Bozar Commentary on Sunday's amazing finish

San Jose State hitting has been struggling throughout the season. However, on Sunday the bats exploded in so many ways, and the Spartans came back from a two-run deficit to win 6-5 and split the weekend series with defending National Champs Fresno State.

It was a weird start to a game. Sophomore Luke Mazzanti started for San Jose State and was to go up against freshman Josh Poytress of the Fresno State. As in the previous games I felt the Spartans should have touched the starters for hits and runs a lot more than they did. The records of their pitchers were not the best but the Mutts' pitchers did quite well. Again, the start was weird. Poytress lasted one batter as it looked like he tore a nail (this is not a joke) or maybe a blister formed. His day was done. They brought in sophomore Gene Escat to relieve and he lasted one inning as he got roughed up as I thought he should based on past performance. Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole then brought in senior Holden Sprague for the second inning, and he pitched the rest of the game. I thought he should have started but it worked out that he pitched most of the game anyway; all the way to the bitter end. Mazzanti went into the third inning and then was relieved by the Spartans budding star reliever, Tyler Heil, who went the rest of the way and picked up his third win. Mazzanti was continually pitching in and out of trouble so a change was in order. I was concerned with Heil's inexperience in pitching to such a tough lineup but he did fine, if not excellent.

It was 5-2, Fresno by the top of the fourth. It was beginning to appear that the Spartans were going to be just frustrated in not getting anything across to make a game of it. John Shaffer then hit the only home run of the series in the seventh to add a little excitement, and make the score 5-3. Then things quieted down and it was back to easy outs and more quiet acceptance. The bottom of the ninth started with a simple error by FSU shortstop Danny Muno, which put Jason Martin on first, and hope woke up. That was followed by a little dumper of a hit to center by Craig Hertler. John Shaffer then singled to left to score Martin  it's 5-4.

Anthony Bona grounded weakly (thank you for small favors) to second for a force at second, but not enough for a double play. Freshman Josh Silver then had one of the more memorable at bats I have seen in a long time. Quickly going to 0-2, Josh fought off pitch after pitch before finally hitting a fly to center deep enough to score the tying run. It was an absolutely astounding at bat. 5-5. Kyle Bellows came to bat, and the junior dropped the head of the bat on an outside pitch and sent it up the alley in right center field. All I did was watch pinch-runner Michael Reiling run as if the hounds of hell were on his heels — he was flying. That along with a bobble and the third base coach's green light made a winner out of Tyler Heil and the Spartans in a most improbable way. About 700 fans erupted with the emotion that had been stored up since the beginning of Friday's game.

Splitting this series was a victory for the Spartans as their best two pitchers walked away without wins. I'm sure the coaching staff talked about the last two games and who would start them for some time.

What emerged from this? Two pitchers who picked it up; Tyler Heil has arrived and Ryan Shopshire, who never left. Heil showed something out there in the top of the eighth when he loaded the bases before striking out Hedstrom to end the threat. Some freshmen delivered in key areas for the Spartans; Josh Silver, Anthony Bona, and Michael Reiling. All this and still only 1.5 games out of first place.

Sophomore second baseman Craig Hertler tags out two Fresno State runners at second base on the same play in Sunday's game

How many of you have seen Steve Martin's stand-up routine when he said "Here's something you don't see often." Well, I saw some of that today. How about when Hertler tagged out two runners at second base; one on either side of the base? That's something you don't see often. How about a series where only one home run is hit? How about four games where Tom Mendonca is kept in check and was not much of a factor in any of the games?

The pitching, for the most part, held up well with the two aforementioned heroes leading the way, but Dave Berner needs to get his kudos also. The hitting is still a bit of a concern, as I still believe they should have hit Fresno's staff with a little more authority. Speaking of hitters, where was Danny Stienstra? Sick? Hurt? Not many who were there think that Fresno was a last place team. I didn't. Their pitching is still a concern to them but I've heard rumblings about their hitting not being up to snuff. They have a lot of freshmen that are contributing (pitching and positions) and I'll bet they'll be loaded next year if they have another great recruiting year.

Time to finish this. This is the type of game that could prove to be a watershed moment for the Spartans. They took a victory from the Bulldogs and changed the whole series and maybe the season. Stay tuned, there's more to come.



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Don Starks is the Baseball Editor of Inside Sparta. You may contact Don with any questions, comments, or tips at don@insidesparta.com

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