Los Banos' Velazquez leads 'Dogs to needed victory against Trojans

By Robert Kuwada / The Fresno BeeMarch 8, 2013 

FRESNO -- Fresno State had lost seven of eight to start the baseball season and was off to its worst start since 2005, which is a lot for a first-year pitcher to shoulder on the mound.

Add in the Bulldogs' problems scoring runs to this point, and the task ahead gets no easier.

But Derick Velazquez, the sophomore transfer from Los Banos High and Merced College, stood up to it March 2 in a 5-1 victory over USC at Beiden Field, pushing his way well past the 100-pitch mark in a complete-game victory that was badly needed for the 2-7 'Dogs.

Coach Mike Batesole put the game on him in the ninth even as the pitches mounted and the Trojans put their leadoff batter on base, then runners on the corners, then pushed a run across and then brought the tying run to the plate.

"Wow," Batesole said. "He hasn't been anywhere near 120 since last year and that was just all guts, his last 15 pitches or so.

"It was just one at a time, one at a time, one at a time. But you could see it in his eyes. You could see by the way he was getting the ball back from (catcher Trent Garrison)."

It also was an indicator how quickly the Bulldogs might be able to turn this season around, given the quality of their starting pitching through the first nine games.

The four pitchers to start a game for Fresno State -- Will Munro, Tim Borst, Jordan Brink and Velazquez -- have allowed only 51 hits in 55 innings and have an ERA of 2.62.

Velazquez, on Saturday, is only the second to get credit with a victory.

But a handful of runs can go a long way if the Bulldogs can get them. Velazquez certainly made good use of the support, settling in quite well in his third Division I start.

He said that a players-only meeting on Friday night and another with Batesole on Saturday morning helped.

"I didn't have to worry about anything as long as I did my job. The defense had my back," said Velazquez, who threw 122 pitches, is now 1-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.74 from 4.15. "I can look for them to protect me if they do hit the ball. I didn't really have too much pressure on me, really.

"I felt like it was the third inning there in the ninth, actually, with all that run support."

The five runs do qualify as an avalanche for the Bulldogs. It is more than they had scored in all but one of their games, and, no, it doesn't matter that walks and hit batters and errors and wild pitches played as much a part in the runs as any searing line drive -- and there were a few of those.

The Bulldogs, hitting only .229 coming in, went through a stretch between the third and sixth innings where six consecutive batters struck out against USC sophomore Nigel Nootbaar.

But they were able to push a run across in the first inning, with shortstop Louie Payetta, making his first start of the season, reaching when hit by a pitch, advancing on a wild pitch and scoring on a double to left by Trent Garrison. And they were able to add one in the third when Jordan Luplow led off by reaching on a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch.

That wasn't much, but Velazquez and the Bulldogs' defense made it enough through seven innings, the 'Dogs starter helped along the way with the Trojans running into outs on the bases twice, the second on a perfect throw from left field by Taylor Ward to cut down a runner at the plate in the seventh when the score still was only 2-0.

"That kept the momentum on our side and just pumped up our players," Velazquez said.

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