Batesole, Bulldogs after taking down No. 1 Stanford
The Fresno State Bulldogs took a major step toward returning to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their 2008 College World Series championship.
Behind clutch play on the mound and at the plate during tense moments Saturday, No. 3 Fresno State beat No. 1 Stanford 7-2 at Klein Field and stayed in the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Regionals.
The Bulldogs (40-14-1) were just better when it most mattered against the regional host Cardinal (42-12), winning a 15th game in a row away from the comforts of home.
And now, Fresno State – in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 – needs just one more win to advance out of the double-elimination regional round.
“To come into this ball park and this atmosphere against a talented team like this that’s (well)-coached is a big win because now you have to win one instead of having to get three,” said coach Mike Batesole, whose Bulldogs began NCAA Tournament play with a 9-2 win against UC Santa Barbara on Friday.
“That puts us in good position and for sure the best position of the three remaining teams.”
The last time Fresno State started regional play 2-0 was in 2008 during their “Underdogs to Wonderdogs” title run.
Bulldogs’ starting pitcher Davis Moore came up big Saturday, holding Stanford to just two hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight. Nolan Dempsey had a huge score-tying home run in the fourth inning, and two innings later the Bulldogs took advantage of a Stanford bullpen that had been a Cardinal strength.
The Bulldogs broke the game open in the sixth, an inning that started with Stanford center fielder Alec Wilson misplaying a fly ball into a double for Carter Bins.
Fresno State’s J.T. Arruda then worked a walk, and after McCarthy Tatum was retired on a foul popup, Dempsey lined a single to right to load the bases for perhaps the biggest at-bat of the night.
Nogales’ chest-thumping hit
Stanford had pulled starter Will Matthiessen after just 84 pitches through five innings, yanked left-hander Jacob Palisch after two batters and brought in right-hander Zach Grech when Fresno State designated hitter Emilio Nogales came to the plate.
The left-handed hitting Nogales was hitting .328 with runners in scoring position on the season.
And on a 3-2 pitch, Nogales doubled down the left-field line to drive in two runs and put Fresno State on top 3-1.
After pulling safely into second, Nogales looked toward the Bulldogs dugout, then yelled and ripped open his jersey to show off his hairy chest. The celebration was shown over and over on the ESPN television broadcast.
Batesole missed that, at the time.
“Wait, what happened?” ” he said, which drew a chuckle during the postgame news conference.
“Just the heat of the moment.” Nogales said. “I get made fun of for having just a bunch of chest hair and you’ve just got to let it show, If you’ve got it, own it.”
The Bulldogs weren’t done scoring – Nate Thimjon followed with an RBI groundout to put the Bulldogs up 4-1.
They weren’t done laughing at Nogales’ celebration, either.
“It was awesome,” Dempsey said. “I mean, heat of the moment, the emotion, you’ve got to do what you have to do. We all love Emilio. We give him crap about his chest hair, but we love it.”
Fresno State did its damage in that sixth against Palisch, who had an ERA of 2.11 in 21 1/3 innings over his past 15 appearances out of the bullpen, and Grech, who had allowed opposing batters to hit just .183 and had an ERA of 1.31 over his past 20 2/3 innings and 13 outings.
The Bulldogs added three more runs in the seventh, two on a Tatum double.
‘Hat’s off to Fresno’
“My hat’s off to Fresno,” Stanford coach David Esquer said. “I though they played a great ballgame. They dug out some really tough two-strike at-bats. They got some quality contact. We left some runners on.
“We just didn’t play a great ballgame tonight and they were a big reason for it. Their pitcher did a great job.”
‘You’ve got to pitch’
Moore fell behind early, giving up a solo homer to Brandon Wulff on a 2-0 pitch in the top of the first inning. (Stanford was the visiting team.)
But the junior right-hander made some huge pitches to get out of a few jams.
Moore allowed a two-out single and walk in the third before another matchup against Wulff. This time, Wulff took a called third strike to end the inning.
Moore hit back-to-back batters with one out in the fourth. But Tim Tawa took a called third strike followed by a tame fly ball to right from Nick Bellafronto.
Moore walked No. 9 hitter Alec Wilson leading off the fifth after getting ahead in the count 0-2. But Kyle Stowers took a called third strike and catcher Carter Bins threw out Wilson attempting to steal, then Maverick Handley took a called third strike to end the inning.
When he walked Bellafronto on his 104th pitch with two out in the seventh, Batesole turned to reliever Oscar Carvajal who struck out pinch-hitter Nick Oar on three pitches.
“That’s how you get to 2-0,” said Batesole, who also got an outstanding pitching performance from Ryan Jensen and reliever Ryan Sullivan in the opening game of the regional. “You’ve got to pitch. You’ve got to play defense.
“We backed it up with some outstanding bullpen pitching, also, both with Sullivan and with Carvajal. But the starting pitching was the key to both wins.”
Fresno State will next play at 6 p.m. Sunday against the winner between Stanford and No. 4 Sacramento State (39-24). That elimination game is set for noon Sunday.
The Bulldogs can close out the regional Sunday night. A seventh game, if necessary, would be played at 7 p.m. Monday.
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: Stanford 12, Sacramento State 3
Game 6: Stanford 8, Fresno State 6
Game 7: Stanford (44-12) vs. Fresno State (40-15-1), 7 p.m., 940ESPN