Fresno, Calif. - With threats of thunder storms in the forecast throughout the night it was the Tigers that brought the lightning with them to Beiden Field as Pacific's bats came up big in the ninth to take a 7-3 win at Fresno State on Tuesday, April 1. Tied at 3-3 in the ninth inning, the Tigers plated four runs to earn the midweek victory over the Bulldogs as Pacific improved to 13-17 overall while Fresno State fell to 16-13 on the year.
On a cold and rainy night in Fresno, the Tigers persevered to take home a hard fought victory on the road against their long-time rival as Pacific's defense held back the Bulldogs long enough for the offense to come up with some much needed runs in the final inning of action. With one out in their final at bat and facing the Bulldogs' closer, Pacific's top of the order delivered the big inning the Tigers had been searching for the entire game.
Beginning with singles from junior Tyler Sullivan and sophomore J.P. Yakel the Tigers set the inning up for the big bats in the middle of their order. After the duo at the top moved up to second and third on an error on the Yakel single, the Tigers loaded the bases with an intentional walk to sophomore Brett Sullivan as the Bulldogs looked to create a force at every base. With his teammates on every base, sophomore Gio Brusa came up with one of the odder RBIs of the season as the slugging sophomore was awarded first on a catcher's interference after striking the glove of the Bulldogs' catcher on a swing that had resulted in a ground ball back to the pitcher. With the run awarded to the Tigers and just one out still on the board the Tigers broke the game open with an RBI single through the pulled in infield on the left side from senior Erik Lockwood and a two-RBI single to center by junior Taylor Murphy.
The four runs in the ninth would be more than enough for junior Bryce Lombardi to slam the door on the Bulldogs in the bottom half of the inning as the third-year hurler induced three quick ground balls on just six pitches to finish off the game. Lombardi had come into the game in the ninth in relief of freshman Vince Arobio (1-1) who pitched a scoreless eighth to win his first collegiate contest. The freshman's inning on the mound was not without its tense moments, however, as Arobio pitched himself into a bases loaded jam with a hit batter and a pair of walks before getting a ground ball to short to end the threat.
The eighth was one of many innings the Tigers worked themselves into and out of jams as Pacific toed the edge of disaster throughout the night only to be pulled back from the brink with clutch pitching in the tightest moments. Freshman John Jaeger, while not the pitcher of record for the Tigers, was Pacific's most effective reliever as the young Tiger had to go 4.1 innings in relief after getting Pacific out of a second and third situation in the third that kept the Bulldogs from breaking the game open early. The Bulldogs had already taken back the lead in the inning with a two-run home run and threatened for more before Jaeger shutdown the threat. He would get into trouble in the fifth as the Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs in the inning before clamping down with a pair of strikeouts and a popup to come out of the inning unscathed. In total, Jaeger left eight Bulldogs on base during his outing to keep the Tigers even with the Bulldogs before the break out in the ninth.
Offensively, the Tigers were forced to play from behind early after the Bulldogs scored in their first at bat of the evening. Down one, the Tigers took their first lead of the night in the top of the third inning when the middle of the order came up with three-straight two out hits to plate a pair of runs. After Yakel and Sullivan reached on singles, Brusa brought his classmates home with a triple down the right field line. After the home run by the Bulldogs in the bottom of the inning, the Tigers again came from behind with a single run in the top of the fifth to knot the game at 3-3. The run for the Tigers came with help from the Bulldogs' defense as junior Jimmy Gosano reached on the first of five Fresno State errors in the game to begin the inning. He would score two batters later on a ground ball to the right side by Yakel.
Both teams had their chances throughout the night to take control of the game as the two offenses left 24 combined runners on base. Each side left the bases loaded without scoring in the middle of the game while the Tigers had the go-ahead run cut down at the plate in the fifth. In all, the Tigers posted 11 hits against the Bulldogs while Fresno State managed just six hits while taking 10 walks from the Tigers' pitchers. Four different Tigers recorded two hits in the game while eight of nine starters recorded at least one hit in the game. B. Sullivan's single in the first ran his hit-streak to 21 games on the season.
Pacific is back on the road on Thursday, April 3 when the Tigers begin a three-game series with BYU in Provo, Utah at 5:00 pm.