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College Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Bennett dies at 86

FRESNO, Calif. -- Bob Bennett, the winningest baseball coach in Fresno State history and a member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.

The school announced Bennett's death Sunday. It did not provide additional details. The Fresno Bee reported Bennett had been in the hospital since May 18 following a heart procedure.

Bennett won 1,302 games with 21 NCAA tournament appearances, including two College World Series appearances, during a 34-year coaching career at Fresno State before retiring after the 2002 season. He was the seventh coach in NCAA history to win at least 1,300 games, and he ended his career with 26 straight winning seasons.

Bennett was selected as a charter member of the Bulldog Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. He was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992 and the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010. His jersey No. 26 was retired by the school, and Fresno State also dedicated its stadium in his honor in 2016, calling it Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.

"Our prayers go out to the Bennett family," said Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole, who replaced Bennett in 2003. "Rest in peace to the greatest coach our Valley will ever see. (His) name on the stadium says it all."

Bennett was a catcher at Fresno State, playing for Beiden from 1952 to '55 and helping lead the Bulldogs to three NCAA tournament appearances. He began his coaching career at the high school level after graduating. Bennett filled in at Fresno State in 1967 when Beiden took a sabbatical, and he became the full-time head coach in 1970.

Bennett led the Bulldogs to the College World Series in 1988 and 1991 and won 17 conference titles. He was a conference coach of the year 14 times and coached nine first-round draft picks and 32 All-America selections. Among the players he coached who became major leaguers were: Terry Pendleton, Dick Ruthven, Dan Gladden, Bobby Jones, Jeff Weaver, Tom Goodwin and Dennis Springer.