Quick exit for Fresno State baseball in NCAA regionals

California State University, Fresno signage located on Shaw Ave. and Cedar Ave.(Kenny Goodman)

Bulldogs unable to rally from early deficits against host UC Santa Barbara and San Diego, finish season with 33-29 record capped by a Mountain West tourney title

SANTA BARBARA – Fresno State’s comeback magic that carried the team to a Mountain West baseball tournament championship last week dried up over the weekend in the four-team NCAA Santa Barbara Regionals tourney at UC Santa Barbara.

The fourth-seeded Bulldogs couldn’t claw their way back from a 9-3 deficit in dropping a 9-6 decision to the top-seeded Gauchos on May 31, then saw another late rally fall short in a 7-5 elimination game loss to No. 2 seed University of San Diego on June 1. That ended a 33-29 roller coaster season for Fresno, which dropped 17 of 21 games after a 25-9 start before rallying with four straight wins to capture the MWC tourney title.

Sanger High product Jake Dixon took the loss, allowing six earned runs and six hits in 4 ⅔ innings of work. The graduate senior righthander closed the campaign with a 5-5 record, 5.64 earned run average with 85 strikeouts and 30 walks.

Dixon had a loss and a no-decision at the previous week’s conference tournament in San Diego, but the Bulldogs rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to pound out 20 hits and outscore San Jose State, 16-11, on May 26. Dixon had a season-high 10 strikeouts in a loss to regular season champ Air Force to open the tournament.

San Diego knocked Dixon out of the game in the top of the fifth, scoring three runs to take a 6-1 lead. But the Bulldogs answered right back in the bottom half of the frame with four runs, capped by a three-run home run by Murf Gray (Madera South). The Toreros (41-15) added a run in the eighth for a two-run lead, and with the tying run on base Gray bounced into a game- and season-ending double play.

Senior centerfielder Michael McKernon (Mt. Whitney, College of the Sequoias) went 1-for-4 in the final game, and also had a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the loss to UCSB. Graduate senior pitcher Jaykub Acosta (Exeter High), allowed three earned runs on four hits in 1 ⅓ innings of relief in the opening loss. Acosta finished the season 3-2 with a 5.20 ERA while striking out 44 and walking 10.

Host UC Santa Barbara eliminated San Diego from the regionals on Sunday, but the No. 3 regional seed Oregon Ducks prevailed as regional champion with a 3-0 evening victory over Gauchos. Oregon advances to this week’s best-of-three Super Regional at No. 3 overall seed Texas A&M.

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