By Stephen Trembley & Lisa Beach
By Stephen Trembley & Lisa Beach
FRESNO, Calif. --- The Fresno State baseball team used a big seven-run seventh inning and another strong outing by senior pitcher Thomas Harlan to fuel the Bulldogs' 8-6 win over the Sacramento State Hornets on Sunday afternoon in Western Athletic Conference action.
"We were really good at the plate, aggressive and ran the bases well today," Fresno State head baseball coach Mike Batesole said.
Harlan struck out five Hornets, scattered six hits and allowed just two runs in 7.1 solid innings of work while mixing his pitches and speeds effectively all afternoon.
"We're starting to play together like we knew we could, hopefully we can keep it going," Harlan said. "We just want to keep it moving, keep it pushing forward. Never be satisfied, ever, as a team."
The Hornets tallied those two runs off Harlan with single runs in the fifth and sixth for the early advantage before the Bulldogs' bats ignited for the seven-spot in the bottom of the seventh.
Senior designated hitter Kenneth Wise sparked the rally with a RBI single down the right field line to score sophomore Aaron Judge, who had reached on a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single up the middle by first baseman Trent Garrison.
After Bulldog catcher Austin Wynns put the ball in play and made it to first safely when Garrison drew a throw home form Sacramento State first baseman Trevor Paine. But Garrison retreated to third in time to set the stage for a bases-loaded situation with no outs for freshman Jordan Luplow.
Luplow fell behind 1-2 to Sac State ace Tanner Mendonca, but the freshman outfielder won the battle when he turned on an inside fastball offering and blistered it into a bullet skipping down the left field line for the go-ahead bases-clearing double that gave the 'Dogs a 4-2 lead.
"In a two-strike battle, Batesole always stresses that you have to win the two strikes," Luplow said. "We're getting closer and closer to really clicking. These past couple of weekends we've gone off offensively. Hopefully we can keep that rolling and get into the tournament and go from there."
Fresno State scored three more times in the seventh inning, including a textbook RBI bunt single by another freshman, Jordan Brink, to go up 7-2.
"Give Brink some credit," Batesole said. "You saw him out there this morning at 9 o'clock getting working on that push he didn't get yesterday. There you go, same exact situation today and you get it done. That was beautiful.
"Earlier in the season they were taking really small steps, really far in between steps," Batesole added of the Bulldogs' freshmen. "We've been playing well now for the past couple weeks and you've been seeing them take a lot of little steps fast now. Today was a really big one."
In the pivotal seventh inning, Fresno State sent 10 batters to the plate.
Harlan then turned game over to the bullpen in the top of the eighth after inducing a groundout to open the frame.
"He's been pitching his tail off," Batesole said of Harlan. "We left him out there for one more hitter to watch him get the last out. Especially as a senior, it's great to watch him walk up and get a little love from the fans. He's earned it."
Even with the Hornets trying to mount a late charge with four runs in the last two innings, senior reliever Taylor Garrison closed the door to lock in the series victory for Bulldogs over the WAC-affiliate member Sacramento State.
Fresno State (21-23, 4-8 WAC) heads to Las Cruces for an important three-game series starting Thursday night against the New Mexico State Aggies (30-16, 7-5 WAC).
The Bulldogs sit just a half game back of Louisiana Tech for the final spot in the 2012 WAC Tournament, which will be held in Mesa, Ariz., in late May.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" -- AM 940 KYNO is the flagship radio station for Bulldog Baseball.
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