Their numbers are all-around staggering.
Perhaps the most astonishing is the Air Force Falcons’ team batting average – a .343 mark that’s second among 295 NCAA Division I baseball teams.
“This isn’t your mom and dad’s Air Force team,” Fresno State coach Mike Batesole said leading into the Bulldogs’ pivotal three-game series against the Falcons that will begin at 6:05 p.m. Friday at Beiden Field. “These guys can play.”
.486Batting average of Air Force leadoff hitter Adam Groesbeck, third in the nation.
Falcons leadoff hitter Adam Groesbeck is batting .486, third best in the nation. No. 3 hitter Bradley Haslam owns a .408 average, behind only Groesbeck among Mountain West Conference hitters.
On the mound, meanwhile, junior right-hander Jax Griffin (5-1) tops the conference and ranks 13th in the nation with a 0.88 ERA while striking out 41 in as many innings.
With such statistics, it’s no wonder Air Force (13-5, 4-1) leads the Mountain West with an .800 winning percentage, just ahead of New Mexico (17-8, 7-2) and Fresno State (17-8, 6-3).
And make no mistake: Fresno State knows every impressive stat about Air Force going into the series, even if the Falcons’ numbers might be boosted by playing in the thin air and elevated atmosphere of Colorado.
I believe their numbers are real; they’re legit. We have to take that into account this weekend. Air Force is looking pretty unbeatable right now.
Fresno State senior Brody Russell
“I’ve been here four years, and I’ve watched their program evolve,” Bulldogs senior Brody Russell said. “Each year they’ve gotten better and better. They have some talent. I believe their numbers are real; they’re legit. We have to take that into account this weekend.
“Air Force is looking pretty unbeatable right now. They’re a pretty good team. Their pitching is unbelievable. Their hitting is unbelievable. This series is definitely the biggest one so far.”
The Falcons, who went 23-29 last year for their highest win total since 2002, haven’t played the most demanding schedule to start this year. Six of their 10 opponents have losing records, and none have been ranked.
Nonetheless, Air Force has pounced on its competition, averaging 8.7 runs per game, including 10.4 in conference play.
Though Air Force has the best batting average in the Mountain West, Fresno State is the conference’s top pitching team with a 2.83 ERA. Friday night starter Ricky Thomas (3-2, 2.29) leads the conference with 46 strikeouts. Saturday starter Jimmy Lambert (5-0, 1.49) is second in ERA.
Fresno State will counter with the best pitching staff in the Mountain West, owning a 2.83 ERA that’s 24th in the nation.
Friday night starter Ricky Thomas (3-2, 2.29) leads the conference with 46 strikeouts (tied for 28th in the country) and ranks third in ERA.
Saturday starter Jimmy Lambert (5-0, 1.49) is second in ERA in the Mountain West and has yet to allow multiple runs in an inning this season.
And the Bulldogs’ top four relievers – senior closer Tim Borst, lefties Dylan Lee and Will Brennons and right-handed freshman Rickey Ramirez – have a combined ERA of 1.77 over 71 innings and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 77-32.
“Offensively, they’re right up there with the best we’ve faced,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be a battle – just got to stay within ourselves, be confident, make our pitches and execute.”
The Bulldogs, who are coming off a 10-5 win against Baseball America No. 17-ranked Long Beach State, are averaging 5.56 runs per game. Fresno State is 12-0 when it scores at least six runs.
AIR FORCE AT FRESNO STATE
- Series: 6:05 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1:05 p.m. Sunday at Beiden Field
- Records: Bulldogs 17-8, 6-3 Mountain West; Falcons 13-5, 4-1
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: The Falcons went 23-29 last season for their winningest season since 2002. Air Force left-handed pitcher Jacob DeVries (3-2, 6.48 ERA) was considered the preseason Mountain West Top MLB prospect by Baseball America. Adam Groesbeck ranks third in the nation with a .486 batting average. Bulldogs starting pitcher Jimmy Lambert remains undefeated at 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA.