Baseball Preview: vs. New Mexico [March 14-16]
March 13, 2014
By: Matt Burkholder
Game 18-20: New Mexico Lobos (9-7-1, 1-2 MW) at Fresno State Bulldogs (13-4, 5-1 MW)
Fresno State Game Notes
New Mexico Game Notes
First Pitch: Fri: 6:35pm, Sat: 2:05pm, Sun: 1:05pm
Stadium: Beiden Field
Dimensions: 330 (LF), 400 (CF), 330 (RF)
All-Time Series: Fresno State leads 11-10
Last Meeting: FS defeated UNM, 9-8 (2013)
Radio: AM 940 ESPN
Play-by-play: Paul Loeffler
Video: Mountain West Network
Live Stats: GoBulldogs.com
Fresno State owns a four-game win streak and 5-1 Mountain West record leading into its three-game series versus conference foe New Mexico (March 14-16)
Fresno State is projected to use same rotation for the third consecutive week -
RHP Jordan Brink (2-1, 1.88), RHP Jimmy Lambert (1-1, 5.57), RHP Tim Borst (1-0, 3.38)
New Mexico projected rotation -
RHP Drew Bridges (2-1, 2.45), LHP Colton Thomson (1-2, 2.74), RHP Josh Walker (2-1, 3.56)
The Bulldogs scored 25 runs in a two game midweek sweep of Penn State
Fresno State owns a 9-1 record at Beiden Field
Jordan Luplow owns a 13-game hitting streak
Ward was named MW Player of the Week consecutive weeks for games played Feb. 17-23 & Feb. 24-Mar 3.
Fresno State vs. New Mexico - The Series
The past two seasons have not been kind to Fresno State, dropping seven of the last nine meetings over that span to the Lobos. Despite the struggles, Fresno State holds an 11-10 all-time advantage that came by way of a 9-8 win in the last meeting on May 12, 2013 at Beiden Field. Outside of the nine games played in 2012-13, the two have squared off just one other time this century. In 2001, New Mexico visiting Fresno for the Pepsi/Johnny Quik Classic, a game the Bulldogs won 9-3. A historical note about this match up, on April 1, 1999 these two teams combined for an NCAA record 68 hits, a record that has held up over the past 14 seasons. Fresno State lost the slugfest 27-26 in Albuquerque. Fresno State will make its return trip this season to Lobo Field for three games April 11-13.
Scouting New Mexico
The Lobos are led by seventh-year head coach Ray Birmingham. The skipper has led New Mexico to four-straight NCAA regional appearances, a first for UNM since 1962. Birmingham earned his 1,000th collegiate victory last season on April 6, 2013 with a 19-5 win at Air Force. He is coaching his 27th career season; the coach spent 18 years at New Mexico JC before joining the Lobos in 2008. In his last season at New Mexico JC, the Thunderbirds were national runners-up and two years prior, his club won the NJCAA National Championship in 2005.
Senior pitcher Josh Walker, a 2014 preseason All-American, is seven wins shy of breaking the all-time UNM career win total (27). He owns a career win percentage of .818, going 21-5. He currently leads the nation with the most innings pitched without having issued a walk.
Offensively, the Lobos are hitting for .308 as team with seven players who have been to the dish at least 25 times averaging better than .300. Senior Chase Harris leads UNM in hits (27), RBIs (19), home runs (2), total bases (37) and stolen bases (5).
Last Time Out
Fresno State manufactured back-to-back five run outbursts in the second and third innings to run away 12-1 over Penn State Wednesday, March 12 at Beiden Field. 19 batters stepped foot inside the batter's box during the two innings that produced 10 runs and eight hits for Fresno State. Highlighted by a 3-run bomb over the left field fence by Jordan Luplow in the third, his second of the season. Luplow finished 2-for-2 with five RBIs. The Dogs have pieced together three-straight games with double-digit runs and have a four-game win streak heading into their match up versus New Mexico.
Offense Finds its Rhythm
Since falling to Air Force 6-2, the Bulldog bats have been as good as they've been all season long. Fresno State is riding a four-game win streak heading into Friday's game against New Mexico. During the current win streak, the Bulldogs are batting .386 and have registered 42 runs in that span. In game three of Sunday's finale against Air Force, the Bulldogs tied season bests for Mountain West single game highs for total bases (27) and triples (2) in its 10-8 win. With its 13-3 win Tuesday against Penn State, the Bulldogs posted their season-high in runs scored (13) and hits (17). Over the last three games the `Dogs have exploded for double-digit runs each contest.
The Steady Bat
Two time Mountain West Player of the Week Taylor Ward continues to be a consistent force from behind the dish for the Bulldogs. He is one of two individuals in the Mountain West that is batting better than .400 on the season, ranking second overall at .406. He leads the Bulldogs in batting average, hits (26), RBIs (17) and is tied with Jordan Luplow at two in home runs.
Jordan Luplow has quietly pieced together a 13-game hitting streak that starting on Feb. 19 at home against Sacramento State. Over the past five games since traveling to Air Force, he has had multi-hit games in four of five games and is on tear from the dish, batting .500 (10-20) with a .850 slugging percentage in that span. For the season, Luplow is third in total bases in the MW - 36 and in a four-way tie along with teammate Taylor Ward with the second-most home runs in the MW (2).
Fresno State has turned a whopping 22 doubles plays thru 17 games, tops in the Mountain West by eight. Second to the Bulldogs' 22 double plays is San Diego State and UNLV with 14 apiece. The `Dogs also lead the MW with most DP turned in a single game, four, coming in a 2-1 extra innings loss to Sacramento State. As of the last updated NCAA National Rankings on March 9, Fresno State ranked third in the country with 20 double plays through 15 games, behind Notre Dame (22) and Furman (21).
That's a 180
The Bulldog baseball team has pulled a complete 180 from a season ago, a team that was 3-14 in 2013 is 14-3 in 2014. Much of this season's success can be directly attributed to the pitching staff that returned seven pitchers from 2013 with 383 innings of cumulative experience. That experience is already appearing this season. Through 17 games in 2013 the team ERA has improved from 5.19 to 2.83 in that span in 2014. The staff has allowed 36 less earned runs, improving from 85 ER to 49 ER while surrendering a significantly less walks, down to 54 from 74, and hit by pitches down to 11 from 31, that is 40 less runners given a free pass to first base, all a big reason why through 17 games Fresno State is 14-3, not 3-14.
Fresno State's stay in the Top 25 was short-lived as they dropped out of the most recent polls released on March 10. Despite falling out after a 2-2 week, the Bulldogs are still receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Poll. Fresno State broke into the Top 25 for the first time since 2011 in the polls released March 3 after sweeping then-ranked No. 18 Texas A&M. The `Dogs dropped back-to-back games before winning a pair to close the week.
A Few Freshman Firsts
The newest Bulldogs added firsts to their resumes over the last week. Austin Guibor picked up his first career start at Air Force (GM2) and responded by posting his first career hit and RBI. Jake Stone recorded his first RBI in game two at AFA. Jimmy Lambert and Dillon Houser earned their first collegiate wins. Lambert got the win in game two of the AFA series, Houser got the win at home against Penn State on Tuesday. Fred Schlichtholz saw is first action as a Bulldog Wednesday and recorded his first collegiate save.
Kevin Viers Named MW College Sports Madness Player of the Week
College Sports Madness named Fresno State first baseman Kevin Viers its MW Player of the Week for games played March 3-9. Viers broke out for a monster performance in its series finale at Air Force on Sunday, nearly hitting for the cycle. The sophomore first baseman went 3-for-5 in the game with three RBIs and scored three runs. Viers connected for a leadoff single in the third, sailed a 2-run homer over Falcon Field's monster right field wall in the fourth and tripled to the center field to plate Trent Woodward in the sixth. All three hits were consecutive; Viers came up a double short of hitting for the cycle. For the week, Viers owned a .267 batting average, a .389 on base percentage and a .600 slugging percentage
Perfect at home in the Mountain West
The Bulldogs will look to stay perfect in Mountain West play at Beiden Field as they take their 3-0 record to the test this weekend. In what was the earliest conference pairing for the Bulldogs in the Mike Batesole era, Fresno State swept Nevada three games to zero in Fresno in games 6-8 of the season. Fresno State defeated Nevada 4-1, 5-3 and 11-9 in the series finale. Even though the `Dogs came away with the win in the Sunday finale, the nine runs the Wolfpack scored are the most runs the Bulldogs have allowed to an opponent this season.
The entire 34-man, 2014 Fresno State baseball roster is made up of all student-athletes from the state of California. Of the 24 Division-I baseball programs in the Golden State, five other schools can share the same distinction with the Bulldogs - Cal Poly (Big West), UC Davis (Big West), UC Irvine (Big West), UC Riverside (Big West) and San Diego State.
Diamond 'Dogs Picked Fourth in Mountain West
The Mountain West announced its annual preseason coaches' poll on Feb. 11 and the Bulldog baseball team was picked to finish fourth for the second consecutive season. The 'Dogs received 25 points as voted upon by league coaches and trail preseason favorites New Mexico and 2013 MW champion San Diego State. The Lobos and Aztecs each received 43 points and three first-place points apiece for a deadlock at the top spot. UNLV picked up 40 points and one first-place vote and are predicted to finish third while Nevada (fifth, 18), Air Force (sixth, 14) and San Jose State (seventh, 12) are all behind Fresno State.
"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.