No. 5 Air Force Knocks Off No. 1 Fresno State 9-7

 

Courtesy of Chelsey Chamberlain, UNM Athletics

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The fifth-seeded Air Force baseball team (30-25) used three runs and solid pitching in the ninth inning to come-from-behind and knock off regular season Mountain West Champion and No. 1 seed Fresno State (36-21) 9-7 Thursday afternoon at Santa Ana Star Field, on the campus of the University of New Mexico.

With the victory, Air Force will advance to Friday’s winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m. MT against the winner of New Mexico-Nevada. Fresno State will play at 3 p.m. MT in the 2016 MW Championship with its opponent to be determined.

In the ninth, the Falcons were behind 7-6 but scored three runs to take the lead for good. Back-to-back hits and a walk loaded the bases. Pinch hitter Justin Graham then drew a five-pitch walk to tie the game 7-7. The Falcons took the lead on the next play off junior Russell Williams’ two-RBI single to left center.

“It was a great job by the whole team on getting the guys on base that we needed,” said Williams. “We were really trying to take control and focus on the things that we can control.”

“It was great for our offense and I am thrilled,” said head Air Force coach Mike Kazlausky. “Our kids like coming down here to hit, the wind blows out and this is like a second field for us.”

The score was close throughout the entire game. After keeping the Falcons off balance in the first, Fresno State struck first with three runs off two home runs by junior Scott Silva and sophomore Aaron Arruda. Air Force answered with four runs of their own in the second on two singles, a Bulldog error and a sacrifice fly.

Fresno State tied the game in the fifth at 4-4 and went ahead after scoring three runs in the sixth off a single and a throwing error by the Falcons. The Falcons answered for the second time, scoring two runs in the seventh to cut the Bulldog lead to 7-6.

Solid pitching paced the Falcons in the end. Junior right-hander Griffin Jax kept the Bulldogs scoreless in the seventh. He threw seven innings, allowing seven runs, five earned, off 10 hits while striking out five and walking four. Junior right-hander Austin McDaniel came in relief and allowed just one hit and struck out one in his single inning of work to pick up the win, improving to 2-2 on the season. Freshman Matt Hargreaves earned the save, his second of the year, as he came into the ninth to stop Fresno State.

At the plate, Air Force had five players with two or more hits. Its offense was highlighted by a 3-for-4 effort from sophomore Tyler Zabojnik and a 3-for-5 effort from senior Spencer Draws.

Live streaming of the 2016 MW Baseball Championship is available through the Mountain West Network (MWN) on TheMW.com and CampusInsiders.com. All live broadcasts are free of charge. Paul Loeffler, Robert Portnoy, Don Marchand and Chris Ello will call the games from Santa Ana Star Field. David Lombardi returns to the MWN broadcast team to provide color analysis and in-game features for a fourth consecutive season.

In addition, fans can watch live video on their mobile devices for free with the MW mobile app. Links to live stats, game highlights, recaps and box scores will also be available on the Mountain West Championship Central page on TheMW.com. The Mountain West application can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iPhones and iPads, and from Google Play for Android phones and tablets. Broadcasts are also available on the Campus Insiders app and Verizon customers can watch on the go90 app.

Fans also can follow the Championship through the league’s social media channels on Twitter (@MW_OlySports), Snapchat (https://www.snapchat.com/add/mountainwest), YouTube (MountainWestConf), Facebook (MountainWestConference), and Instagram (MountainWestConference) for updates on each game. Followers are encouraged to use the hashtag #MWBSB16 when posting throughout the championship.