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Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State's Superb Baseball Season
STEVEN HEADSHOT 1
By Steven Sanchez
Published 1 month ago on
April 19, 2024

Left to right: Fresno State home run leader Rocco Peppi, head coach Ryan Overland, outfielder Grady Morgan. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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So, how has the Fresno State baseball team positioned itself atop the Mountain West Conference?

San Jose State at Fresno State

Friday: 6:05 p.m.

Saturday: 3:05 p.m.

Sunday: 1:05 p.m.

Start with consistency. The Bulldogs have yet to lose a series in 2024 while going 14-4 in conference play and 25-11 overall.

Anchoring that consistency is a pitching staff led by young (sophomore Jack Anker) and old (fifth-year lefthander Jake Dixon, senior righthander Noah Beal).

One beauty of college baseball is the opportunity to be a two-way player. Senior Tommy Hopfe checks that box. He leads the Bulldogs with a .366 batting average and has nailed down seven saves out of the bullpen while playing in all of the team’s 36 games.

Supercharging the run production is a Long Beach State transfer known as “Juicy Juice” on social media. Junior infielder/outfielder Rocco Peppi leads the team in home runs (10), RBIs (39), and stolen bases (5).

“We’ve got a lot of production out of him, he’s on top of the lineup, and great ability to get on base,” Bulldogs coach Ryan Overland says about Peppi. “The special thing about this team is getting quality production out of the players. The numbers and stats show that production is coming from everybody, not just one player.”

With just eight home games remaining, the Bulldogs are looking forward to playing conference rival San Jose State (8-10, 13-23) before big crowds at Beiden Field tonight through Sunday afternoon.

“It’s about preparing to play your best no matter what the rankings, records, or standings are,” says Overland, referring to both the Spartans and the Bulldogs’ consistency. “It’s about playing right and being prepared for the game by respecting your opponent and knowing that they’re preparing to win, too.”

Says fifth-year outfielder Grady Morgan: “It’s a much bigger jump offensively from last year. We’ve done a better job at playing our game and doing our job at the plate and each player knowing their piece in the puzzle. Everyone’s doing their part and has accepted their role on the team and spot in the order. We’re firing on all cylinders and it’s really fun to be a part of it.”

Overland’s First Official Season as Head Coach

The Bulldogs are excelling in Overland’s first official season as head coach. He took over last season as the interim leader the retirement of Mike Batesole.

Fresno State finished with their first 30-win season since 2019 at 30-27, 16-14 in the MW. Overland previously spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach for the Diamond ‘Dogs under Batesole. And, he has a championship pedigree — he was a catcher on Fresno State’s 2008 NCAA College World Series championship team.

“Getting the chance to play for Batesole, being a national championship player with him and coaching under him, there was a lot of things that he did that worked well and I learned from,” said Overland.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to be me and nobody else. I have a great coaching staff with great experience that make a tremendous impact on the team.”

Goals: Win the Conference, Make the NCAA Tournament

The Bulldogs last appeared in the NCAA postseason tournament in 2019, the year they last won the MW regular season title.

Overland says that at this juncture the Bulldogs’ focus is strictly about playing their best — a pitch, an at-bat, and an inning at a time.

“A lot of that stuff is out of our control,” he says about the postseason. “We’re about playing the game the right way and putting together a great performance on the field and winning as many games as possible. The rankings will take care of themselves. We’re focused on making the right preparations for each game we play.”

Honoring Bob Bennett, Inman Perkins

There’ll be several special events taking place this weekend. The Diamond ‘Dogs will celebrate the life of longtime fan and cheerleader Inman Perkins, who died earlier this month at the age of 83, before and during Friday’s game. In 1977, Inman attended a baseball home game and became the Bulldogs’ No. 1 fan across all sports. He was loved by Bulldog fans across generations and they’ll honor him with a moment of silence, as well as a moment of cheer. His favorite saying? “It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.”

The Bulldogs will honor the legacy of Coach Bob Bennett on Saturday with a pregame ceremony. He was the Bulldogs’ winningest coach with 34 years at the helm.

Bulldogs Notes: Fresno State is No. 1 in the MW in ERA at 4.76. That’s 1.27 earned runs a game better than No. 2 UNLV (6.03). … Pitcher Jack Anker (5-0) leads the conference in ERA at 2.13 and opposing batting average at .201. .. Pitchers Jake Dixon (55) and Noah Beal (54) are in the top five in the conference for total strikeouts. …The team tops the conference with 93 doubles, ninth in the country… Senior infielder Ben Newton has a conference-leading 17 doubles, eight-most in the country.

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Steven Sanchez,
Content Manager/Entertainment Editor
Steven Sanchez, a resident of Clovis, graduated from Buchanan High School in the class of 2007 and obtained his film degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Steven is a multifaceted artist, working as a filmmaker, writer, photographer, videographer, and published author. He has a profound passion for movies, comic books, and rock ‘n’ roll. A dedicated football enthusiast, he cheers for the Las Vegas Raiders. In his leisure time, he indulges in reading and collecting vinyl records. Steven is often found attending rock shows in town, a keen enthusiast of live music. He holds a special fondness for his grandma's homemade meals and spending time with his twin sister.

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