Feb. 18, 2012

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Judge for yourself how good this Bulldog can be

By Taylor Gelbrich  @According2Gelby



Baseball wasn’t even an option for Fresno State sophomore standout, Aaron Judge (left). The Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American wasn’t recruited by anyone for baseball. He came to Fresno State by coincidence.


“I came down to Fresno to check out the football program and they had a baseball camp that same weekend I was down here,” Judge said, “so I decided to sign up for it and see how I could do. That weekend I did well and they offered me a scholarship that day so I just ran with it and took it.”


Judge was in between baseball and football and he told himself to go with his heart. Baseball was his number one love and the rest is history.


Judge is a tremendous athlete. The 6’7, 230-pound center fielder was recruited mainly for football, but also excelled in basketball. Judge was ranked the No. 27 wide receiver in California. He was also his league’s most valuable player in basketball and was drafted in the 30th round in the 2010 MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s.


Fresno State is glad he chose baseball. Judge finished his freshman campaign hitting .358 with 30 RBI and 11 stolen bases. With Judge and a veteran Bulldogs team, Fresno State was able to capture its fifth WAC regular-season title in the past six years by finishing 40-16.


“On our club he is the best defensive outfielder,” head coach Mike Batesole said. “He runs a 6.7 for a big guy and he stole double figures for us last year. He hasn’t developed the rest of game yet, but he will. There is more in there that has yet to come out.”


Fans hope the rest comes out this season since Fresno State is picked to win their sixth WAC title this year. The Bulldogs did lose a core group of guys to the draft, mostly on the offensive side, but they will return two-thirds of their rotation and a veteran bullpen.


They return seniors Tom Harlan and Cody Kendall, who went a combined 11-3 with a 3.35 ERA. Sophomore Tyler Linehan looks to be the ace of the staff. Linehan went 5-2 last year with a 4.27 ERA. For a lefty he does bring some heat. He can get it up in the low 90s with a good slider. Taylor Garrison and Justin Haley shore up the bullpen.


Even with all of the losses, the Bulldogs don’t see this as a down year.


“We are not taking it as a rebuilding year,“ Judge said. “We are taking it as another step forward. We did lose a lot of key guys, but we do have a lot of veteran players out there with our pitching staff. I feel like if the freshmen step up like I know they will we can put up the same kind of numbers we did last year.”


Three or four freshmen will start for the Bulldogs and will have to be ready to contribute right away. Two of those freshmen are going to be Jordan Luplow and Chris Mariscal. Luplow looks to be penciled in as the starting right fielder for the Bulldogs and Mariscal will get the nod at shortstop.


“They are just both outstanding freshmen,” Judge said. “They showed actually a lot of power coming in as freshmen. They are smart baseball players as well so look for those two to put up some numbers.”


The Bulldogs opened up their season Friday with a 3-0 win against Butler to start their four-game series. Linehan went 7.2 innings while piling up a career-high 13 strikeouts and only allowing five hits. Judge, Luplow, and Mariscal all collected hits. They accounted for four of the team’s seven hits.


This will be Fresno State’s last year in the WAC. They will depart along with Hawaii and Nevada, but they want to make sure they go out with another WAC title under their belt before they leave.


If the talent at the sophomore and freshman level is any indication of Fresno State’s chances, then it looks like chances are good. Coach Batesole has created a winning tradition at Fresno State and it seems that tradition is going to live on for years to come.


(photos by Keith Kountz)