FRESNO, CA — Bob Bennett, Fresno State baseball's winningest head coach, passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 86.
Completing a 34-year head coaching career at Fresno State in 2002, Bennett racked up 1,302 career wins at Fresno State as he became the seventh coach in NCAA history to reach 1,300 wins. He ended his career with 26 consecutive winning seasons.
"Our prayers go out to the Bennett family," current head coach Mike Batesole said. "Rest in peace to the greatest coach our Valley will ever see, [his] name on the stadium says it all."
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Bulldog baseball has seen just two head coaches guide the program over the past 52 years between the two after Batesole took over in 2003.
Fresno State director of athletics Terry Tumey added, "Bob Bennett's transformative impact on Fresno State and Bulldog baseball will be felt for generations to come. His memory will always live on inside Bob Bennett Stadium. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bennett family."
A charter member of the Bulldog Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991 as well as a member of both the College Baseball Hall of Fame & the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Bennett led the Diamond 'Dogs to 17 conference championships, 21 NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the College World Series. Bennett coached 32 All-Americans and nine first-round MLB selections while being named a conference coach of the year 14 times in five different conferences.
"What a gift to our Valley that a man of such personal and professional excellence would spend his entire life making our community better," Paul Loeffler, the voice of the Bulldog baseball team said.
"Coach Bennett is a legend in college baseball, and I have never met anyone who loved the game more. He never stopped giving or teaching. The legacy his amazing family and the men who played for him represent will be a credit to Fresno State and the Valley forever," added Loeffler.
Making trips to Omaha for the College World Series in both 1988 and 1991, Bennett's 1988 club won a program-record 56 games and went on a program-best 32-game winning streak.
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As a student-athlete at Fresno State from 1952 to 1955 for legendary coach Pete Beiden, Bennett earned a pair of CCAA all-conference honors as a catcher in 1954 and 1955 when the Bulldogs won conference titles each season. The Bulldogs competed in the NCAA tournament three times (1952, 1954 & 1955) in Bennett's playing career and hosted a pair of regionals.
On May 7, 2016, Pete Beiden Field officially became Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium as the stadium was dedicated in his name in a pregame on-field ceremony.