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Bulldogs to Face UC Santa Barbara in NCAAs After Amazing MW Baseball Comeback
GV-Wire-1
By gvwire
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 27, 2024

Fresno State celebrates after defeating San Jose State 16-11 on Sunday in San Diego to win the Mountain West Championship and claim a berth in the NCAA baseball regionals. (gobulldogs.com)

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SAN DIEGO — In the highest-scoring final game in Mountain West Championship history, Fresno State’s offensive explosion at the plate was too much for San Jose State in a 16-11 slugfest on Sunday afternoon at Tony Gwynn Stadium. The Diamond ‘Dogs captured their second MW tournament title in program history and their first since 2019.

The Bulldogs (33-27) secured the MW’s automatic bid in the NCAA playoffs with the victory. On Friday, they will face host and No. 14 national seed UC Santa Barbara (42-12)  of the Big West in a first-round game.

The Bulldogs had to overcome four home runs and seven RBI from Hunter Dorraugh of San Jose State (24-33) to win the title game.

It was quite a turnaround for Fresno State, which fell 3-2 in the tournament opener to Air Force on Thursday and extended its losing streak to six straight.

The Bulldogs staved off elimination with a 6-1 win over New Mexico on Friday. The next day, they sent regular-season champion Air Force home with a 10-3 win and forced the NCAA-deciding tournament berth rematch with San Jose State by dropping the Spartans 8-5.

Sunday’s Bulldog Heroes

Tyler Davis and Justin Stransky brought in half of Fresno State’s runs as both went 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Jaykob Acosta got the win, striking out seven and allowing one run in 3 ⅔ innings in relief of Jake Dixon, who started his second game of the MW tournament.

Murf Gray was named the MW Championship Most Valuable Player. The sophomore was 11-for-21 at the plate in five games, driving in seven RBIs and scoring eight runs. Seven of his 11 hits went for extra bases, recording five doubles and two home runs.

Gray was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Acosta, Stransky, Noah Beal, Tommy Hopfe, and Jake Riding.

The title game box score is at this link.

How It Happened

The Spartan offense got going early, scoring the first run of the game with a solo home run in the bottom of the first. A double down the left-field line almost allowed the Spartans to score another run, but the relay from Bobby Blanford to Gray to Davis, the catcher, was in time to get the runner out at home.

Fresno State’s bats got hot in the third as Michael McKernan doubled down the left-field line with two outs on the board. Ben Newton drove in McKernan, a single to right field, and crossed the plate himself after a two-run bomb from Hopfe.

Blandford and Stransky hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth to keep the Diamond ‘Dog offense rolling. San Jose State responded with a solo shot to center field in the bottom of the frame to halve the Bulldogs lead at 6-3.

The hits kept coming in the fifth as Grady Morgan doubled to bring in Hopfe. Singles from Davis and Stransky plated another three runs as the advantage grew to eight.

Acosta sent the Spartans down in order in the bottom of the fifth, finishing it with back-to-back strikeouts.

Fresno State batted around in the sixth. The ‘Dogs loaded the bases with no outs. Eddie Saldivar hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring in McKernan. After Morgan was hit by a pitch, a single from Gray brought in Newton. With a 2-0 count, Davis ripped a shot down the left line to clear the bases. A pitching change did not cool the bats as Blandford singled and Stransky doubled to score Davis.

After the Bulldogs were held scoreless in the ninth, Hopfe allowed back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the inning. The senior closer then shut the door with a pair of flyouts bookending a strikeout.

NOTES

  • Fresno State won its second Mountain West tournament championship and its first since 2019.
  • Fresno State captured its 10th conference tournament title overall.
  • After entering the 2024 tournament with a 6-6 record in Mountain West elimination games, the Bulldogs won four straight over the weekend.
  • Heading into their third game of the tournament, Fresno State had lost four straight games to Air Force and three straight to San Jose State. The Bulldogs eliminated the Falcons before twice defeating the Spartans.
  • Fresno State’s pitching staff recorded a tournament record 67 strikeouts, 18 more than the previous record of 49 set by San Diego State in 2001. Acosta, Dixon, and Beal each accounted for 12 strikeouts.
  • Gray’s five doubles tied the tournament record.
  • Davis had a team-high eight RBIs in the tournament while Gray and Hopfe each scored eight runs.

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