Don’t tell Ryan Jensen, but as far as Fresno State pitchers go, he’s kind of a big deal.
“Just trusting my teammates and believing in them,” Jensen said between my yawns.
Unbeknown to Jensen, his top-of-the-ladder Bulldogs are playing the most essential set of May games in years when they host San Diego State this weekend.
“You’ve just got to treat it like every other weekend,” Jensen said where ho meets hum.
As for those Aztecs, who kicked the Bulldogs to the offseason curb in the Mountain West Conference championship game his freshman year? Let me guess, death to them all?
“No, it’s just another team to us.”
Fresno State baseball coach Mike Batesole, who asks no quarter and gives none in return, must be crying proud.
Jensen – he of the fastball that gets tickets for speeding 99 mph – got through an interview saying absolutely nothing.
Not a word about getting payback against San Diego State for a May 2018 loss that saw Jensen get ejected. (“Haven’t really thought about it.”) Nothing about the chance to clinch the top seed in the Mountain West tournament this weekend. (“You put too much pressure on yourself when you do that.”)
The man won’t even take 10 seconds to look back on a month that’s seen the Bulldogs win 15 of 18. (“We don’t have a ring on our finger yet.”)
This is how Batesole likes it. No talk, all walk, and no one has walked the mound of Beiden Field like Jensen in almost a decade.
His 8-1 mark is the best thing going in these parts since Greg Gonzales went 11-1 eight years ago. His four-seam speedball is the fastest pitch thrown in these parts since Jack Hannah was breaking the sound barriers in the mid-1900s.
Jensen very well may be the best Fresno State baseball player you haven’t bothered to watch since you were busy not noticing Aaron Judge.
He is every reason Fresno State might end its run of six years without postseason bunting on the rails, the second-longest stench in program history. He is the showstopper the Bulldogs needed in 2016, the last time they won a regular-season title only to go two-and-barbecue at the conference tourney.
Jensen is that good. Friday night’s series opener is your last chance to see so for yourself.
Here’s what to look for.
A fastball that only goes really fast or faster. A changeup that makes swingers fall down in the act. And, a head that now stays cool when the situation begs for dismay.
Jensen was shoving defeat down the Aztecs’ throats in last year’s series-opener. With a runner at second, he got the third out while covering first base on a weak infield grounder.
Jensen took the throw, tagged the base in plain view of slo-mo video to see, and his seventh-inning shutout was safe by 10 feet. Only, the no-eyed umpire said he missed the bag. Jensen lost it, got tossed, and so went the game and weekend.
Nowadays? All Jensen does is shake it off and get the next out. That shows up on scouting reports as much as whatever number pops up on the radar guns.
“Just maturity, I think,” Jensen said. “I’m really grateful for the coaching staff here.”
You better believe the feeling is mutual.