May 21, 2014
By: Matt Burkholder
LAS VEGAS - It was only fitting that Fresno State opened up against its longtime rival Nevada in game one of the Mountain West Championship Tournament, and Wednesday's opener only added to an outstanding rivalry between the two programs. In a game the Bulldogs led 4-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Wolf Pack made things interesting by plating two runs and positioning the game-tying run on base, but Fresno State held on for the 4-3 win to advance to face UNLV on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs scored first in the nightcap game of the first day of the tournament, and did not connect for a hit in doing so. Kevin Viers reached base as the leadoff hitter in the top of the second by virtue of a fielding error by shortstop Kyle Hunt. Viers then advanced on back-to-back sacrifice bunts, and then scored on a potential inning-ending groundout by Jake Alvarez. Third baseman Bryce Barger misplayed the ball, allowing Viers to score and Alvarez to reach safely to score the games' first run.
Fresno State scored once more in the sixth, to take a 2-0 lead, and again on a Nevada miscue. Viers drew a one-out walk and then Manny Argomaniz connected for the Bulldogs only double of the night, a shot to left center field that advanced Viers to third. Following a strikeout, Alvarez again grounded into a potential inning-ending play, but second baseman Scott Kaplan bobbled the ball and Alvarez out-ran the throw to first. Viers scored easily, Argomaniz attempted to cash in on the error too, but was put out on the play at home to end the Bulldog sixth.
The Wolf Pack answered in the home half of the sixth to pull within one, 2-1. Nevada pieced together three-straight two-out hits in the inning, Kaplan drove home Ryan Teel with a double to right center for the run. Garrett Mundell entered with two outs, relieving Fresno State starter Jordan Brink. Mundell ended the frame by inducing a fly-out to centerfield, stranding runners on the corners, and kept the 'Dogs in control.
In the eighth, Fresno State upped its lead by scoring two, two-out runs thanks to some clutch hitting by Alvarez as well a fourth Wolf Pack error. Nevada elected to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Austin Guibor with two outs to fill the empty base at first, with runners already on second and third to bring Alvarez to the plate. Alvarez hit the first pitch delivered up the middle for an RBI single to reach base for the fourth time in the game. On the next at-bat, Chris Mariscal drew a walk that brought home Viers from third, his third run scored Wednesday evening. The Bulldogs led 4-1 after the top of the eighth.
Mundell returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth looking to close out the game. He retired the first out, but surrendered a double to Hunt. The Bulldogs elected to use Derick Velazquez for the final two outs. Velazquez put away leadoff hitter Kewby Meyer, but then allowed two consecutive two-out singles that brought the Pack within one. With the game-tying run on first, Velazquez induced a fly out to right field that sealed the game and his third save of the season.
Brink (5-3) earned the win in 5.2 innings pitched. He allowed one run off of six hits while striking out four and walking three.
Fresno State, the No. 5 seed, will face the Mountain West No. 1 seed UNLV at 7 p.m. on Thursday next. The Bulldogs will throw sophomore Tim Borst (4-4, 2.77 ERA) while the Rebels plan to use John Richy (10-3, 2.72 ERA). The pitching duel revisits the same pairing on April 5 when Borst led Fresno State to its only win of its three-game series in Fresno by leading the Bulldogs to a 2-0 complete game shutout.
"Catch the Wave" - The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio.
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