By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
PREVIEW: 2012 WAC TOURNAMENT - OPENING DAY
Wednesday, May 23
GAME 1: No. 5 Fresno State vs. No. 4 Hawai'i (3 p.m. PT)
GAME 2: No. 6 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 3 Nevada (7 p.m. PT)
Site: HoHoKam Stadium, Mesa, Ariz.
Radio: GAME 1 - AM 940 KYNO (Paul Loeffler/Ray O'Canto)
Live Statistics: GAME 1 - Gametracker
Live Video: WAC.TV (subscription required)
FRESNO, Calif. ---The sizzling Fresno State baseball team is heading to the desert with the single focus of defending its crown and bringing home its sixth Western Athletic Conference Tournament title in the past seven years.
As the six-time defending WAC regular season or tournament champion, fifth-seeded Fresno State (25-25) opens postseason play on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against fourth-seeded Hawai'i (30-23) between the chalk in HoHoKam Stadium, the spring training home for the Chicago Cubs since 1979.
The Bulldogs and Rainbows met in both teams' conference opening series in Honolulu back on April 5-7 where UH won two of the three contests.
In the three-game set, the Bulldogs beat the Rainbows 5-3 on April 6 behind a strong pitching performance by junior Justin Haley, who tossed seven innings and fanned five to earn the win. Fresno State sophomore outfielder Aaron Judge ripped two of his 11 doubles this year in the series and added a pair of RBI.
The losses came in the Friday night opener by the score of 8-2 and a heartbreaking Sunday finale, which Fresno State dropped 3-2 in ten innings after taking the lead in the top of the tenth.
A month later, the Bulldogs found the perfect temperature to cook up a tasty stretch run and captured their final three WAC series in winning two out of three against top seed New Mexico State, second- seeded Sacramento State and sixth-seeded Louisiana Tech. NMSU, Sacramento State and No. 3 seed Nevada all finished conference play at 11-7 to share each school's first baseball regular season WAC championship.
But Fresno State is one of the hottest teams entering the tournament as winners in eight of the past 12 games while Hawai'i has lost seven of 12 during the same span and owns just a 4-11 record away from the Islands.
The history between the two programs will add some intrigue to the opener as the Rainbows are the only team to snatch the tournament championship and automatic NCAA bid away from the Bulldogs in the past six years.
This pairing is a rematch of the last two title games, with Fresno State winning last year's crown and Rainbows taking home the title in 2010 in the only two tournaments played at HoHoKam Stadium.
Also, this could be the final time the 'Dogs and Rainbows meet as conference foes with Fresno State moving to the Mountain West and Hawai'i shifts to the Big West next season.
Fresno State has won five of the past six WAC Tournament Championships.
In 2011, Fresno State won all three of its games and cruised through the winner's bracket by outscoring its opponents, 39-10. It marked the sixth straight-year the 'Dogs won either the regular season or tournament conference crown.
Fresno State owns a 22-3 record in the WAC Tournament games since 2006.
Fresno State has won 33 conference baseball championships since 1922.
Under head coach Mike Batesole, the Bulldogs are 36-13 in postseason play, including both the WAC and NCAA Tournaments combined.
In the final 12 games of the regular season, Fresno State outscored its opponents 95-46 and hit .325 as a team.
In conference games, Fresno State owned a +13 run scored margin, +18 hit margin, +16 RBI margin, +27 total base margin and struck out 51 fewer times that its opponents.
STREAKS TO WATCH
Sophomore Aaron Judge has reached base safely in the last 18 games
Sophomore Jake Alvarez has reached base safely in last 12 games
Senior Kenneth Wise has reached base safely in last 10 games
SEVEN BULLDOGS NAMED TO ALL-WAC TEAMS
Seven student-athletes on the Fresno State baseball team were named either first or second-team All-Western Athletic Conference by the league's head coaches for the 2012 season, the WAC announced at its annual postseason baseball banquet on Tuesday night. Of the seven Bulldog selections, two received first-team All-WAC distinctions - sophomore Aaron Judge (OF) and senior Kenneth Wise (DH). The other five - Trent Garrison (1B), Patrick Hutcheson (2B), Jake Alvarez (3B), Justin Haley (SP) and Thomas Harlan (SP) - received second-team honors.
WISE CAPTURES WAC BATTING TITLE
Senior designated hitter and outfielder Kenneth Wise (Camarillo, Calif.) finished conference play with a .434 batting average for the highest clip by any WAC baseball student-athlete. Wise played in all 18 conference games and recorded 23 hits in 53 at-bats with 15 RBI, a home run and three doubles for a .547 slugging percentage. Wise also earned WAC Hitter of the Week honors for going .714 (10-for-14) from April 30 through May 5.
BULLDOG PITCHERS EARN FIVE WAC WEEKLY AWARDS
Four Fresno State pitchers - Thomas Harlan (twice), Justin Haley, Tyler Linehan and Cody Kendall - accounted for five of the 15 Verizon WAC Pitcher of the Week awards during the 2012 season. Linehan also earned a Louisville Slugger National Pitcher of the Week on opening weekend. As a pitching staff, the Bulldogs sported a team 3.68 earned run average and fanned 425 batters over the course of a 50-game regular season schedule.
BATESOLE PASSES 600-WIN MILESTONE
The incredible career for Fresno State head baseball coach Mike Batesole reached a significant milestone on April 17 when the Bulldogs rallied in the ninth for a 5-3 come-from-behind road win at Cal Poly to hand Batesole his 600th career victory in 17 years as a Division I head coach. Now in his tenth season at Fresno State, Batesole coached for seven years at CSU Northridge.
BULLDOGS BLAST PAST NO. 1 STANFORD, 7-4
Sophomore outfielder Aaron Judge, a preseason honorable mention All-American, launched back-to-back home runs in his first two at-bats to help fuel Fresno State's 7-4 victory over then-No. 1 Stanford on March 2 at Beiden Field. Both of Judge's homers came off Stanford ace Mark Appel, who is widely projected as one of the top prospects for the 2012 MLB Draft. The series between the 'Dogs and Cardinal drew a total of 9,270 fans for an average of 3,090 per game.
UNDERCLASSMEN PLAYING BIG ROLE FOR 'DOGS
Two-time National Coach of the Year Mike Batesole knew his underclassmen would be a key to the Bulldogs' success this season after eight of the ten Bulldogs drafted last season signed contracts to pursue their professional playing careers. Four freshmen (Jordan Brink, Jordan Luplow, Chris Mariscal and Taylor Tempel) and two sophomores (Jake Alvarez and Aaron Judge) have played in at least 40 of Fresno State's 50 games this season.
"Discover Fresno State Athletics!" - AM 940 KYNO is the flagship radio station for Bulldog Baseball.
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