Fresno State won two of three at San Jose State over the weekend even while struggling at the plate, the Bulldogs taking some rough at-bats with runners in scoring position and failing to take advantage of a number of opportunities.
And it was more of those same struggles that almost cost them against CSUN, formerly known as Cal State Northridge, before Korby Batesole drove in Brody Russell with a single off the third base bag to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 victory in the 16th inning and end a marathon that started on Tuesday evening and ended early Wednesday morning.
To that point, the Bulldogs had not generated much, climbing into the lead in the sixth at 3-2 when Kevin Viers drove a 2-0 fastball over the wall in right-center field for a two-run home run. The Matadors tied the score in the ninth inning on a throwing error and at that point, with the way both teams were pitching it and not hitting it, the dwindling crowd at Beiden Field was in store for a lot more baseball.
Fresno State was 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position and 3 for 21 with runners on base and CSUN was 1 for 13 and 2 for 21, both teams squandering scoring opportunities all the way.
The game didn't end until 12:19 a.m., the time of game 5 hours and 43 minutes. This, on a school night -- several Fresno State players had 8 a.m. classes to get to in a few short hours. There were 521 pitches thrown and 22 well-spaced hits, 12 by CSUN and 10 by the Bulldogs.
But therein, coach Mike Batesole was hoping for some sort of spark headed into a crucial Mountain West Conference series this weekend at UNLV.
"This is what we've been looking for," Batesole said. "At some point, you're going to get hot during the season and we haven't hit it yet. We've finally been playing much better on the road, you come in and get a 16-inning mid-week game, and all of a sudden it starts feeling good. And if you're going to get hot, you don't want it to be in March; you want it to be right now. I'm not saying we're hot or we're going to get hot. I'm saying we have the opportunity to and this is the exact time you want that opportunity.
"If we can get it rolling and get hot, we've done some damage in this program late in the season quite a few seasons and that would be really nice if this is another one of those."
The Bulldogs certainly have pitched well enough of late, but the offense will have to take better advantage of its opportunities to get there at UNLV. They are tied with New Mexico in third place in the Mountain West, the Lobos this weekend playing San Jose State while Fresno State is at UNLV.
The Bulldogs have scored 3.4 runs over their past eight games and over the past four are hitting .196 (9 for 46) with runners in scoring position.
They had opportunities to add on after the home run by Viers but came up empty.
In the seventh, Ryan Dobson reached on an infield single to open the inning. Batesole put down a sacrifice bunt to get Dobson into scoring position, but there was no advance. Taylor Tempel and Guibor took called third strikes.
In the eighth, with runners at first and second and one out and the bases loaded with two, the Bulldogs failed to score again.
But the Bulldogs got some big efforts out of the bullpen from Casey Rodriguez (two hits in three scoreless innings) and Dominic Topoozian (four hits in four scoreless innings) in extra innings and, finally, in the 16th inning got the run they needed.