|Piraro Wins 800th in Spartans' Doubleheader Sweep|
FRESNO, Calif. – Saturday’s Western Athletic Conference doubleheader sweep of Fresno State brought numerous milestones to the San Jose State baseball team, though none bigger than Head Coach Sam Piraro’s 800th career victory.
San Jose State defeated Fresno State 4-0 in the first game of the doubleheader, then beat them 4-3 in the nightcap.
The Spartans’ sweep also clinched their first series victory against Fresno State since 2005 and their first series victory in Fresno since 2000. San Jose State is 2-0 in WAC play for the first time since 2006.
PIRARO’S 800TH VICTORY
Piraro becomes the 28th active head coach in NCAA Division I baseball to earn his 800th career win, and the third this season, following Southern University (La.)’s Roger Cador and North Carolina State University’s Elliot Avent.
“I told the guys today (that) when you’re done coaching, those things mean more to you,” said Piraro, who is in his 25th year as head coach of San Jose State. “You look at them and you say, ‘Wow.’ While you’re doing it, I really don’t dwell on those things.
“It’s a nice thing,” Piraro added. “When you do it at one place, that’s kind of a tough thing to do, so I’m really proud of that. The most important thing is our team. I’m very proud that I’ve done it all here at San Jose State.”
“This man is a guru of baseball,” said senior pitcher Esteban Guzman, who was a member of the team in 2009 when Piraro won his 700th game. “He knows a lot. We all definitely respect him for what he’s done. Being a part of two century marks is a pretty cool experience on my end.
“To think that in four years my team has won 100 games – that’s pretty cool to think about it.”
SPARTANS SHUTOUT BULLDOGS IN GAME ONE
Two different two-out rallies and a superb performance on the mound by the Spartans led San Jose State to a 4-0 victory in its game one, Western Athletic Conference opener at Fresno State in Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Spartans (16-14, 2-0 WAC) forced Fresno State starter Justin Haley to throw 35 pitches in the first inning of game one with a two-out rally. Nick Schulz and Matt Lopez drew walks to sandwich a single by Caleb Natov and load the bases after Haley had gotten the first two outs on eight pitches. Kyle Gallegos then drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Spartans an early 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Spartans starter Johnny Melero (2-4) threw five scoreless innings for the second straight time with three strikeouts and five scattered hits. Relievers Jason Kafka and Kalei Contrades combined for four shutout, no-hit frames to give the Spartans their second shutout in nine days.
Contrades earned his first save of the year by closing out the final three innings of the game on just 15 pitches. Contrades retired the final six batters of the game on seven pitches, including five straight one-pitch outs from the eighth to the ninth.
San Jose State got another two-out rally in the fifth inning, getting two runners on after Schulz drew his second walk of the game. Caleb Natov then hit a flare single to right field that fell in front of Jordan Luplow to bring in Andre Mercurio. Matt Lopez followed with an RBI single through the right side of the infield to score Schulz and give the Spartans a 3-0 advantage.
Melero looked to be in trouble in the bottom of the fifth when he walked Austin Wynns on four pitches to bring up the Bulldogs’ best hitter, Aaron Judge, with two on and holding a 3-0 lead. Melero fell behind in the count 2-0 to Judge, but would come back to strike out Judge swinging on the next three pitches.
Fresno State got its first runner into scoring position in the third. But after a sacrifice bunt, Patrick Hutcheson was left stranded at second when the next two batters popped up and struck out.
San Jose State loaded the bases again in the seventh inning with one out, but left them full when the next two batters both struck out. Fresno State got a runner to third in the sixth but left him there as well. The Bulldogs stranded seven runners in game one to the Spartans’ 12.
The Spartans’ 3-through-5 hitters went a combined 7-for-13 (.538) with two walks, two runs and two RBIs. Nick Schulz returned to his hitting ways with a 2-for-3 day after seeing his 14-game hitting streak come to an end Sunday versus Pacific. Caleb Natov went 2-for-5 and drove in his 14th run of the season. Matt Lopez went 3-for-5 with an RBI.
Patrick Hutcheson was the lone Bulldog to get multiple hits in game one, going 2-for-3. The rest of Fresno State’s lineup went 3-for-28 (.107).
BULLPEN COMES THROUGH AGAIN IN GAME TWO
Another early two-out rally was enough to get the Spartans a win in the nightcap, as the San Jose State bullpen helped close out the 4-3 victory.
San Jose State used another two-out rally, its third of the day, to stake itself to a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Michael Gerlach singled up the middle to start the rally. Kyle Gallegos walked and Tyler Christian hit his seventh double of the season down the left field line to score Gerlach.
Michael Reiling, Mercurio and Schulz all followed with back-to-back RBI singles, making the score 4-0 in favor of San Jose State.
Guzman (1-0) got his first win of the year by throwing three perfect innings to start the game before giving up a leadoff single in the fourth. Guzman would go five innings with two earned runs on six hits.
“Pitching, defense and scrapping for runs, fighting for runs. That’s it in a nutshell,” said Piraro. “We played hard, effort was tremendous, execution was outstanding. Defensively I thought our guys were great.”
The Bulldogs finally got to Guzman in the fourth, scoring two runs on three straight hits to open the inning. The senior right-hander would limit them to two hits, however, over the next six outs to keep the score at 4-2.
“Throwing today was actually a good step towards the rest of the season,” said Guzman. “The start against UOP I was a little flat. I was trying to work on some mechanical things, but no excuses. Excuses aside, you’re coached here to do what you can with what you can and give it 100 percent.”
The Spartans’ bullpen carried that lead into the eighth inning on the arms of David Wayne Russo and Mike Aldrete, but Fresno State would strike again.
Hutcheson, the Bulldogs’ offensive leader all day long, hit a solo homerun with one out in the eighth to pull Fresno State within one. That is when Piraro made the call to the bullpen for closer Zack Jones.
“My mentality is to just go out there, throw strikes and get those two outs to keep my team in the game and go out with energy the next inning,” said Jones.
The junior would do just that, as he retired the next two batters to end the eighth, then struck out the side in the ninth for his sixth save of the year. Jones has played dual roles for the Spartans this season, making five starts in 12 overall appearances.
“I like it,” said Jones about the multiple roles. “It’s two different mentalities. I’m comfortable with both. I’ve been closing my whole career but starting is a nice little mix-up for me.”
San Jose State concludes its first WAC series of the season with the series finale at 2:05 p.m. Sunday against Fresno State.