Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Latest RPI numbers in the Mountain West

The latest Ratings Percentage Index was unveiled Monday and there weren't many changes.

San Diego State and Fresno State led the way as they have all season.  The Aztecs came in at No. 45 (after being 42nd the previous week).  The RPI release was, however, only thru games of April 27.  San Diego State's Tuesday loss to the University of San Diego (No. 110 in the RPI) won't be reflected until next week, which is a concern for a team that may have to rely on an at-large NCAA bid.

Fresno State came in at No. 57 (down a spot from 56th a week ago).  The Bulldogs are clearly in bubble territory when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, and in the outer edges of the bubble at best.  Fresno State can only feel secure if it wins the Mountain West title.  The one thing the Bulldogs do have going for them is this:  If they are still in the at-large discussion at the end when the NCAA selection committee is deciding things, they have three significant wins -- over RPI Top 25 foes Washington and Nebraska, and No. 30 North Carolina State.  Few bubble teams have those sorts of non-conference wins -- all away from home.

Colorado State came in at No. 79 this week, down three spots from 76th in the previous RPI release.  Boise State comes in at No. 82, a three spot rise in a week's time.  San Jose State (85th) and UNLV (86th) come in back to back in the RPI.  The Rebels, who took two of three from San Diego State, made a healthy late-season rise of 11 spots in a week thanks to that series win over the Aztecs.

With six teams in the RPI Top 86, the Mountain West is in elite company.  The only other conferences with six or more teams among the top 86 of the RPI are the Pac-12, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

Rounding out the RPI are Nevada (No. 149), Utah State (No. 169) and New Mexico (No. 170). 

Name change reflected on Margie Wright Diamond scoreboard

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Another Compton shutout leaves Fresno State in first

With the number of remaining games dwindling and the calendar about to reach the month of May, every game in Mountain West softball took on added importance Sunday.

In the two most crucial series of the weekend, it was once again the home teams coming out on top.  Fresno State won its second straight game from UNLV to win the series with the Rebels and power the Bulldogs into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West.  Meanwhile, San Diego State came from a 2-run deficit to knock off Colorado State and win the series from the Rams.

Elsewhere, San Jose State kept its slim title hopes alive with an extra innings win at Nevada, and the Lobos of New Mexico won their first series of the season by defeating Utah State.

All of this left Fresno State alone at the top of a crowded race for the MW title and the automatic NCAA berth that goes with it.  The Bulldogs (12-6) hold a one-game lead over a trio of teams -- Colorado State (11-7), San Diego State (11-7) and Boise State (11-7), which was idle this weekend.  A game and a half off the pace is UNLV (12-9), while San Jose State (10-8) is two full games back.

Fresno State 1, UNLV 0 - Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton of the Bulldogs out-dueled Rebels senior ace Amanda Oliveto in a reversal of game one of this series when it was Fresno State that fell 1-0 in extra innings.  Compton needed just 70 pitches in a game that lasted little more than an hour as neither team had much offense.  The game's lone run came in the fourth.  Brooke Ortiz singled with one out, and moved to second when Oliveto hit Michelle Solomon (who homered Saturday) with a pitch.  Stesha Brazil singled to load the bases, and Ortiz came home when Jaexie Balilea struggled to field a tricky chopper off the bat of Vonnie Martin.  In the seventh, the Rebels mounted a bit of a threat as Pauline Monreal singled to lead off the inning.  The tying run moved to second on a sacrifice, but Compton struck out Emily Haslinger and induced a game-ending groundout by Jamie DePippo.  Haslinger, the reigning MW Player of the Week who hit four home runs in three games last week, went 0-for-9 against Bulldog pitching in the series.  UNLV entered the series ranked No. 1 in team batting average (.355) in Mountain West play, but was held to just four total runs in the series by Fresno State's Compton and Hannah Harris.  The Rebels had not scored fewer than 12 runs in a series before this weekend.  Fresno State continued its home dominance, finding a way to win for the 43rd time in its last 50 conference home games.

San Diego State 4, Colorado State 2 - The Rams sent Holly Reinke to the circle for the third consecutive game, while the Aztecs chose to go with freshman Erica Romero for the first time this weekend.  The move looked to pay off for Colorado State early when Chelsea O'Connor blasted a 2-run home run in the top of the first inning.  The score would stay that way until the Aztecs chipped away with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie it.  The bottom of the sixth was the difference, however, when the Rams' defensive troubles paved the way for the Aztecs.  Hayley Miles singled to left to begin the bottom of the sixth, but an errant throw by left fielder Kendal Butterfield allowed Miles to motor all the way to third base.  Miles scored on a passed ball almost immediately after Reinke was replaced in the circle by Larisa Petakoff, who was also called for a couple of illegal pitches.  After a walk to Frankie Orlando and one of the aforementioned illegal pitches advanced the runner, CSU first baseman Alysa Greckel's error allowed another run to score.  In the seventh, Haley Hutton singled to bring the potential tying run to the plate, but eventual winner Danielle O'Toole (who came on in the fifth) secured the win.

San Jose State 4, Nevada 2 (8 innings) - Jessie Hufstetler's 2-run homer in the top of the eighth was the difference in this one as San Jose State rallied for the victory, its second straight on the road in Reno.  Hufstetler's shot came after Nevada rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of runs.  Megan Sweet's 2-run double -- when the Pack was down to its last out -- brought Nevada back.  Katelyn Linford and Karlyn Jones went the distance for their respective teams.  Linford gave up eight hits for the win, while Jones allowed 10 hits and took the loss.  Hufstetler's three hits led all batters in the contest.

New Mexico 6, Utah State 4 - In a game that the Aggies led most of the way, it was Utah State errors that told the story.  With Aggies sophomore standout Noelle Johnson back in the circle after missing the last four games with injury, she deserved a better fate.  Five of New Mexico's six runs were unearned, including all four in the bottom of the sixth inning on a windy day in Albuquerque.  To its credit, New Mexico took advantage and had eight hits, including three in the decisive sixth.  Following a Utah State error and with two outs in the sixth, Brandi Heimburg and Willow Kalinen each hit RBI singles to make a winner out of reliever Lauren Soles.  Over the final 3 2/3 innings, Soles allowed just one hit and no runs as UNM rallied from four runs down.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bulldogs, Rams tied for MW lead with 7 games left

Fresno State and Colorado State began the weekend tied for first place in the Mountain West, and they will head into Sunday tied for the lead in the conference.  Both picked up wins Saturday, with the Bulldogs splitting a doubleheader after another in a string of heartbreaking opening-game losses, and the Rams dealing San Diego State a heartbreaker of its own.  Elsewhere, New Mexico lit up the scoreboard and San Jose State came back for a win.

UNLV 1, Fresno State 0 (8 innings) - In a pitcher's duel between Jill Compton and Amanda Oliveto, a solo homer by Samantha Juarez with two outs in the eighth was the difference.  Compton was pitching a 1-hitter into the sixth inning and had allowed just three before Juarez's home run just cleared the fence with two outs in the eighth.  The Bulldogs had six hits and a key base running blunder that spoiled a chance to win it in the seventh.  Fresno State stranded five runners in scoring position as Oliveto escaped several jams.  The Bulldogs fell to 0-5 in games decided in extra innings in just the last five weeks.  UNLV won its third straight game at Bulldog Diamond after sweeping a 2012 doubleheader.  The Rebels had four hits and were out-hit by Fresno State, which had six.  The Bulldogs had runners reach scoring position in the first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh innings but couldn't plate any of them.

Fresno State 6, UNLV 3 - This one was a pitcher's duel for awhile too between Hannah Harris of the Bulldogs and Morgan Ettinger of the Rebels.  Fresno State took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, however, when Paige Gumz got the Bulldogs' first clutch hit of the afternoon.  After Stesha Brazil tripled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, she was still there after two quick outs.  Gumz then hit an RBI double, one of her four hits on the day, to give the 'Dogs the lead.  In the fifth, Fresno State pushed it to 5-0 thanks to the long ball.  Michelle Solomon launched a 3-run shot to left, and it was followed with a homer off the bat of Brazil on the very next pitch from Ettinger.  Freshman Kierra Willis and Brenna Moss had singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth before Solomon's blast.  The Bulldogs extended the lead to 6-0 in the sixth as Gumz tripled and scored on a Moss sacrifice fly.  UNLV, in the bottom of the seventh, scored three times but the comeback attempt fell short.  Harris picked up the win, and Compton came on late to earn the save, handing UNLV an eighth conference loss.

Colorado State 1, San Diego State 0 - In a pitcher's duel between Holly Reinke and Danielle O'Toole, this one had a lot of similarities to the 1-0 win by UNLV over Fresno State.  Down a run in the seventh, the Aztecs had runners at the corners with one out.  They seemed as though they'd score the tying run on a grounder to the right side of the infield.  It first bounced off the glove of Rams infielder Alysa Greckel, who recovered in time to get the out at first, and then threw home to get an Aztecs base runner who appeared to break late for the plate.  It turned into a game-ending double play.  CSU's run scored in the sixth when Jaelyn Manzanares' RBI scored Greckel, who tripled.  The Rams had seven hits to five for the Aztecs.

San Jose State 7, Nevada 6 - The Spartans spotted the Wolf Pack a 3-run lead and then rallied again late with a run in the seventh to win it.  It was 3-0 Nevada early before six unanswered runs gave the Spartans a 6-3 lead.  The Pack responded quickly to tie the game 6-6.  In the seventh, an unearned run brought home the eventual game-winning run and SJSU got its first win of the series.  Nevada out-hit the Spartans nine to five but committed three errors.

New Mexico 20, Utah State 3 (5 innings) - With star pitcher Noelle Johnson again unable to go, the Aggies pitching staff struggled mightily.  Franny Vaaulu, a starting forward on the Utah State women's basketball team, has been asked to pitch lately in Johnson's absence, and things didn't go well Saturday.  Against New Mexico's Tess McPherson, who entered the day with an 0-8 record, this one was no contest.  UNM had 17 hits and scored at will against the Aggies, including in a 10-run bottom of the fourth inning. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Aztecs' win gives Bulldogs the Mountain West lead

Three of four series began Friday, while the highly-anticipated Fresno State-UNLV series was pushed back a day because of rain.  Nevada snapped a 9-game losing streak, while Utah State held off a late New Mexico rally.  In the night's feature game, San Diego State routed Colorado State to knock the Rams from a first-place tie.  That left Fresno State standing alone atop the Mountain West standings entering Saturday's games.

San Diego State 10, Colorado State 2 (5 innings) - The Rams had early chances but couldn't come up with a clutch hit, and Holly Reinke struggled in a road thumping in San Diego.  Colorado State lost for the sixth time in its last eight road games, while SDSU won for the 18th time in 23 home contests.  CSU took a 1-0 lead in the first on a 1-out RBI triple by Chelsea O'Connor.  She was stranded at third base though, and that represented a problem throughout the night for the Rams, who had nine hits but left nine on base in only five innings.  San Diego State had 10 hits and scored at least two runs in every frame.  The Aztecs put four runs on the board in the bottom of the first against Reinke as five of the first six SDSU batters in the game reached base safely.  Reinke had a pair of early wild pitches, committed an error of her own and gave up eight hits and eight runs (five earned) in the first three innings.  Four Aztecs had multiple-hit games and Katie Mathis had three RBI.  Danielle O'Toole went the distance, scattering the aforementioned nine hits for the win.  Reigning MW Player of the Year Patrice Jackson left the game after three innings and was replaced in right field by Dominique Dinner.

Nevada 10, San Jose St. 1 (5 innings) - In a game played in cold, continuous drizzle and a 35-degree wind chill in Reno, the host Wolf Pack routed the Spartans.  The win was Nevada's first since March 30, with the Pack going 0-for-April until Friday's win.  In the bottom of the first, Amanda Weis hit a 2-out, 3-run home run, and it proved to be the only runs pitcher Karlyn Jones would need.  Jones scattered four hits against the Spartans, who have now lost five of seven.  SJSU, which was no-hit at home by Fresno State only 48 hours earlier, has scored one or zero runs in its last three defeats.  Nevada had 11 hits, eight against Spartans starter and losing pitcher Madison Fish.

Utah State 12, New Mexico 11 - In Albuquerque, Utah State again played without its top player -- Noelle Johnson -- and escaped with a road win.  The Aggies stormed to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first, then nearly saw the entire lead disappear before regaining a 5-run margin late.  In the bottom of the seventh, New Mexico was down 12-7 before rallying and making things close.  Utah State starting pitcher Abby Indreland, who entered the game having won just once this season, intentionally walked Naomi Tellez with the bases loaded to force in a run and make it a 12-8 game.  It was a move that barely paid off.  Mariah Rimmer tripled to clear the bases and make it a 1-run game, but UNM stranded the tying run at third to end it.  Sarah Chow and Victoria Saucedo had four hits each for the Aggies.  Saucedo finished with four RBI, while Chow had two singles, a double and a triple.  Tellez finished with six RBI to lead the Lobos.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Possible conference tourney scenario for 2015

The Mountain West needs a conference postseason softball tournament.  Plain and simple.  And there are a number of reasons why.

First, it improves a conference's national visibility.  There are a few conferences in the country (Pac-12, being the most noteworthy) that can afford not to have a postseason tournament.  With a bevy of nationally-televised games and the reputation of being the country's top conference, the Pac-12 gets as many as seven or eight NCAA bids each season.  The Mountain West, meanwhile, is lucky when it gets two.  The MW hasn't received multiple bids since BYU left the conference in 2011.

Second, it creates a conference bond.  It would provide one meeting place at the end of the season for coaches, student-athletes, and fans to unite.  Instead of handing out conference awards (Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, etc.) via a press release, it can all be done in person with teams present at a ceremony on the eve of the tournament.

Third, fairness.  The Mountain West will host its annual postseason baseball tournament in Las Vegas over five days, May 21-25, this year.  The baseball tourney host sites through the 2019 season have already been selected, signaling that it's here to stay.  Why not softball?  Baseball plays a round-robin schedule just like softball, so the fact that there is not a softball tourney, yet there is a baseball tourney raises eyebrows.  The conference hosts championships in 13 sports (baseball, men's basketball, women's basketball, cross country, football, men's golf, women's golf, women's soccer, women's swimming and diving, men's tennis, women's tennis, outdoor track and field, and indoor track and field.)  It could easily add softball, especially since the MW hosted a softball championship for seven seasons, beginning in 2000 and continuing through the 2006 season.  Five different seasons from 2000 to 2006, the Mountain West received multiple NCAA bids.  In 2006, when the conference hosted its final postseason championship tournament, the MW -- for the first time -- received a record three NCAA berths.  The very next season, once the postseason conference tourney was disbanded, the Mountain West dropped back to one NCAA bid.

Fourth, it creates a championship atmosphere.  This is a season where as many as six teams could win the conference title and the race is up in the air.  Imagine the exciting games that could take place this season in front of several thousand fans in one setting.  One of the nation's top fan bases and largest stadiums exists in the Mountain West.  Fresno State has ranked in the nation's Top 10 in softball attendance every year that the NCAA has kept attendance records.  The school has ranked No. 1 in average per game softball attendance 13 different seasons, more than any team in the country.  Simply put, a big stadium with big crowds provides a quality, championship atmosphere for everyone.  Heck, the Mountain West may even be able to swing a deal with a cable provider such as its conference-aligned CBS Sports Network or ESPNU to have one or more tourney games nationally televised, creating increased presence and visibility for the conference. While not every team in the MW has the facilities able to host a conference tourney, there is the option of moving the site from season to season.  San Diego State and UNLV, to name just two, would likely have the ability to host as well.  Though their stadiums aren't as big, they offer destinations where fans would want to travel.

Now that we've (hopefully) encouraged some dialogue to get a tourney at least up for consideration, let's examine a format.  A single-elimination tournament seems to be the way to go.  If you want to save pitchers' arms and create the best possible games, while keeping the tourney at a very manageable three days, here's an easy scenario with nine teams:

Thursday, 9 am GAME ONE - No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed
Thursday, 11:30 am GAME TWO - No. 1 seed vs. Game 1 winner
Thursday, 2 pm GAME THREE - No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed
Thursday, 4:30 pm GAME FOUR - No. 2 seed vs. No. 7 seed
Thursday, 7 pm GAME FIVE - No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed
Friday, 4:30 pm GAME SIX - Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 winner
Friday, 7 pm GAME SEVEN - Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner
Saturday, 1 pm CHAMPIONSHIP - Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner

So there you have it.  Quick and easy.  Eight games over three days.  Single elimination.  Every team advances to the postseason tournament, meaning every team has something to look forward to all season long.  Every team will have a chance at the end. With the current round-robin format, some Mountain West teams are playing for pride and nothing else after mid-April.  Holding a conference tournament ensures the team playing the best at the end of the season will advance to the NCAA Tournament.  And it also gives the Mountain West its best shot at grabbing multiple NCAA bids, while creating the best possible championship atmosphere for student-athletes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fresno State's Compton no-hits Spartans in 2-0 road win

Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton of Fresno State pitched a no-hitter as the Bulldogs picked up a key road series victory with a 2-0 shutout of San Jose State Wednesday.  Meanwhile, UNLV knocked San Diego State out of a first-place tie with a 2-1 victory in Las Vegas.  Colorado State, just minutes after Fresno State moved alone into first place, joined the Bulldogs atop the conference standings with a run-rule rout of New Mexico.  And finally, Boise State stayed in the thick of the race for the title with two wins at Utah State -- one in a game that was resumed from Tuesday.

Fresno State 2, San Jose State 0 - Jill Compton tossed the second no-hitter of her career and the 71st in Fresno State softball history as the Bulldogs won the series against the Spartans in San Jose.  Compton had the Spartans off balance all day long, striking out seven.  SJSU's lone threat came in the sixth when two walks (one intentional to Jessie Hufstetler, who homered Tuesday) gave the Spartans a pair of base runners.  Brenna Moss and Brooke Ortiz singled to lead off the third, and Moss came home on an RBI groundout by Stesha Brazil.  Michelle Solomon came up with a clutch, 2-out RBI single in the sixth for the Bulldogs' second run.  Vonnie Martin doubled in the game versus SJSU starter and loser Madison Fish.  Compton was the third Bulldog pitcher in history to no-hit San Jose State and the first since All-American Jamie Southern no-hit the Spartans in 2002. 

UNLV 2, San Diego State 1 - The Rebels knocked the Aztecs out of a first-place tie with a series victory in Las Vegas.  Amanda Oliveto and Danielle O'Toole were locked in a pitcher's duel as each allowed five hits in going the distance.  Garie Blando, who had five hits in UNLV's game two victory, hit the first pitch of the day by O'Toole for a home run to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead.  San Diego State tied it in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Jaylene Ignacio.  UNLV came right back in the bottom of the frame with the game-winner, a double by Jenna DePippo to score Emily Haslinger, who was hit by a pitch.  The 2-time defending Mountain West champs fell a game behind Fresno State and Colorado State in the conference standings, while UNLV is a half-game behind (though two full games back in the loss column).

Colorado State 13, New Mexico 5 (5 innings) - A 5-run bottom of the fifth ended this one in run-rule fashion as the Rams won the series in Fort Collins.  Colorado State was never threatened in this one after scoring six runs in the bottom of the first to remain in a first-place tie in the Mountain West standings.  UNM remained in eighth place among nine teams.  Colorado State had 15 hits to 11 for the Lobos, and Holly Reinke scattered all 11 for the complete-game win.  Lisa Rodrigues started and took the loss, allowing five earned runs in just one-third of an inning.  CSU hit three home runs, and Chelsea O'Connor (3 hits, 5 RBI), Alysa Greckel (3 hits) and Haley Hutton (3 hits) were among the hitting stars of the day.  Danielle Wikre ended the contest via the run rule with a 3-run shot in the fifth.

Boise State 11-10, Utah State 9-1 - The Broncos won two games to complete a 3-game sweep in Logan.  Utah State struggled in a major way without its No.1 player -- ace pitcher Noelle Johnson -- who did not play in either game.  Johnson had been on base when Tuesday's second game was postponed by rain.  When the game was resumed today, Johnson had been replaced by a pinch runner and she did not bat or pitch in either game Wednesday.  Franny Vaaulu and Abby Indreland pitched for the Aggies and struggled.  In the finale, Boise State won in a 10-1 (five innings) rout despite managing just three hits in the contest and being out-hit five to three.  The culprit:  A Mountain West record 17 walks issued by Utah State in the game, including 15 by Vaaulu.  In the final two games of the series, Boise State batters walked 28 times. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wild games galore Tuesday; 3-way tie remains

We knew this was going to be a wild week.  And it was as good as advertised.  Thrilling games, bizarre finishes, blown leads.  Today had it all.  At the start of Tuesday, three teams were tied for the top spot in the race for the Mountain West title.  At the end of the day, all three (Fresno State, San Diego State and Colorado State) remained tied.  Each split a doubleheader, winning the first game and then blowing a lead in game two.

Fresno State 8, San Jose State 1
San Jose State 5, Fresno State 3
The Bulldogs were the closest to getting a sweep, but suffered another in a month-long series of heartbreaking defeats.  Fresno State easily won game one behind 3-hit performances from both Brenna Moss and Whitney Smith and a strong complete game from pitcher Jill Compton, who won her 17th game.  The 7-run victory represented the largest margin of defeat for the Spartans on their home field in nearly two years.  In the nightcap, Fresno State led 2-0 before San Jose State rallied to tie it in the fifth.  The Bulldogs quickly regained the lead in the sixth by a 3-2 margin and held it into the bottom of the seventh.  A walk-off, 3-run home run by Jessie Hufstetler won it, with Hannah Harris giving up the game-winning runs in the seventh for a second straight outing.  Fresno State out-hit SJSU in both games, holding a 22-14 lead in that category for the afternoon.  The Bulldogs committed a pair of costly errors in the nightcap, stranded seven base runners and ran themselves out of innings with some overly aggressive base running at times.  Fresno State's last five losses have all been decided in the game's final inning when the Bulldogs either led or were tied.

San Diego St. 9, UNLV 8 (8 innings)
UNLV 12, San Diego St. 9
Both of these games were wild affairs in Las Vegas.  UNLV rallied from three runs down in the bottom of the seventh of the opener to send it to extra innings, only to see the Aztecs rally for the victory.  In the nightcap, San Diego State stormed to a 4-0 lead, then saw the Rebels come back to tie it.  After the Aztecs regained the lead at 5-4, a 4-run bottom of the fourth by UNLV put the Rebels in front 8-5.  No lead was comfortable in this one.  Immediately after falling behind by three runs, SDSU responded with four of its own to recapture the lead 9-8.  From there, it was four straight Rebels runs for the final margin.  In the top of the seventh, the Aztecs loaded the bases and brought the potential game-winning run to the plate, but Amanda Oliveto (the third Rebels pitcher in the game) worked out of a jam.  Patrice Jackson hit two home runs in the contest, giving her 15 for the season.  Reigning MW Player of the Week Emily Haslinger continued her home run barrage of late with another one.  Garie Blando had five hits for UNLV in the nightcap.

Colorado State 6, New Mexico 0
New Mexico 6, Colorado State 3
The Lobos picked up their second road win in conference play by taking the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader, snapping the Rams' 11-game home winning streak in Fort Collins.  After easily dispatching of the Lobos in game one behind Holly Reinke's third shutout of the season, the Rams were held in check by Carrie Sheehan in the nightcap.  Colorado State built an early 2-0 lead in the first inning of game two, and appeared on its way to a sweep.  The Rams left 10 runners stranded on base and were out-hit by UNM nine to six in game two.  Mariah Rimmer had three hits, and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle in the nightcap. Naomi Tellez had a pair of hits and RBI.

Boise State 5, Utah State 1
Utah State 6, Boise State 5 (suspended, rain)
The Broncos won game one of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader, but were trailing the host Aggies in the third inning of game two before lightning and rain came.  The game was suspended and will resume where it was left off on noon Wednesday.  The final game of the 3-game series will take place after the conclusion of the resumed game.  The opener was a tight pitcher's duel until the seventh.  Starters Rebecca Patton (Boise State) and Noelle Johnson (Utah State) were locked in a 1-0 game with the Broncos leading.  It remained that way until the seventh when BSU opened it up with four runs.  A Brittany McCray homer in the seventh got the Broncos started, and Tara Glover added a 2-run triple.  Johnson homered in the bottom of the frame for the Aggies' lone run.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

3-way tie atop the Mountain West after Saturday

Colorado State and San Diego State moved into a first-place tie in the Mountain West standings with idle Fresno State following wins Saturday.  Elsewhere, Boise State kept its slim title hopes alive, and UNLV remained in the hunt as well as both teams were victorious.

San Diego St. 12, Utah State 0 (5 innings) - Danielle O'Toole allowed four hits in four innings of work, and the Aztecs' bats came alive against Utah State freshman pitcher Abby Indreland.  SDSU had 14 hits and all 12 runs (10 earned) in just 3 2/3 innings against Indreland, who also walked seven.  Kayla Jordan had three hits, and Sydnee Cable three RBI for San Diego State.  The Aztecs won the series two to one, bouncing back from Saturday's surprising home upset loss to the Aggies.

Colorado State 4, Nevada 3 - Trailing in the bottom of the seventh in Fort Collins, the Rams got a pair of runs for the walk-off win, their 10th straight at home.  The reeling Wolf Pack lost their ninth game in a row overall and their 11th straight away from home.  Nevada saw its overall record dip below .500 for the first time this season.  After a bases-loaded walk gave the Pack a lead in the top of the seventh, CSU tied it on a Chelsea Biglow run-scoring triple with one out in the bottom of the frame.  With two outs, the Rams won it on a slow infield roller by Taylor Hutton as Biglow raced home.  Holly Reinke picked up the win, overcoming seven walks.

UNLV 12, New Mexico 9 - The ball was again flying all over the park at Lobo Field in Albuquerque as the teams combined for five home runs.  Emily Haslinger, who hit three round-trippers in one game this weekend, belted another, and the teams had 31 hits between them.  New Mexico brought the potential game-winning run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh but Naomi Tellez lofted a soft fly ball to shallow center field to end it.  Earning the save was freshman Kwyn Cooper, making her first appearance of the season.

Boise State 7, San Jose St. 6 - Tara Glover hit a run-scoring double to complete a seventh inning comeback as the Broncos rallied for a home victory over the Spartans.  Boise State led 3-0 in the fouth before an infield error led to three unearned San Jose State runs to tie the game 3-3.  After the Broncos regained the lead at 4-3, SJSU's Jessie Hufstetler put the Spartans in front again 6-4 in the top of the sixth with a 3-run homer.  Libbie Jimenez singled, and Brittany McCray hit a 2-run home run as Boise State tied the game in the bottom of the seventh.  Following a walk, Glover's RBI won it.  MacKenzie McGill picked up the victory in relief of Rebecca Patton. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Johnson leads Utah State past Aztecs in shutout

The race for the Mountain West regular-season title and the NCAA automatic bid got even tighter Friday.  At the end of the day, two-thirds of the conference had either seven or eight wins in league play, creating a logjam at the top.  Utah State pulled off one of the biggest wins in its recent softball history, stunning 2-time defending Mountain West champ San Diego State on the road.

Utah State 1, San Diego State 0 - In San Diego, Aggies pitcher Noelle Johnson tossed perhaps the best game of her collegiate career thus far as Utah State shocked the Aztecs.  Johnson allowed only two hits -- both singles -- and the predicted last-place team in the preseason knocked off the coaches' pick to win the conference.  The sophomore right-hander didn't allow a hit through the first four innings and got some fine defensive help in the seventh.  After Kayla Jordan led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for SDSU, Johnson induced reigning MW Player of the Year Patrice Jackson to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.  The game ended when Aztecs cleanup batter Sydnee Cable (.373 average) grounded out.  Andi Smith (3-3) started and took the loss for SDSU, which has now dropped three of five after starting Mountain West play 5-1.  Victoria Saucedo had two hits, including a double, and scored the game's lone run in the fourth.  She doubled to lead off the inning and came home on a Hailey Froton RBI single.

Colorado State 8, Nevada 3 - In Fort Collins, the Rams scored the game's first five runs, then added three in the bottom of the sixth after Nevada had cut the margin to two.  Colorado State got a good pitching performance from Molly Randle, who took a 2-hitter into the sixth inning.  Amanda Weis broke up the shutout with a 3-run home run for the Pack.  The Rams won their ninth straight at home, while the Wolf Pack's road troubles continued.  It was Nevada's 10th straight loss away from Hixson Park in Reno.

San Jose State 11, Boise State 5 - In Boise, the Spartans rebounded from Friday's one-run loss to rout the host Broncos.  San Jose State's win snapped Boise State's 4-game conference winning streak.  The top three hitters in the Spartans' lineup -- Devin Caldwell, Michelle Cox and Jessica Garcia -- had two hits apiece, and Caldwell and Garcia finished with two RBI.  A 6-run top of the sixth inning was the biggest frame of the day for SJSU.  Two Broncos errors and three walks in the sixth helped San Jose State's cause.

UNLV 10, New Mexico 2 (5 innings) - In Albuquerque, the host Lobos suffered their 13th run-rule loss of the season, falling to the Rebels.  Emily Haslinger was the hitting star for UNLV, blasting three home runs to tie the school's single-game record.  She hit a grand slam to break it open early in the first inning, added a solo shot to lead off the third, and hit a 2-run homer in the fourth.  Looking for a fourth consecutive home run while at bat in the fifth inning, Haslinger hit into a fielder's choice.  Morgan Ettinger scattered 10 hits in the complete-game win as UNM continually stranded base runners.  New Mexico left the bases loaded in three of the game's five innings.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

All 9 Mountain West teams in action on a busy Thursday

For the first time this season, all nine Mountain West softball teams were in action on a Thursday.

With the Easter holiday coming this Sunday, conference series began a day earlier than normal.  And Fresno State - sitting atop the Mountain West but idle in conference play this weekend - played a non-conference game on the road at Santa Clara, where it suffered a humiliating defeat to the lowly Broncos.

Colorado State 7, Nevada 1 - The Rams broke open a scoreless game with five runs in the bottom of the fifth to win the series opener in Fort Collins.  It was CSU's eight straight home win, while Nevada's losing streak reached seven.  The Pack has not won a game away from Reno since February.  Kendal Butterfield was the lone Rams player with two hits, and Chelsea O'Connor had three RBI.  Both teams had eight hits and Holly Reinke got the win for CSU.

Boise State 7, San Jose State 6 - The Broncos almost let a healthy lead slip away late, but the Spartans couldn't rally for the road win in Boise.  It was 7-3 in favor of the Broncos heading to the seventh when SJSU scored three runs with two outs.  With the tying and potential winning runs on base, winning pitcher Rebecca Patton escaped the jam.  Boise State was out-hit 10 to five, but managed to win its fourth consecutive game to move over .500 in MW play for the first time in three weeks.  Four of the Broncos' seven wins in conference play have been by one run.  Three of the Spartans' four MW losses have either come in extra innings or been by one run.  Jordan Kreiger and Ashley Palmer hit home runs for BSU, with Kreiger's 2-run blast in the sixth adding some important insurance runs.  Sharon-Renae Estrada hit a homer for SJSU and had two RBI.

New Mexico 11, UNLV 10 - A lot of games in Albuquerque this season have been high-scoring, wild affairs and this one was no different.  After building a 7-2 lead midway through the game, New Mexico saw it disappear completely in the seventh inning.  Looking to close out the win and leading 7-6 in the seventh, UNLV rallied for four runs to take a seemingly comfortable 10-7 lead.  After all, at that point the Rebels had scored eight unanswered runs.  But UNM wasn't done.  The Lobos answered with four of their own in a wild bottom of the seventh.  A Jasmine Casados solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh brought New Mexico within 10-8.  A Willow Kalinen 2-run triple tied it, and Kalinen came home on an RBI, walk-off single by Brandi Heimburg.  Lauren Soles got the win in relief, while Morgan Ettinger took the loss.

San Diego State 6, Utah State 2 - The Aztecs scored the game's first five runs in San Diego and were never threatened by the Aggies.  With the win, San Diego State moved in front of Fresno State by percentage points in the conference standings, though essentially tied for the lead.  Patrice Jackson had a pair of hits and three RBI, while Hayley Miles hit a 3-run home run.  Danielle O'Toole scattered seven hits for the complete-game win.

Santa Clara 1, Fresno State 0 - The Bulldogs' road struggles continued with one of the most stunning losses in school history, and one that all but ended any NCAA at-large hopes the team had.  Against the lowly Broncos (7-26 overall, RPI of 258), Fresno State could do nothing on offense.  The Bulldogs had just three hits -- all singles -- and did not have a base runner after the third inning in a listless, mind-boggling defeat to a team the they'd dominated for decades.  Fresno State entered the game with a staggering 46-1 lead in the all-time series.  SCU pitcher Ciara Gonzales entered the contest with a 3-11 record, but easily dispatched the Bulldogs.  Fresno State's six upperclassmen in the lineup went a combined 0-for-18, and the three singles came from freshman Kierra Willis and sophomores Paige Gumz and Whitney Smith.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One step forward, one step back for Bulldogs

Fresno State's up and down season continued Wednesday in Moraga in a non-conference doubleheader split at St. Mary's.

The Bulldogs lost their third straight extra-inning contest in game one, before taking advantage of six Gaels errors to win the nightcap.  In the opener, Fresno State's Jill Compton struggled early, giving up a 2-run homer in the first inning that set the tone of an eventual 4-3 loss in nine innings.  After St. Mary's took a 3-0 lead in the third, Hannah Harris took over and went the rest of the way.

Vonnie Martin hit a 2-run home run to trim the deficit to 3-2, and Brooke Ortiz delivered a clutch RBI single with two outs in the seventh to tie the game.  A solo homer in the ninth won it for St. Mary's, as Fresno State fell to 0-3 in extra-inning games since March 21.  Four of the Bulldogs' last five losses have also now come in extra frames.

Fresno State left runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings in the 1-run, opening-game loss.  It was a bit of deja vu from previous extra-inning struggles when the Bulldogs stranded numerous runners in scoring position.  In the nightcap, the Gaels committed a whopping six  errors -- the most a Bulldog opponent has had in a game this season. 

And Fresno State needed every one of those errors, because the Bulldogs' offense again couldn't get untracked and all four of their runs were unearned.  The game's lone earned run belonged to St. Mary's on a solo homer.

Fresno State took a 1-0 lead in the third when the Gaels committed four errors.  Whitney Smith went 3-for-3 in the nightcap and finished with five hits on the day.  Martin had three hits, two RBI, and two runs scored on the afternoon.  Brenna Moss snapped an 0-for-11 funk with a 2-run double in game two.

Fresno State, now 17-3 all-time versus St. Mary's, lost in consecutive seasons to coach Trisha Ford's alma mater for the first time ever.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

SDSU nips Bulldogs in extras to avoid 3-game sweep

San Diego State narrowly avoided being swept in a Mountain West series for the first time in nine years, highlighting Sunday action around the conference.  Fresno State drew 3,926 fans to set a Mountain West softball series attendance record, breaking the old mark of 3,724 that the Bulldogs set last year versus Nevada.

San Diego St. 2, Fresno State 0 (9 innings) - In a tight pitcher's duel between Fresno State's Jill Compton and the Aztecs' Danielle O'Toole, it was SDSU that finally broke a 0-0 tie in the ninth.  Freshman Jaylene Ignacio was credited with a double that was just out of the reach of Bulldog freshman left fielder Kierra Willis with one out in the ninth inning. The hit scored Patrice Jackson, who walked.  That began a string of two more hits as SDSU went up 2-0.  Danielle O'Toole, who retired the first 19 batters of the game before giving up a single to Brooke Ortiz, earned the win by going 8 1/3. She was knocked from the game briefly and replaced by Erica Romero in the seventh, before returning in the eighth.  Fresno State had its chances but couldn't come up with a clutch hit.  The Bulldogs had two hits in the seventh -- from Ortiz and Stesha Brazil -- but left runners at the corners.  Fresno State had two more runners on base in the bottom of the eighth, but O'Toole struck out Brenna Moss, who entered the game hitting .500 in conference play.  Fresno State would have to settle for a series win that snapped the Aztecs' 5-series win streak.  San Diego State got a much-needed boost and avoided getting swept in a Mountain West series for the first time since 2005.

San Jose State 5, New Mexico 0 - Allison Lang allowed three hits and got the shutout, while Casey Watt and Erin Rodriguez had two hits each in the Spartans' win over the Lobos.  San Jose State won the series two games to one.

Colorado State 10, UNLV 4 - The Rams stormed to a big early lead for the second day in a row, but held on for the victory after falling Saturday.  Both teams had 10 hits, but it was the Rams who built an early 9-1 lead in the third inning and coasted to the win.  Holly Reinke scattered the 10 hits in a complete-game win.  Morgan Ettinger took the loss, despite giving up just one hit in 1 1/3 innings.

Boise State 8, Nevada 4 - On Jayme King Day, where Nevada honored its former player, Boise State completed a 3-game sweep.  In front of a season-best crowd in Reno of 665, the Broncos built a commanding 6-run lead in the first inning and never looked back.  Megan Dortch gave up four hits and six runs -- all earned -- in just 1/3 of an inning.  Rebecca Patton won her second game of the weekend, going the distance and scattering 10 hits.  The Pack out-hit Boise State 10 to eight.  Makenna Weir hit a home run for the Broncos.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Harris, Martin lead Fresno State past SDSU

Saturday saw everyone playing the middle game of a 3-game weekend Mountain West series.  Boise State captured a series win by defeating Nevada for the second day in a row, while UNLV and San Jose State knotted their series at one game apiece with Colorado State and New Mexico, respectively.  But the biggest game of the day occurred Saturday night when Fresno State shut out San Diego State 2-0 to surge in front of the race for the conference title and win the key series with the Aztecs.

Fresno State 2, San Diego State 0 - In Fresno, sophomore pitcher Hannah Harris tossed a complete-game shutout for the third consecutive Saturday and the Bulldogs beat the Aztecs.  Fresno State snapped San Diego State's 5-series winning streak dating back to last season and the Bulldogs became the first team to beat the Aztecs twice this year.  Harris was in control all night, finishing with a 3-hitter as SDSU was held for the second night in a row without an extra-base hit.  Harris got some key defensive help, including a diving catch by center fielder Brenna Moss that turned into a game-ending double play in the seventh inning.  After a walk and single, San Diego State had two runners on base for Frankie Orlando, who lofted a fly ball to shallow center.  With Moss playing medium-deep, she made a lunging grab fully laid out before the ball hit the grass, and then fired to second base to double off Hayley Miles, who was running on what looked to be a hit before Moss' heroics.  The Bulldogs pounded nine hits, but continually stranded base runners.  Fresno State took a 1-0 lead in the second when Vonnie Martin walked and scored on a double by Whitney Smith.  Later, another hit by Smith appeared to give Fresno State an insurance run, but it was wiped off the scoreboard on a close play at the plate.  Martin blasted a deep home run in the sixth inning for the 2-0 margin, but the Bulldogs missed key opportunities to blow the game open.  They left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings, and didn't score in the fifth despite three hits and loading the bases with no outs.  SDSU starter Erica Romero took the loss.  She was replaced by Andi Smith in the third and Danielle O'Toole in the sixth.  Harris allowed three singles (two of which were bunts), struck out two and walked one.  Fresno State out-hit the Aztecs nine to three, and four Bulldogs had two hits each.  Martin, Smith, Paige Gumz and Kapri Angotti all had two hits, and Martin reached base safely in all three at-bats and scored both of the game's two runs.  

UNLV 13, Colorado State 12 (10 innings) - In Las Vegas, the Rams couldn't hold a 7-run, fifth inning lead and ended up falling to the host Rebels.  UNLV battled back from a 12-5 deficit and eventually tied it in the bottom of the seventh on a home run by Emily Haslinger.  Jamie DePippo's RBI single in the bottom of the 10th was the game-winner.  Haslinger had a pair of home runs and five RBI, while Stefany Valentino and Samantha Juarez had three hits apiece.  Valentino finished with four RBI in the Rebels' 16-hit attack.  Colorado State saw its 8-game winning streak snapped, and the Rams didn't have a hit after Amanda Oliveto entered and threw the game's final 5 1/3 innings to earn the win.

Boise State 9, Nevada 6 - In Reno, the Broncos captured the series win and got home runs from Makenna Weir and Libbie Juarez.  The homers were a 3-run shot by Juarez (her first) and a 2-run shot off the bat of Weir.  Nevada trailed 6-2 before rallying to tie the score before the Broncos took the lead again for good in the sixth.  MacKenzie McGill got the win in relief for Boise State, marking the first time all season the Broncos won a game without Rebecca Patton pitching.  Karlyn Jones, the third of three Nevada pitchers used in the game, took the loss for the Pack.  Tara Glover had three hits, including a double, for the Broncos.

San Jose State 10, New Mexico 1 (5 innings) - In San Jose, this one was over early as New Mexico committed three errors in the first inning.  The miscues led to five unearned runs as San Jose State pushed nine runs across in the first to take a commanding lead.  It was the third time in four conference games that UNM lost by nine or more runs.  Michelle Cox had two of the Spartans' eight hits in the contest and finished with three RBI.  The Lobos had four errors and three hits against pitcher Madison Fish, who bounced back after losing Friday's opening game of the series.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fresno State rallies past Aztecs into 1st place

In a wild, playoff-style atmosphere in front of a large crowd at Bulldog Diamond, Fresno State roared from behind to knock San Diego State out of first place in the Mountain West standings.

Elsewhere, the three other road teams picked up victories.  New Mexico stunned San Jose State with a late rally of its own, Boise State won a 1-0 thriller at Nevada, and Colorado State stormed to a big lead and held off UNLV.

Fresno State 5, San Diego State 4 - In a battle of first team All-Mountain West sophomore pitchers, Jill Compton came out on top against Danielle O'Toole as the Bulldogs came from a hefty deficit for the win.  With O'Toole pegged to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the third, Fresno State began to stage its comeback.  Brenna Moss walked and Brooke Ortiz singled, and Moss came home on one of two errors by Aztecs shortstop Hayley Miles in the game.  A Vonnie Martin sacrifice fly cut SDSU's lead in half at 4-2.  In the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs took the lead for good with three runs off O'Toole.  Hot-hitting Fresno State freshman Kierra Willis began the inning with a triple, and scored on an RBI single by sophomore Paige Gumz.  An RBI double by Moss scored Gumz to knot the score at 4-4.  Ortiz then reached safely on another Miles error, allowing Moss to plate the eventual game-winning run.  Moss was also key on defense as her throw behind Katie Mathis in the sixth inning caught the infielder too far off third base, putting an end to a key Aztecs threat.  Compton, after early troubles on some bloop hits, settled down and held SDSU in check after the third inning.  She struck out seven and appeared to get stronger as the game went on, striking out the side in the seventh when the Aztecs brought up their top three hitters in the lineup, including the dangerous Patrice Jackson.  Moss was 2-for-2 with three stolen bases, and reached base three times against O'Toole, who lost just her fifth game in 25 decisions this season. Compton allowed only four hits and no runs over the game's final 4 1/3 innings to grab her 13th complete-game victory of the year.  Fresno State won for the 40th time in its last 45 home conference games.

Colorado State 7, UNLV 5 - The Rams stormed to a 6-0 lead and chased Rebels starter Amanda Oliveto early.  The Rebels chipped away at the lead, eventually cutting the final margin to two in the seventh inning on an Emily Haslinger home run.  Holly Reinke picked up the complete-game win.

New Mexico 9, San Jose State 4 - The Lobos picked up an improbable win in a game that looked like each was going to win at some point.  San Jose State led 3-0 before the Lobos rallied with two in the top of the seventh for a 4-3 lead.  One out away from a 4-3 win in the bottom of the seventh, the Spartans tied it on a 2-out double.  In the ninth, San Jose State appeared ready to win it, loading the bases with no outs.  A key UNM double play and a fly out ended the threat, however.  In the 10th, New Mexico came up with a 5-run inning thanks to a 3-run home run off the bat of Karissa Haleman.  San Jose State committed a pair of costly errors in two of the innings in which the Lobos scored, including the 10th.  After getting only two hits in each of its previous two games, UNM exploded for 17 today in San Jose.  Carrie Sheehan got the win, and Madison Fish the loss, both in relief.  It was New Mexico's first road win in Mountain West play.

Boise State 1, Nevada 0 - In a tight pitcher's duel between Rebecca Patton and Karlyn Jones, it was Patton who got the shutout.  Tara Glover's solo home run in the fourth ended Jones' no-hit bid and perfect game, and proved to be the lone run of the contest.  Neither team could get its offense going, as the Broncos had four hits to Nevada's three.  The Pack looked like it might tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.  Sara Parsons singled to lead off the frame, but was cut down at home for the final out of the game.  Megan Sweet hit a 2-out double, prompting the call to send Parsons home, but a Nicholson to Kreiger to McCray relay was in time. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Latest RPIs: Aztecs 36th, Bulldogs 59th, Spartans 67th

The latest Ratings Percentage Index is out, and there weren't many changes, except for Fresno State.  Despite winning two of three in Albuquerque against the Lobos of New Mexico, the Bulldogs took a significant -- and costly -- fall.

Losing in extra innings on Friday wasn't enough to offset the Bulldogs' 29-0 combined victories on Saturday and Sunday.  With the Lobos at 11-25 overall, Friday's loss was enough to drop Fresno State 14 spots in the RPI to No. 59.  It is the first time this season the Bulldogs fell out of the top 50.

It was a crucial fall.  In 2012, Fresno State missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history when it had an RPI of 60.  Currently standing at No. 59, the Bulldogs almost certainly need a series win, if not a sweep, against San Diego State this weekend.  Not only would the Bulldogs' NCAA at-large hopes be substantially improved with a series win, but obviously their hopes of winning the Mountain West title would be greatly increased as well.

San Diego State moved up two spots to No. 36 in the RPI this week after a 3-game sweep of Nevada.  The Aztecs are now the only Mountain West team in good shape for a potential at-large NCAA bid.  San Diego State could virtually knock Fresno State from the race for the regular-season MW title, as well as dash its NCAA Tournament hopes entirely, in one weekend.

What's good for the Aztecs, however, may be to the detriment of the Mountain West as a whole.  If San Diego State were to run away with the conference regular-season title, it would ensure another year of the MW garnering just one NCAA bid.

To say this weekend's series in Fresno is big for both teams would be an understatement.  The Bulldogs still own three wins over the RPI Top 30, according to this week's rankings. 

San Jose State still maintains faint NCAA at-large hopes.  Without benefit of marquee non-conference wins, SJSU has fallen each of the last two weeks in the RPI.  Currently standing at No. 67, the Spartans still have six games left against the Aztecs and Bulldogs.  They'll need to win a majority of those to have a shot.  At this point, with its NCAA at-large hopes slim, SJSU will more than likely need to win the conference's regular-season title and the automatic NCAA bid that comes with it.

Colorado State is 83rd and UNLV 91st in the RPI this week, with both teams falling despite winning weeks.  Their only hopes at NCAA bids come from winning the Mountain West regular-season title, which is still a possibility.  With five Mountain West teams in the RPI top 90, this matches exactly what the conference had last week.

Rounding out this week's RPI:  Boise State is No. 106, Nevada 141st, Utah State 152nd, and New Mexico 165th.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fresno State blasts Lobos 20-0; Aztecs complete sweep

Fresno State's high-powered offense was on display again in Albuquerque, as the Bulldogs crossed the 20-run barrier for the second time in three weekends.  Meanwhile, UNLV became the first visiting team to win a Mountain West series in Boise; Utah State posted a shocking run-rule rout of San Jose State; and San Diego State completed a 3-game sweep of Nevada and has tied the best start in program history.

In non-conference play, Colorado State won to end a 3-0 weekend against visiting UTEP.

Fresno State 20, New Mexico 0 (5 innings) - After the Bulldogs blasted Boise State for 24 runs two weeks ago, they almost did it again against the Lobos.  Fresno State pounded out 18 hits and scored 15 runs on 10 hits in the second and third innings combined.  The 10-run second inning marked the second time the Bulldogs have scored 10 or more runs in a single inning during a Mountain West road game this season.  Whitney Smith continued a torrid hitting weekend, going 4-for-5 with three RBI to finish with eight hits and eight RBI in the series, and a staggering .615 batting average.  She ran her current hitting streak to 11 games.  Brenna Moss had three hits (including a bases-loaded triple), three RBI, and two stolen bases.  Brooke Ortiz had three hits (including a triple), four RBI and a stolen base, and Bria Kennedy got the first hit of her Fresno State career -- a double to lead off the fourth, and she later scored.  Jill Compton, like Hannah Harris the day before, was practically unhittable.  Compton allowed only two hits in picking up her 13th win and sixth complete-game shutout.  Fresno State outscored the Lobos 29-0 over the final two games in Albuquerque.

Utah State 16, San Jose State 8 (5 innings) - In a wild game in Logan, the Aggies run-ruled the Spartans after getting run-ruled themselves the past two days.  Utah State let a big early lead get away before rallying back.  The Aggies led 7-1 entering the third inning before the Spartans rallied for six runs to tie it.  Utah State then added three in the bottom of the frame to take a 10-7 lead.  After San Jose State again scored a run to pull within two, the Aggies blew it open and finished off the Spartans with a 6-run fifth.  Utah State was able to overcome four errors by pounding out 17 hits against four San Jose State pitchers.  Allison Lenzora and Victoria Saucedo had three hits each, with Lenzora getting four RBI and Saucedo three.  Hailey Froton had three RBI and a pair of hits.  Noelle Johnson went the distance, scattering 11 hits for the win.

San Diego State 3, Nevada 1 - The Spartans matched the best start in school history (28-9) with a sweep of the Wolf Pack in San Diego.  Danielle O'Toole picked up her 20th win of the season, allowing six hits and striking out eight.  Karlyn Jones got the start for Nevada and tossed a complete game, giving up seven hits to SDSU.  Kayla Bufardeci and Katie Mathis had two hits each to lead the Aztecs.  For the Wolf Pack, Erin Jones was the lone player with multiple hits, finishing with two, including a double.  San Diego State, by virtue of San Jose State's loss, moved alone into first place in the conference standings, setting up a huge showdown next week in Fresno against the Bulldogs.  Nevada lost its sixth consecutive road game in conference play and now has been swept in both Mountain West road series.

UNLV 9, Boise State 3 - In Boise, the Rebels bounced back from a Saturday loss and an early 3-0 deficit to score the game's final nine runs.  Boise State led 3-0 after two innings before UNLV rallied to tie the score in the third.  A 4-run sixth inning sealed the deal and powered the Rebels to the first series win by a visiting team in Boise since the Broncos joined the Mountain West two seasons ago.  Pauline Monreal hit a home run and had three hits and four RBI to lead the way for UNLV.  Amanda Oliveto scattered nine hits to grab the complete-game victory, out-dueling Rebecca Patton.  Taylor VanAcker and Jamie DePippo had two hits each for the Rebels.  Boise State got three hits from Tara Glover.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blowout wins for Bulldogs, Aztecs and Spartans

Saturday around the Mountain West contained offensive explosions early in all four games.  San Diego State and Fresno State both scored four first inning runs, while San Jose State pushed five across in the first.  UNLV had a 7-run second inning to take a commanding lead, only to see it disappear as Boise State prevailed.

Fresno State 9, New Mexico 0 - In Albuquerque, sophomore pitcher Hannah Harris tossed a complete-game 2-hit shutout as the Bulldogs rolled over the host Lobos.  Harris, who allowed just one base runner to reach second base, gave up two singles and did not walk a batter.  Fresno State struck for four runs -- all with two outs -- in the top of the first.  Sophomore Whitney Smith had a pair of doubles and five RBI in running her hit streak to 10 games.  Stesha Brazil also extended her hitting streak to 10 games, while Brenna Moss moved hers to 11 in a row.  Brooke Ortiz had three hits, and freshman Kierra Willis added a pair of hits and two RBI.  New Mexico's Lauren Soles got the loss, going the distance and allowing 10 hits.  Harris pitched a 2-hit shutout for the second straight Saturday after doing it last Saturday in an 8-0 win over Utah State.

San Diego State 10, Nevada 1 (5 innings) - The Wolf Pack committed three errors that led to four early unearned runs, and that was the ball game in San Diego.  In a battle of freshman starting pitchers, Erica Romero of the Aztecs got the better of Nevada's McKenna Isenberg.  Patrice Jackson and Hayley Miles had doubles for SDSU's only two extra-base hits in a game where SDSU banged out 10 singles.  Nevada, 3-0 at home in Mountain West play, dropped to 0-5 away from Reno with the loss.  San Diego State won its second consecutive home game to clinch the series win.

San Jose State 12, Utah State 4 (5 innings) - The first five batters in the Spartans lineup combined to go 10-for-18 with eight RBI and 10 runs scored in a second straight run-rule rout in Logan.  It was the first time San Jose State had recorded back to back run-rule wins over the same opponent in seven years.  Jessica Garcia hit a homer for the second day in a row, and Sharon-Renae Estrada went deep as well. Jessie Hufstetler and Estrada both had three hits, three RBI, and scored twice.  Garcia finished with a pair of hits and two RBI, along with three runs scored.  SJSU clinched its second straight conference series win, while Utah State's struggles continued.  The Aggies, after beginning MW play 3-0 and sitting alone in first place in the conference standings for a brief period, have now lost five league games in succession.  Three of their past four MW defeats have been via the run-rule.

Boise State 8, UNLV 7 - In Boise, the Broncos spotted the Rebels an early 5-run lead, but then came roaring from behind for the victory.  Rebecca Patton picked up the win in relief of starter Mackenzie McGill, who gave up seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings.  Both teams committed two errors, but they were more costly for Boise State, as five of the seven runs McGill allowed were unearned and put BSU in an early hole.  UNLV, which trailed 2-0 after one, pushed seven across in the top of the second to seemingly take command.  Samanta Juarez and Jamie DePippo doubled as part of the Rebels' 4-hit attack in the frame.  Combined with two Broncos errors, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch, it gave UNLV an early 5-run cushion.  It didn't take long for Boise State to respond.  Against Rebels freshman starter Morgan Ettinger, the Broncos scored four in the bottom of the second.  Brittany McCray, Lindsey Nicholson and Ashley Palmer all doubled in the inning as Amanda Oliveto later entered in relief.  Boise State tied it in the third with the help of a UNLV error, and went ahead in the fifth on a Nicholson RBI single.  Both teams had 10 hits.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Aztecs, Spartans post shutout wins

At the start of Friday, four Mountain West teams stood atop the conference standings.  Of those four, only Fresno State ended up losing and falling back in the race for the regular-season MW title.

San Diego State and San Jose State ended the day tied for the top spot after both posted shutout wins.  UNLV picked up a road win and now sits just percentage points behind the Aztecs and Spartans.  Fresno State fell a game off the pace with an extra-inning loss at New Mexico.

San Diego State 4, Nevada 0 - Danielle O'Toole got all the run support she would need in the bottom of the first inning when the Aztecs scored the game's only runs.  SDSU had five hits and took a 4-0 lead early against reigning MW Pitcher of the Week Megan Dortch.  The Aztecs were out-hit seven to five in the win.  Karlyn Jones came on in relief of Dortch in the first and held SDSU scoreless the rest of the way, but it wouldn't be enough.  It was O'Toole's second straight shutout after last week's non-conference win over Cal State Northridge.  Nevada, which is 3-0 in the Mountain West at home, fell to 0-4 on the road.  The Aztecs were playing their conference home opener.

New Mexico 11, Fresno State 9 (8 innings) - The Lobos stormed to a huge lead as the Bulldogs wilted out of the gate.  New Mexico was up 5-0 against Bulldogs starter Jill Compton after one inning, and pushed the lead to 8-1 against reliever Taylor Langdon as UNM hit three home runs.  Fresno State came roaring back with six runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to tie the game 9-9.  In the eighth, the Lobos won it on a walk-off, ground-rule double by Jordan Sjostrand with the bases loaded.  The ball bounced just inside the line in deep right field.  Reigning MW Player of the Week Stesha Brazil hit a 3-run homer and Vonnie Martin's 2-run blast tied it in the sixth.  Fresno State out-hit UNM 14 to 12, but the Bulldogs left a bevy of base runners, including eight in scoring position.  The win for UNM represented Fresno State's worst loss of the year, putting a potential dent in the Bulldogs' RPI.  Fresno State entered the game 45th in the RPI, with New Mexico at No. 156.  The Lobos won just their sixth game ever in the series against Fresno State, which has won 29 of the 35 all-time games played between the two.  The Bulldogs had won the last 14 meetings.

UNLV 6, Boise State 5 - For the first time since joining the Mountain West, the Broncos came up on the short end in the opening game of a conference series played in Boise.  Until today, Boise State had been perfect in the Friday game of each conference home series it had played the last three seasons.  UNLV got solid pitching and just enough hitting to hold off the Broncos, who out-hit the Rebels 13 to 10.  Tara Glover went 3-for-3 and broke the Boise State school career hits record, but it wouldn't be enough.  Morgan Ettinger came on in relief of UNLV starter Amanda Oliveto in the second and picked up the win, despite allowing 12 hits.  The Rebels won a series opener on the road for the second consecutive weekend, while Boise State lost a fourth straight Mountain West contest.  Rebecca Patton both started and lost her fourth consecutive game.

San Jose State 9, Utah State 0 (6 innings) - Allison Lang and Katelyn Linford tossed a 6 inning, combined 2-hitter in Logan as the Aggies' troubles continued.  After beginning Mountain West play 3-0, Utah State has lost four straight and been run-ruled twice while being outscored 27 to 3 in those four contests.  SJSU, meanwhile, won its third Mountain West game in a row with an all-around effort.  Jessica Garcia hit a home run and had four RBI, and Alyssa Martinez had three hits and a pair of RBI for the Spartans.  Lang and Linford were able to overcome seven walks they issued, as USU left seven runners on base.  Noelle Johnson started and took the loss, but threw just 68 pitches in the complete-game effort.  She gave up 11 hits, and all nine runs were earned.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

RPI: San Diego State 38th, Fresno State 45th

The latest Ratings Percentage Index numbers are out, and they continue to hold good news for both San Diego State and Fresno State.

The Aztecs, despite a 1-0 week, had a slight hiccup and fell four spots to No. 38.  The Bulldogs, meanwhile, jumped up four spots to No. 45 after a 3-0 week.  Both are still solidly in contention for an NCAA at-large berth should it become necessary.

With there being no guarantees of what the NCAA selection committee may -- or may not -- do, both teams need to focus on winning as many of their remaining games as possible.  For now though, those two have the best shot at an at-large bid out of the Mountain West.  Fresno State remains the team with the three best non-conference wins in the MW, holding three victories over the RPI Top 30, including a marquee win over No. 7 Nebraska.

San Jose State dropped a spot to No. 65 after a 2-1 week.  Colorado State moved up two, to No. 81, after sweeping Boise State.  UNLV, which dropped two of three at SJSU, is down seven spots to No. 89.  That gives the Mountain West a solid five teams in the top 90 of the RPI.

Boise State fell five spots to No. 104, while Nevada took a 10-spot leap to No. 142 after sweeping New Mexico.  Utah State fell a whopping 27 spots after an 0-4 week.  While getting swept at Fresno State didn't help, the Aggies' fall was much worse because of a bad, mid-week loss to Southern Utah (RPI of 167).  New Mexico fell 14 spots to No. 156.