Batesole, Ashford, Jensen after ‘Dogs NCAA Tournament win
Fresno State right-hander Ryan Jensen went into the NCAA Tournament on a bit of a roll, a winner in his last nine decisions, the Bulldogs a winner in his last 10 starts, and he had been at his best down the stretch.
And still, he managed to elevate his game Friday for the Stanford Regionals.
Jensen took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up two runs off four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings to help the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs secure a 9-2 victory over No. 2 UC Santa Barbara at Klein Field.
The junior from Salinas went to the mound with a five-run lead and went right after the Gauchos, who led the Big West Conference in runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
And still, the Gauchos were no match against the Bulldogs ace who was in command from strike one..
“Just kind of treat it like every other game and execute the pitches that (pitching coach Ryan Overland) calls,” said Jensen, who is 12-1 this season. “That’s it. There’s no real game plan to it. You just have to go out there and do it.”
Jensen did not allow a baserunner until hitting Eric Yang with a pitch with two outs in the fourth.
He did not allow a hit until Andrew Martinez lined a double to left with two outs in the sixth.
He did not allow a run until Thomas Rowan scored on a sacrifice fly by Tommy Jew for the first out in the seventh.
“You guys know the (velocity) that he has,” Rowan said. “It just took a while to get to him. He’s a good pitcher. He had his fastball going. He had a little two-seam going, as well. He seemed to be going to that when he needed a strikeout.
“We just didn’t have the quality of at-bats that we needed in the beginning.”
Jensen, who was helped along the way by outstanding defensive plays by right fielder Nate Thimjon and shortstop J.T. Arruda, left to a standing ovation from the Fresno State fans in the crowd with two outs in the eighth inning. He finished with eight strikeouts. He threw 110 pitches, 73 for strikes.
“Ryan of course was outstanding,” coach Mike Batesole said. “He had an outstanding two-seamer and we played good defense behind him.”
Jensen just cruised, a stark contrast to UC Santa Barbara starter Ben Brecht.
Bulldogs back Jensen
Brecht went into the game 10-1, had an ERA of 3.76 and led the Big West this season with 101 strikeouts.
But the Bulldogs did not appear the least bit impressed, treating the left-hander like a middling mid-week arm.
From the start, they controlled every plate appearance.
Zach Ashford, the Bulldogs’ leadoff hitter, was in an 0-2 hole leading off the game before working the count full and ending the at-bat with a sharp single to left.
That was the first of four hits in a row to start a five-run inning for the Bulldogs, the last at-bat in that run just as impressive –and showing just as much disregard for the pitches they were seeing.
McCarthy Tatum, the Bulldogs’ cleanup hitter, also was down in the count 0-2 before fouling off four pitches in a row. Brecht couldn’t put him away, and Tatum ended up fighting off a pitch and with an RBI single to right..
The first four hitters in the Bulldogs’ lineup – Ashford, Carter Bins, J.T. Arruda and Tatum – were a combined 11 for 18 with two walks, eight runs scored, five RBI.
Brecht, he was gone after 1 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs, four earned.
He struck out no one, and the Gauchos are one loss from done.
The No. 3 Bulldogs, in their first NCAA Tournament since 2012, will play No. 1 seed Stanford (42-11) on Saturday at 7 p.m. while No. 2 UC Santa Barbara takes on No. 4 Sacramento State (39-24) in an elimination game at 1 p.m.
The Cardinal drilled the Hornets 11-0 in the opening game of the regional behind seven shutout innings from Brendan Beck. Will Matthiessen had two hits including one of the four home runs hit by Stanford, which finished second in the Pac-12 to UCLA, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Klein Field at Sunken Diamond (4,000), Stanford
Game 1: No. 1 Stanford 11, No. 4 Sacramento State 0
Game 2: No. 3 Fresno State 9, No. 2 UC Santa Barbara 2
Game 3: Sacramento State 6, UC Santa Barbara 4, UCSB eliminated
Game 4: Fresno State 7, Stanford 2
Game 5: Sacramento State vs. Stanford, noon
Game 6: Winner Game 5 vs. Fresno State (40-14-1), 6 p.m., 940ESPN
Game 7: if necessary, 7 p.m., TBA