The Fresno State baseball team had a lot of fight left in them following Saturday’s mid-game brawl at Beiden Field.
That energy carried right into Sunday afternoon as the Bulldogs downed first-place Nevada 3-1 to steal the three-game Mountain West conference series and hand the Wolf Pack their first series loss of the season.
Coach Mike Batesole agreed that the heightened tension fueled Fresno State to reverse its six-game slump and win back-to-back games for the first time in three weeks.
“The players showed up today knowing they were going to win,” he said. “In their minds, this game was over when they showed up.”
First baseman Kevin Viers said the team had a little more bark and a little more bite following Saturday’s 14-10 win.
“Last night when everything was happening, we still came out and won after the whole incident. That kind of lit the fire for us which is what we needed,” Viers said.
Nevada got on the board first on Jay Anderson’s outfield single.
The Bulldogs (18-18, 9-6 Mountain West) powered back in the fourth when sophomore designated hitter Joe Prior hit his first career home run off Nevada starter Jason Deitrich. Prior’s two-run homer cleared the left field wall and put Fresno State in front for good.
Fresno State doubled its lead in the sixth on Prior’s sacrifice fly to right that scored Kenny Corey from third. Prior went 1 for 3 and drove in all three of the Bulldogs’ runs.
Prior’s big day at the plate backed up a career-long outing from Bulldogs starter Jimmy Lambert (2-0). Lambert went eight innings before handing the ball over to freshman left-hander Ricky Thomas, who also picked up his first career save.
Viers also helped out defensively, making two phenomenal plays down the first base line.
In the sixth with the score still 2-1 and the tying run at third base, Viers made a diving catch on Kewby Meyer’s hard-hit line drive to end the inning. In the ninth, Viers snagged Jordan Pearce’s line drive and then dove to tag first base to double off the runner for the first two outs of the inning.
“The pitchers are making great pitches and we have to do whatever we can to save runs and keep the zeroes on the board,” Viers said. “If that means making a diving play or a routine play, it doesn’t matter, we still have to make the play.”
The win pushes the Bulldogs into fourth place and drops Nevada (27-9, 13-5) into second, one game back of league leader San Diego State. New Mexico (19-15, 11-7) sits in third.
After the game, some Bulldogs players even chirped on their way out of the locker room that the team came away with three wins on the weekend, counting Saturday’s dustup.
“I’ve seen things like that turn a team,” Batesole said. “I’m not saying this team has turned, but, I mean, that was one of our best games of the year.
“Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s not. But we’ll know in a couple weeks. It sure felt different in the dugout the last two nights, that’s for sure.”
Seven players did not play Sunday
A total of seven players were suspended by officials for their actions in Saturday’s fight following the Bulldogs’ 14-10 win.
For the Bulldogs: Korby Batesole, one game, malicious contact; Jesse Medrano, four games, fighting; Torin Goldstein, four games, fighting; Austin Guibor, four games, fighting.
For the Wolf Pack: Kyle Hunt, four games, fighting; Trenton Brooks, one game, unsportsmanlike conduct; Jordan Devencenzi, four games, fighting.
A serious case of home-field advantage
The Bulldogs improved to 16-5 this season when playing at Beiden Field.
“This field is built for us,” Batesole said of the home-field advantage Fresno State has enjoyed this season. “Playing in front of these fans, they love us and they root for these kids hard. It is a nice feeling and that’s a big part of it. It’s not just nine against nine because you can add another 2,000 behind us. We enjoy that and we feed off of that hard, but we’ve got to find a way on the road to fight against that and to win.”
Fresno State is a dismal 2-13 on the road this season.