Ribera stokes Fresno


POSTED: Monday, May 25, 2009

Most programs would find the task too daunting, but Fresno State isn't your typical college baseball team.

The defending national champion Bulldogs were at it again, staving off postseason elimination for the 10th time in the last two seasons with a doubleheader sweep of New Mexico State to win the NAPA Auto Parts Western Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament yesterday before a crowd of 526 at Les Murakami Stadium.

The third-seeded Bulldogs won their fourth straight WAC tournament championship a mere 10 days after their spot in the tournament was in jeopardy.

FSU started its run with a four-game sweep of Sacramento State to shoot up to third place in the WAC. Then, after losing to the Aggies to start the tournament on Thursday, they won four straight, capped off with back-to-back wins against New Mexico State, which finished the season with a 44-17 record.

“;Nobody worries,”; said WAC player of the year Tom Mendonca. “;We just have fun going out there and playing for our fans and our family and our friends. That's the approach we take.”;

The Bulldogs (32-28) will continue one of the most impressive postseason runs ever for at least another week. A year after winning six games with their season on the line en route to a national title, Fresno State accomplished the feat four straight times this weekend.

The Bulldogs will find out where they begin NCAA tournament play this morning.

“;We have 15 freshmen who have stepped up for us this year,”; coach Mike Batesole said. “;They don't try to go out there and do everything on their own. They all do their small part, which makes it a team win.”;

That the Bulldogs trailed 7-4 in the eighth inning of the first game and were tied 3-3 in the eighth inning of the second and won both games is no surprise.

How they did it is a different story.

Sophomore Jordan Ribera became Fresno's newest hero after hitting game-winning home runs in both games.

The sophomore filled in for first baseman Alan Ahmady, who was suspended for the tournament for violating athletic department policy.

Ribera's two-run shot in the ninth inning with two outs gave FSU a 9-7 victory in the first game of the day to force a second game for the title. He found himself in a similar situation in the nightcap after Mendonca hit a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth.

With the score tied 3-3, he sent a 2-1 offering from Aggies pitcher Tyler Sturdevant deep over the wall in dead center to put the Bulldogs up by the final margin of 5-3.

He finished the tournament with one more hit (eight) than he had all season and doubled his home run total.

“;Both situations I was just looking for a fastball up to drive the runner in,”; said Ribera, who earned the tournament's most valuable player award.

Mendonca, one of five Bulldogs named to the all-tournament team, finished the day 2-for-7, but hit his 27th home run of the season to add to his school record of 56 for his career.

New Mexico State was on the verge of wrapping up the title in the first game with a three-run lead in the eighth inning.

Mendonca started the comeback with a leadoff walk and Ribera and Brennan Gowens followed with singles to load the bases. A sacrifice fly cut the lead to two, but the Aggies got the second out before Trent Garrison punched a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 7-all, leading up to Ribera's heroics in the ninth.

WAC All-Tournament Team
Kevin Fujii, Hawaii
        1B: Mike Sodders, New Mexico St.
        2B: Danny Muno, Fresno St.
        SS: Kyle Bellows, San Jose St.
        3B: Tom Mendonca, Fresno St.
        OF: Devon Dageford, Louisiana Tech; Richard Stout, New Mexico St.; Gavin Hedstrom, Fresno St.
        DH: Jordan Ribera, Fresno St.
        P: Derek Benny, Fresno St.; DJ Simon, New Mexico St.
        MVP: Jordan Ribera, Fresno St.