Fresno State coach Mike Batesole had lofty goals for this year’s baseball team before the start of the season.
Others could be thinking the same about the Bulldogs after Fresno State opened its season with a three-game sweep against Creighton.
Lefty Anthony Arias threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts as the Bulldogs received their third straight strong pitching performance en route to a 7-3 win Sunday at Beiden Field against a senior-laden Bluejays team that finished 32-19 last season.
Arias, Saturday starter Jimmy Lambert and Friday night starter Ricky Thomas combined to yield two runs over 18 1/3 innings, with 17 strikeouts to just three walks.
“We pitched exceptionally well,” Batesole said. “Our starters didn’t allow a walk Friday or Saturday. Anthony got in and out of trouble.
“We’ve got some old guys. It’s nice to coach a team that’s thinking ahead with me. It’s just beautiful. If we stay healthy, we’ve got a chance to have one of our better teams.”
Fresno State, which beat Creighton 2-1 on Friday and Saturday, allowed just five runs the entire series. That marked the fewest runs allowed by the Bulldogs through their first three games in Batesole’s 14-year tenure.
It also wasn’t until Sunday’s finale that the Bulldogs bullpen allowed any runs. Fresno State, however, was leading 6-0 through six innings before Creighton got on the scoreboard.
“Last couple of years, that’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel,” Bulldogs closer Tim Borst said. “We’ve lost leads late because of inexperience of the bullpen.
“This year, you can see just knowing how to approach the game. Veteran leadership, especially in the bullpen, is big.”
The lone pitching concern from the weekend was each starter’s nervousness during the first inning.
Arias, a sophomore, was no different, loading the bases with one out before getting out of the jam by inducing a 4-6-3 double play.
However, he followed that with five straight no-hit innings, mixing a high 80s mph fastball with a wicked curveball that regularly sailed 65 mph and threw batters off.
“First inning coming back, always a little rocky,” Arias said. “Just had to get the first-time jitters out of the way. Once I settled down, I realized I had a good team behind me.
“It’s all about the team, having good backups when you’re not maybe doing your best.”
The Bulldogs defense finished with one error for the weekend.
Fresno State’s offense, meanwhile, had been relatively quiet, particularly with runners on base.
But the bats started to come alive Sunday.
Sophomore Aaron Arruda hit the Bulldogs’ first home run of the season, connecting on a fastball middle and in for a three-run shot that put Fresno State ahead 5-0 in the third.
“Feels good,” Arruda said. “We got just two runs each of the past two games. This kind of propelled us to keep going. Got more confidence for our hitters.”
Fresno State also got back Brody Russell on Sunday after the four-year starting outfielder missed the first game and came off the bench in the second.
Russell went 1 for 2 with a run and an RBI while making his first start of the season.
Sophomore third baseman McCarthy Tatum was the Bulldogs’ most productive hitter of the weekend, going 5 for 10 with two RBIs and striking out just once.
“Pitching is going to be our backbone,” Arruda said. “Our hitters will provide for them when they need it.”
FRESNO STATE VS. OAKLAND
▪ Vitals: 6:05 p.m. Tuesday at Beiden Field
▪ Records: Bulldogs 3-0, Golden Grizzlies 1-2