April 11, 2014
By: Matt Burkholder
Albuquerque, N.M. - A late Fresno State comeback fell short Friday night as they rallied for the game-tying fourth run in the eighth, only to be erased by New Mexico the very next frame. UNM regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth and walked away from Lobo Field with a 5-4 series opening win.
"It was a 5-4 Friday night barn burner," said head coach Mike Batesole. "With wind blowing out early it definitely was a factor in the five early runs that both teams put together, but then the wind settled down and so did the game."
Just prior to the game starting, strong winds began to gust out to right field that wreaked havoc for both teams defensively. Taylor Ward took advantage of the situation by belting his fifth home run of the season over the right field fence to put the 'Dogs on top 2-0 in the first. In his second appearance as the leadoff hitter, Trent Woodward drew a leadoff walk in as many appearances to score off of Ward's homer.
Lobos' Sam Haggerty and Chase Harris strung together a pair of singles in the bottom of the first, and then John Pustay walked to set up Andre Vigil with loaded bases. Vigil hit a bases clearing double against Bulldogs' starter Jordan Brink and the Fresno State lead was gone as quick as they had it. In bases loaded situations, Vigil is 4-for-4 on the season his freshman year.
The Bulldog threatened in the fourth, using the third leadoff walk of the game. Although the inning came to a halt as Austin Guibor grounded into a 1-6-3 double play. The second double play the Bulldogs hit into in the first four innings.
In the home half of the fourth New Mexico loaded the bases with two outs and sent the Mountain West and NCAA hits leader Harris to the plate. He surprised everybody at Lobo Field with a bunt single up the third baseline on Brink's first pitch to score the fourth run of the game and put the Lobos up 4-2.
Jordan Luplow connected for his second double of the game to start the sixth, and back-to-back productive outs by Ward and Chris Mariscal brought Luplow around the bases to pull the 'Dogs within one run. Lobos' reliever Carson Schneider induced all three groundouts after Luplow's leadoff hit led to pulling starter Jonathan Cuellar.
New Mexico came close to answering in the bottom half of the sixth as Harris was back at the plate with two runners on board, but Brink forced Harris into an inning ending groundout double play.
"Look at Brink today," Batesole said. There's your Friday night guy with one strikeout tonight, but he fought it out. The kid is tough, he knows how to compete. He didn't have the fastball today, but he still found a way to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win late."
Luplow came through with the first hit with a runner in scoring position when it mattered most to tie the game in the eighth. Both infields produced numerous highlight plays at third base, but the first error of the game came on a grounder Brody Russell hit third baseman Vigil's way and his throw to first was wild. Russell advanced to second on the throwing error. The errors then snowballed when Luplow hit a grounder up the middle, Luplow was credited with the hit, but the throw again was wild and it allowed Russell to advance home from third.
Kevin Viers was a few feet from giving Fresno State the lead during the eighth inning rally with a liner that centerfielder Aaron Sipple was able to haul in and strand two Bulldogs on base.
Casey Rodriguez re-entered the game in the bottom of the eighth after closing out the seventh with two outs to end Brink's day on the mound. Rodriguez surrender a leadoff double to Jack Zoellner, Zoellner then advanced to third on a ground out and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly to left field.
Luplow led the team from behind the dish going 3-for-4 from the plate with two doubles and a run scored.
"We're playing good baseball," said Batesole. "One break goes our way and not their way and we win 5-4. That's Friday night baseball when two good teams play each other, it's likely to be a one run game and a barn burner like it was, and I expect tomorrow to be the same."
The series between Fresno State and New Mexico resumes Saturday at 1 p.m. from Lobo Field. RHP Derick Velazquez (2-3, 2.48 ERA) will start for the Bulldogs while the Lobos will throw LHP Colton Thompson (3-4, 3.83 ERA). The Bulldogs have won their last two games played on Saturday and will look to make it a third tomorrow.
"Catch the Wave" - 2014 Fresno State baseball season tickets are now on sale and can be ordered online at gobulldogs.com or over the phone at 559-278-DOGS (3647). The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio.
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