Fresno state captures wac title
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – A blowout loss certainly wasn’t the way Nevada wanted to end its baseball season on Sunday afternoon.
Nevada, which won two big games in the loser’s bracket one day before to reach the Western Athletic Conference championship game, was no match for the Brian Lapin-led Fresno State Bulldogs. Lapin crushed a record-tying three homers and drove in seven runs to lead the Bulldogs to a 17-4 win over the Wolf Pack before 937 fans at Peccole Park.
Lapin tied the WAC record for the most homers in a game (3) and a tournament (5), and was a runaway choice for tournament MVP.
Nevada ends its season with a 35-26 record, its best season since the 2000 squad went 38-19 and tied for first in the Big West, and coach Gary Powers was pleased with his young squad.
“Today is not an indication of the caliber of team that we are,” Powers said. “We did what we needed to do (to get here). We were pretty much out of gas.
“Once we got three or four weeks into the season, the players figured out their roles. This is one of the best teams I’ve had in the 25 years I’ve been here in terms of accepting roles, being good team players and playing for one another.”
That sums up senior pitcher Ryan Rodriguez. The Pack’s ace right-hander told Powers after his win on Thursday that if the Pack made it to Sunday, he wanted the ball, and he got it.
“He had a relatively easy day Thursday,” Powers said. “He didn’t have many deep pitch counts. I knew he could come back, because every Monday after a weekend series, he’s out at shortstop rifling throws across the infield.”
You could tell from the outset it wasn’t going to be a vintage Rodriguez performance that the Peccole Park Faithful have come to expect and appreciate.
Erik Wetzel led off the game with a single to right, and Loren Storey followed with a deep drive to right-center field. Wetzel tried to score from first base, but Matt Suleski fired a strike to second baseman David Ciarlo, whose relay throw home to catcher Konrad Schmidt was perfect. Schmidt blocked off Wetzel and made the tag. Wetzel was shaken up, but stayed in the game.
Rodriguez wasn’t so fortunate with the next hitter – Lapin – as the Bulldogs’ 6-foot-6 center fielder slammed a bomb to left field for a 2-0 lead.
Nevada got a run back in the bottom of the inning against lefty Brandon Miller, but it should have been more.
Jason Sadoian walked and moved to second on Jason Rodriguez’s single to left. Shaun Kort forced Rodriguez, and Sadoian advanced to third. Schmidt followed with a groundball to short, which was booted by Todd Sandell, allowing Sadoian to score. The chance for a big inning ended when Baker Krukow hit into a double play.
Things unraveled for Ryan Rodriguez in the second, as he was racked for five runs and four hits.
Tommy Mendonca, Alan Ahmady and Dan Grubb opened the second with singles. Grubb’s single scored Mendonca to make it 3-1. Ahamdy scored on Sandell’s infield out to make it 4-1. After Wetzel grounded out, Lapin launched a three-run homer.
“I felt fine,” Ryan Rodriguez said. “They hit some good pitches and they hit some bad pitches even harder. It was a tough outing. I threw a lot of bad pitches.
“The first one (to Lapin), he hit a slider. It could have been a better pitch. He’s a strong guy, give him credit. He put a good swing on it. The second one, I threw inside the first pitch and then came back inside again.”
Lapin, who only had four homers during the regular season, now has nine and five have come in Reno. He said the power surge was a coincidence.
“My swing came together this week,” Lapin said. “I hope it doesn’t leave for a while.”
Dan Eastham came on in the third and yielded a run when Sandell hit a two-out single to drive in Mendonca, who had singled, to make it 8-2. Lapin struck again in the fourth with a two-run homer for a 10-2 lead.
Fresno State coach Mike Batesole was obviously impressed with Lapin’s performance.
“I’ve seen guys have pretty big games, but never in a championship game like that,” Batesole said. “That was as clutch a performance as you could ask for.
“We knew we’d have to score a lot of runs. Even though we got an early lead, we weren’t going to stop until the end.”
Lost in Lapin’s power barrage was the starting performance of Miller, and the middle relief of Holden Sprague.
“We needed Brandon Miller to step up and get groundballs, and he did exactly that,” Batesole said. “We kicked a couple behind him.”
Miller worked five innings, allowing two runs, one earned and six hits. Sprague allowed just one hit in his three scoreless innings.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 881-1281
Fresno State 17, Nevada 4
Fresno State 251 200 610 – 17 18 2
Nevada 110 000 002 – 4 9 0
Miller, Sprague (6), Beckley (9) and Grubb, Overland (9); R. Rodriguez, Eastham (3), Keroher (7), Mitchell (7) and Schmidt. W – Miller 2-3. L – R. Rodriguez 9-7.
FRESNO STATE (17)
Wetzel 2b 4-0-1-1, Hestrom 2b 1-0-0-0, Storey rf 3-3-1-0, Detwiler ph 1-0-0-0, Hernandez rf 0-0-0-0, Lapin cf 4-4-3-7, Susdorf lf 5-1-1-0, Lewis dh 5-2-2-1, Mendonca 3b 4-3-3-1, Ahmady 1b 5-2-3-2, Grubb c 3-2-2-2, Overland c 1-0-0-0. Totals 41-17-18-17
Sadoian cf 2-1-0-0, Sansone cf 1-0-0-0, J. Rodriguez 3b 4-0-2-0, Kort 1b 4-0-0-1, Schmidt c 5-0-0-1, Krukow dh 5-0-2-0, Walsh lf 3-1-1-0, O’Sullivan lf 1-0-0-0, Suleski rf 1-0-1-0, Hale rf 2-0-0-0, Ciarlo 2b 3-0-1-0, Jaquez ph 1-1-1-1, Siewert ss 4-1-1-0. Totals 36-4-9-3.