The Fresno State baseball team matriculated through the School of Hard Knox this weekend, learning two great lessons the harsh way.
One, don’t give up eight runs when you’re only in the mood to score three yourself. That’s the lesser of the life applications here.
The bigger is this: pick up your dugout junk, because littering is a crime against local ordinance and the law of fine detail.
“Way to leave your paper cups all over the floor,” Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole yelled at everyone in particular, give or take a few colorful words.
“If you’re too big for the small things, you’re too small for the big things.”
With that, the wet and shivering Bulldogs picked up their sports-drink cups from the dugout floor at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, and got a little bit better in the process.
I’m at the University of Tennessee this weekend for Smoky Mountain Winterfest, an amazing church youth conference that introduces students to God via inspirational preaching and music that’s too loud.
We stepped outside long enough to walk down the street to the ball field to see if Batesole’s lads were worth any fuss.
Reasons for optimism
We’re going to forget the score for now, because everyone has lost to the Volunteers in their school-record start.
This Bulldogs team is good, enough so to take a 3-0 lead on the 25th-ranked ballclub in the college nation. Their pitching is tough, enough so that its bullpen pitched a shutout from the third inning forward in the heart of SEC country.
These guys beat nationally-ranked Cal State Fullerton a few weeks back because they have the pitching and hitting to do big things.
Once they figure out the small things, and we don’t just mean how to use trash receptacles, everyone’s going to forget about their 6-4 start to the 2019 campaign.
Those three runs in the first inning? That came against one of the finest Friday night starters in the Southeastern Conference. They got 12 hits on a cold, drizzling night where the ball refused to travel.
Most telling about their potential?
The game is 8-3. It was the ninth inning. Thirteen people remained in the stands. The bus had just backed up and idled for a 9:30 p.m. ride to the warm hearth of the team hotel.
Know what these Bulldogs did, when the easy thing to do was take three swings and call it a day?
Leadoff hitter EJ Andrews Jr. poked a single into left field. He power slid his way to second base on a fielder’s choice grounder that begged for a double play. JT Arruda worked a two-strike, two-out walk.
Carter Bins grounded out to second, sure, because they’re not quite big enough for the big moments yet. But losses like this can go a long way toward amending that as the season goes on, especially if Future Big League pitcher Ryan Jensen starts matching the moment.
It’s been 11 years since Fresno State won a World Series. Batesole’s bound to have another dream come through.
If they can figure out how to apply these hard lessons learned, this just might be the team.
“This team is tough,” Batesole said, quietly enough for them not to hear a compliment. “Real tough.”