First-year baseball coach Ryan Overland finishes 1-2 in MLB Desert Invitational


Blake Wolf/The Collegian

Junior Ben Newton at the plate during the Fresno State baseball alumni game.

By Alexander Scott, Contributor

Fresno State baseball opened its season in the MLB Desert Invitational in front of major league scouts. 

The tournament was played in various spring training facilities where major league baseball teams prepare for the regular season.

First-year Fresno State Head Coach Ryan Overland welcomed the opportunity.

“To play on big league fields is exciting,” Overland said. 

The Diamond ‘Dogs opened its season on Feb. 17 against the University of Michigan, playing them for the first time in 31 years. The game took place at Sloan Park, the home of the Chicago Cubs in Mesa, Arizona. 

Bulldog Michael McKernan came up in the bottom of the second inning and doubled in senior Payton Allen. Fresno State freshman Triston “Murf” Gray later scored in the inning via an error, giving the ‘Dogs a 2-0 lead. 

Michigan responded by scoring in the third on a wild pitch. 

The Wolverines ended up hitting three home runs in the game, including a pair of jacks from senior Ted Burton. He led them to a 6-2 victory over Fresno State. 

Bulldog starting pitcher Ixan Henderson struck out eight batters in 3.1 innings pitched, allowing three runs. 

The ‘Dogs had opened the last 14 seasons on a win. The last time the ‘Dogs lost a season opener was against UC Davis in February of 2008. 

Looking to rebound from Friday’s loss, Fresno State returned to Sloan Park and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning against the University of Arizona, including an RBI double from sophomore Bobby Blandford. 

In the fourth inning, junior Ben Newton drove in sophomore Marco Pirruccello to extend the Dogs’ lead, 3-0. 

Fresno State didn’t stop there. Allen belted a two-run home run over the left field fence in the eighth inning. It was the final blow in the Bulldogs 5-0 rout over the Wildcats, giving Coach Overland his first victory. 

Fresno State junior Jake Dixon picked up the win, pitching six shutout innings and striking out six batters. Bulldog senior Trevor Garcia recorded the save, pitching three scoreless innings. 

“I think this lineup is gonna surprise some people with the length and how dynamic it’s gonna be,” Overland said in an interview with 1430 ESPN radio. 

It was the Bulldogs’ first victory over Arizona in 62 years.

Fresno State played at Salt River Field, home of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday, Feb. 19, against Michigan State. 

The Bulldogs chased Spartans’ pitcher Adam Berghorst in the first inning, scoring two runs after reaching base five times. Michigan State brought in Dominic Pianto who pitched the rest of the game. 

It was all Michigan State after that. The Spartans out-hit the ‘Dogs 15-4 in the game, leading to its 7-4 victory over Fresno State. 

The Bulldogs return this week to Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium, hosting Nebraska Omaha on Feb. 23. First pitch will be at 6:05 p.m.