Quick exit for Fresno State baseball in NCAA regionals

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

Fresno State signage located on the north west corner of Shaw Ave. and Maple Ave. (Kenny Goodman)
Mid Valley Times Staff
Published June 4, 2024  • 
11:00 am

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.

Mid Valley Times Staff