a sure out at home in the second. The Falcons sandwiched four hits around that error for a four-run rally after Fresno State had scored three in the bottom of the first.
Thomas returned to his dominant form through the next four innings, allowing two hits while striking out six, and the Bulldogs tied it in the fifth before going ahead on Korby Batesole’s two-run single in a three-run sixth that made it 7-3.
The left-handed Thomas tired one out into the seventh, allowing a pair of singles before yielding to Tim Borst. Tyler Zabojnik’s wind-blown bloop fell in, just beyond the reach of second baseman Scott Silva, for a two-run single to pull Air Force within 7-6.
Borst got through the eighth but after allowing two singles to put runners at first and third with nobody out in the ninth turned it over to Ramirez, who struck out conference Co-Freshman of the Year Nic Ready. Zabojnik drew a walk to load the bases but another strikeout had the Bulldogs on the verge of an escape.
Ramirez, however, fell behind 2-0 to Graham, got a borderline strike call but threw two more balls – one off the outside corner and another low and outside. Williams followed with a looping liner to left-center.
Silva hit a two-run home run and Aaron Arruda a solo shot as Fresno State scored three in the first off Air Force ace Griffin Jax, the Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year.
Jax went seven innings, allowing seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits and four walks while striking out five.
Silva, who had an RBI groundout to tie it 4-4 in the fifth, finished 2 for 5 with three RBIs.
▪ No. 2 New Mexico 3, No. 3 Nevada 0: Colton Thomson struck out 11 while pitching a three-hitter as the Lobos (35-21) moved on to the winners’ bracket and a 6 p.m. Friday showdown with Air Force. New Mexico did all its scoring in the first two innings, with Luis Gonzalez’s two-run single in the second the biggest hit. The Wolf Pack fell to 34-23.
▪ No. 6 San Diego State 18, No. 4 UNLV 8: Tyler Adkison went 3 for 5, drove in five and scored four runs as the Aztecs (24-32) opened the day with a bang for the second straight morning, picking up an elimination-game victory over the Rebels (24-32). San Diego State, which beat San Jose State in Wednesday’s play-in game on a walk-off grand slam before losing to Nevada in the late game, got home runs from Adkison, Spencer Thornton and Jordan Verdon – with the latter hitting a two-run shot in a nine-run top of the eighth that made it 16-5. The Aztecs have won 14 straight elimination games in tournament history and another awaits at 10 a.m. Friday versus Nevada.
Women’s tennis – Fresno State’s Mayar and Rana Sherif Ahmed opened the NCAA individual doubles tournament with a straight-sets upset of Stanford’s nationally fifth-ranked Taylor Davidson and Caroline Doyle at the Michael Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla.
The Bulldogs’ 32nd-ranked tandem, after winning 6-2, 7-6, face Virginia’s Danielle Collins and Meghan Kelley in Friday’s round of 16. Collins/Kelley, ranked 18th, beat Arizona’s Shayne Austin and Lauren Marker 6-3, 7-5. Fresno State has sent eight doubles teams to the NCAA championships, though the Ahmed sisters are the first since Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova in 2009.
In her first NCAA Tournament appearance, Mayar Sherif Ahmed, a sophomore, was unable to recover from an early deficit against Louisiana State’s Jessica Golovin in the first round of the singles tournament, losing 6-4, 7-4. Ahmed was the 11th Bulldog in program history to qualifying for the NCAA singles finals.
Academic honor – Bulldogs junior Annemarie Schwanz was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District Women’s Track & Field and Cross Country Team. Schwanz, a native of Germany who qualified for the NCAA postseason in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, last week received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering (3.657 GPA) as well as the Distinguished International Student award from the university.
Mountain West Baseball Tournament
- Friday: No. 1 Fresno State vs. No. 6 San Diego State or No. 3 Nevada, 2 p.m. at Santa Ana Star Field in Albuquerque, N.M.
- Record: Bulldogs 36-21
- Other games: 10 a.m., San Diego State vs. Nevada; 6 p.m. No. 5 Air Force vs. No. 2 New Mexico
- Webcast/radio: Mountain West Network (themwc.com)/Bulldogs only on KFIG (AM 940) or KFPT (AM 790)