Fresno State baseball is better than this. That’s not snapping a fastball through coach Mike Batesole’s chin hair; that’s a promise.
They have one of the best Friday night starters this side of the Red River. They have one of the smartest 1-through-9 lineups in college baseball.
And, they know enough to know their 2-2 start is nothing more than a February inconvenience in the long view of the 55-game season.
“We realize it’s a long season, and there’s a lot more important games to come,” senior third baseman Jesse Medrano said. “A good start’s all good but we want to have a good finish and play for a long time at the end of the season.”
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The only thing those two losses mean is the Bulldogs won’t be a Top 25 team anytime soon. Who cares, when the big idea is to be one of the last 25 standing?
This is a very mature team, very solid from top to bottom. They’re going to win a lot of games.
Unnamed Major League Baseball scout, on the 2017 Fresno State team
Last year’s team started 11-0 in the regular season but went 0-2 in the postseason, which explains all you need to do know about the metric value of a fast start to a long season. Remember that, no matter what happens this weekend when the Bulldogs host UC Riverside.
These Bulldogs will be playing in June for the first time since 2012 because they won’t be deterred by what happens before March.
“We’re looking forward to earning that postseason spot,” Medrano said, “and earning whatever we can get this season.”
You’ve got to love a player that wants to earn something after three years in the system. This team is full of those guys. This is the most Mike Batesole team we’ve seen since he was coaching on weeds and cracked dirt at Cal State Northridge in 2002.
Scrappy at the plate. Muddy pants from the kneecaps down. Preseason All-America pitcher Ricky Tyler Thomas wears goofy glasses, because what does anyone around here care about looking the part?
This is a very smart, very old, very savvy baseball team. Even our juniors are old. These are tough, dirty guys and I love them.
Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole
“There’s a lot of that Northridge in this team,” Batesole said. “It’s not fake South Orange County tough. They get it. This is a very smart, very old, very savvy baseball team. Even our juniors are old. These are tough, dirty guys and I love them.”
There’s Medrano and senior second baseman Scott Silva, driving in runs and piling up hits. You’ve got senior outfielder Austin Guibor and junior Aaron Arruda doing the same.
In short, you’ve got eight starters who aren’t content to watch Thomas win one game a weekend and hope for the best thereafter. They’re going to play defense, work the pitch count and make the pitchers run wind sprints from here to Omaha until they stop walking a batter an inning.
“This is a very mature team, very solid from top to bottom,” one Major League Baseball scout said. “They’re going to win a lot of games.”
We sure hope so.
The Bulldogs have not played in the NCAA Regionals for four years. For pesky context, they haven’t stayed home five straight times since the Gulf of 1968-76.
The 2008 team that won the College World Series feels like too many yesterdays ago. What we would give to see Fresno State playing on a Sunday in June again.
This team has that look. Batesole is getting back that feel.
“This,” Batesole said, “is going to be one of my favorite teams ever.”
1. We don’t want to hear one word about the level of competition and the strength of schedule: 197 goals are 197 goals, and that’s a California high school record worth admiring. Good on Mendota soccer player Danny Trejo for being a bright spot in these scary days.
2. Great win at San Diego State for the Fresno State men’s basketball team. Play like that against teams at the bottom of the Mountain West deck, and you may get somewhere yet.
3. Magic Johnson went 5-11 coaching the Lakers through the end of the 1993-94 season and quit. Tell me again how he’s the answer as Lakers’ new general manager midway through the 2016-17 season?
David White, For The Bee
FRESNO STATE VS. UC RIVERSIDE
- Schedule: 6:05 p.m. Friday, 2:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Beiden Field at Bennett Stadium
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Records: Bulldogs 2-2, Highlanders 2-1
- Last time up: Fresno State and UC Riverside split two games in 2012, their only meetings.
- The skinny: Bulldogs are coming off consecutive home losses against Oregon to split a four-game series. Left-hander and Friday night starter Ricky Tyler Thomas shined in his opening night debut, allowing one run on two hits while striking out nine and retiring 13 in a row. He was the Mountain West Pitcher of the Week. At the plate, the Bulldogs are led by Jesse Medrano (.400), with Scott Silva, Austin Guibor and Jake Stone each hitting .333. … Highlanders split two at Nebraska last weekend, with two games rained out, and are fresh off a 3-2 win Tuesday at UCLA. Mark Contreras has six hits in three games, including a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth against the Bruins. UC Riverside is coached by former major league closer Troy Percival, who is in his third season. UC Riverside was 26-29 overall and 12-12 in the Big West a year ago.
- Of note: Bulldogs coaches Jeff Tedford (football), Troy Steiner (wrestling), and Natalie Benson (water polo) will throw out the first pitches Friday. Saturday is ’80s Night/Youth Jersey Day. All children wearing youth jerseys will receive free admission. Sunday is “Salute to Service,” with members of the military receiving free admission.
Angel Moreno, The Fresno Bee