Friday, May 16, 2014

Aztecs eliminated after falling to Michigan twice

San Diego State battled back to send it to extra innings, but ultimately ended up falling to No. 13 Michigan 8-7 in nine innings Friday in an NCAA opener in Tempe.

With temperatures soaring past the 100-degree mark Friday, San Diego State went toe-to-toe with the Wolverines and scored three in the seventh to rally from a 7-4 deficit and force extra innings.  Jaylene Ignacio delivered an RBI single in the seventh and led the Aztecs with two of their six hits.

In the ninth, Patrice Jackson's two-base error played a key role.  With one away, Lindsay Montemarano singled to right, and Jackson briefly appeared as though she was going to try and dive for the ball.  Instead, the ball bounced in front of her and she overran it, allowing Montemarano to advance all the way to third.  It would prove critical.

The next batter, Haylie Wagner (the game's winning pitcher), flew out to medium-deep center for a sacrifice fly to end the game.

Saturday, San Diego State eliminated Ivy League Champion Dartmouth from its first NCAA tournament appearance ever with an 8-0 (6 innings) win.  But the Aztecs were eliminated themselves immediately afterwards when Michigan run-ruled SDSU 9-1 in six innings.

Danielle O'Toole went 1-2 in regional action, going nearly the entire way in the circle for the Aztecs in the postseason.  In SDSU's final game, O'Toole allowed nine hits and seven runs in four innings to finish the season 31-10.  The Aztecs concluded the year 9-9 in games where O'Toole was not the pitcher of record.

Notes - Michigan advanced to the Super Regionals with a pair of wins of host Arizona State ... Also advancing to the Super Regionals were two teams that lost to Fresno State during the regular season -- Washington and Nebraska.  The Huskers defeated No. 15 national seed Missouri twice in regional action, while the Huskies didn't allow a run in regional play, outscoring their opponents 26-0.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

All-conference selections announced

The Mountain West announced its all-conference teams, as well as the league's player, pitcher, defensive player, freshman and coach of the year awards today.

The 2014 Mountain West Player of the Year is sophomore Garie Blando of UNLV.  The Pitcher of the Year is sophomore Danielle O'Toole of San Diego State.  The Defensive Player of the Year is junior Brenna Moss of Fresno State.  The Freshman of the Year is Victoria Saucedo of Utah State.  And the league's Coach of the Year is Kathy Van Wyk of San Diego State.

The conference's top three finishers -- San Diego State, Fresno State and UNLV -- led the way with five selections each on the first and second teams.  Three all-conference picks came from Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico and San Jose State.  Nevada had two selections, while Utah State had one.

Fifteen of the players selected are either freshmen or sophomores, indicating the conference's future is extremely bright. 

Looking ahead to 2015, Fresno State will lead the way with four returning All-Mountain West picks.  The Bulldogs were the only team to have two pitchers (Jill Compton & Hannah Harris) selected.  UNLV and New Mexico will both return three All-MW players in 2015, while Colorado State, San Diego State and San Jose State will return two apiece.  Boise State, Nevada and Utah State will all bring back one all-conference pick next season.

The complete list of 2014 accolades can be found here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Aztecs to face Michigan in Tempe Regional

San Diego State's seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance begins in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday.

The Aztecs claimed the No. 3 seed in the Tempe Regional and will open Friday at 12:30 pm Pacific time against Michigan (42-12) of the Big Ten.  The Wolverines earned an at-large bid after tying for the Big Ten title but falling in the conference tournament.

The Mountain West's only at-large hope -- Fresno State (31-21) -- was bypassed for a bid and will miss the tourney for a third straight year after making 30 in a row from 1982 to 2011.  According to the RPI, the Bulldogs were the sixth-best team in the country left out of the field.

San Diego State's other two opponents in the Tempe regional are host and No. 9 national seed Arizona State (44-10-1) and Ivy League champion and first time NCAA entrant Dartmouth (31-17).

The Aztecs have a good chance to defeat the Wolverines.  The Mountain West won six games versus the Big Ten this season, including a win by Fresno State over Nebraska, which shared the Big Ten championship with Michigan and earned an at-large bid.

San Diego State will be in for a hot weekend.  Temperatures in Tempe are forecast to reach 101 on Friday.  If the Aztecs win their first game, they'll play the Arizona State-Dartmouth winner at 3 pm on Saturday, when the temperature is supposed to hit 104 degrees.

According to the RPI, Fresno State was one of the six best teams in the country left out of the NCAA field.  The others:  Stanford, McNeese State, College of Charleston, Mercer and Florida International.  Stanford was left out of the NCAA tourney for the first time in 17 years.  Fellow bay area Pac-12 member Cal saw its NCAA tourney streak end after 28 straight appearances.

View the complete NCAA Tournament bracket here.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Aztecs win MW title; Fresno St., UNLV tie for 2nd

Danielle O'Toole won her 30th game of the season as San Diego State clinched the outright Mountain West championship with a 5-1 win over Boise State Saturday in San Diego.

O'Toole allowed five hits and won all three games this weekend against the Broncos, who arrived in first place on Thursday.  Less than 48 hours later, Boise State left with a fourth-place finish in the final conference standings.

After Fresno State defeated Nevada 10-1 in five innings earlier in the day, the Aztecs knew they had to win or the Bulldogs would grab the automatic NCAA berth.  Fresno State owned every tiebreak scenario by virtue of the Bulldogs' beating San Diego State two out of three games head-to-head this season.

SDSU took a 1-0 lead early before Boise State responded with a Lindsay Nicholson solo homer in the fourth to tie it.  The Aztecs broke the tie in the fifth and added three more in the bottom of the sixth to win going away.  Kayla Jordan, Leia Ruiz and Dominique Dinner all had two hits for SDSU.

Rebecca Patton went the distance for a third straight day for Boise State.  She scattered nine hits and took the loss.

Fresno State will hope for an at-large NCAA berth, hoping its RPI of 52, two Top 25 wins (over Big Ten co-champion Nebraska and Pac-12 power Washington), three Top 30 wins, and five Top 50 wins are enough.

San Diego State finished 16-8, a game ahead of both Fresno State and UNLV at 15-9.  Last Sunday, SDSU knew it had to win four in a row and hope that the Bulldogs somehow lost at least three of their final four in order to claim the title.  That's exactly what happened as Fresno State lost consecutive games in MW play for the first time this season during the final week of action.

Fresno State blasts Nevada to remain alive

Fresno State pounded Nevada on Senior Day in Reno in a 10-1, run-rule rout in five innings to remain alive in the race for the Mountain West title.

Stesha Brazil had a pair of home runs on a 3-hit, 3-RBI, 3 runs scored day.  Paige Gumz smashed a 3-run homer of her own, and Jill Compton was one out away from a shutout when the Wolf Pack scored their lone run.

Brenna Moss had three hits, Gumz had a pair with four RBI, and Kapri Angotti had a pair of hits.  With the win, Fresno State is now the only team with a shot at the NCAA automatic bid out of the Mountain West aside from San Diego State.  The Bulldogs eliminated UNLV from contention for that automatic bid, but not the possible 4-way tie at the top for the Mountain West title.

UNLV defeated Utah State 8-0 in five innings to join Fresno State at 15-9 in the final standings. 

Spartans beat Rams, eliminate Colorado State

Colorado State couldn't rally from a 3-run deficit in its resumed game Saturday morning in Fort Collins as San Jose State held on for the 9-6 victory.  The Spartans' win put an end to the Rams' title hopes, preventing them from winning a piece of the Mountain West title and the automatic NCAA bid.

There is still a chance for a 4-way title tie between Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV as of 10 am Saturday morning.  The race for the Mountain West's automatic NCAA berth has come down to three teams -- Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV.

The Bulldogs can put pressure on the Aztecs with a win today over Nevada (noon in Reno).  That would force San Diego State to defeat Boise State and sweep the 3-game series from the Broncos in order for the Aztecs to grab the conference's automatic NCAA bid.  A Fresno State win, combined with a San Diego State loss, gives the Bulldogs the automatic bid.  Fresno State holds the tiebreaker in both a 3-way tie with San Diego State and Boise State, or a 4-way tie with the Aztecs, Broncos and UNLV.

Also in the mix:  UNLV.  The Rebels' path to the title and automatic NCAA bid is through only one avenue now.  UNLV must defeat Utah State and have both Fresno State and San Diego State lose today.  That would create a 3-way tie for the title between Boise State, SDSU and the Rebels.  UNLV defeated both the Broncos and Aztecs in their season series, and would win the tiebreaker.

Saturday championship and NCAA bid scenarios

Note:  To the best of our knowledge, and after carefully reviewing the MW rule book regarding softball tiebreak procedures, we believe this information to be correct, but it is possible that there may be an error.  In other words, don't make any plane reservations to an NCAA regional based on what you're reading here. 

While San Diego State clinched at least a tie for the Mountain West title on Friday, as many as four teams can join the Aztecs Saturday.  Fresno State, UNLV and Colorado State can all tie for the Mountain West championship, and all three can win the automatic NCAA berth that goes to the winner.  Boise State can not win the automatic berth, but the Broncos can still win a share of their first MW softball championship in school history with a win Saturday.

The scenarios:

San Diego State wins the automatic NCAA bid if ...

it beats Boise State on Saturday.  If the Aztecs sweep the 3-game series, they're headed to the NCAA tournament and win the MW title outright, regardless of what happens elsewhere.  If SDSU loses to Boise State, the Aztecs still earn the automatic bid if Fresno State loses to Nevada AND UNLV loses to Utah State.

Fresno State wins the automatic NCAA bid if ...

it beats Nevada on Saturday AND Boise State beats San Diego State.  The Bulldogs win each tiebreak scenario that involves a 3-, 4-, or 5-way tie for the title.

UNLV wins the automatic NCAA bid if ...

it beats Utah State on Saturday AND Boise State beats San Diego State AND Nevada beats Fresno State AND Colorado State loses at least once to San Jose State.

Colorado State wins the automatic NCAA bid if ...

it beats San Jose State twice on Saturday AND Boise State beats San Diego State AND Nevada beats Fresno State AND UNLV beats Utah State.  In an odd twist, the Rams need UNLV to win to create a 4-way tie for the title because the only way Colorado State can claim the automatic bid is with a 4-way tie that consists of itself, along with UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State.  In that grouping, CSU would have gone 6-3 vs. the others, while SDSU and UNLV both would have gone 5-4, and Boise State 2-7.  Once the Broncos had been eliminated with the worst composite record versus the others, UNLV would then eliminate San Diego State by virtue of the Rebels' 2 to 1 series win over the Aztecs, leaving Colorado State and UNLV.  In the head-to-head matchup between those two, the Rams beat the Rebels 2 to 1.  Thus, Colorado State wins the automatic NCAA bid.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Aztecs clinch tie; 5-way tie still possible

Patrice Jackson came up big when it counted most, sending San Diego State to winning a portion of a seventh Mountain West title.  Elsewhere, Nevada knocked off Fresno State for a second day in a row, UNLV beat Utah State again, and Colorado State edged San Jose State before game two plunged into darkness.

San Diego St. 1, Boise State 0 (8 innings) - Patrice Jackson's walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the eighth powered the Aztecs past the Broncos.  Rebecca Patton walked Katie Mathis on four pitches with two outs in the eighth, and Mathis scored on Jackson's hit in a pitcher's duel.  Danielle O'Toole allowed four hits, as did Patton.  The Aztecs looked like they were going to win the game earlier, loading the bases in the sixth with one out before Patton escaped the jam.  She struck out Jackson in that frame, and Boise State had opportunities of its own too.  Boise State stranded a pair in both the seventh and eighth innings, including runners at second and third base in the top of the seventh. While SDSU clinched a tie for the MW title, it did not clinch the automatic NCAA berth that goes along with it.  Boise State can still finish as Mountain West co-champions with a win Saturday in the season finale.

Nevada 5, Fresno State 1 - The Bulldogs were hurt by the long ball again, giving up a pair of home runs for the second day in a row in a loss in Reno.  Also for the second day in a row, Fresno State out-hit the Wolf Pack in a loss, and this one hurt more.  The Bulldogs had 12 hits to just five for Nevada, but Fresno State finished one shy of a school record with 15 stranded base runners.  The record for stranded runners (16) was set earlier this season against Virginia. The Bulldogs left the bases loaded in three different innings and stranded 10 in scoring position.  McKenna Isenberg escaped jam after jam after jam to pick up the win.  Hannah Harris allowed just three hits and took the loss.  Harris took a no-hitter into the third when, with two outs, Amanda Weis hit a grand slam following two singles and a walk.  Erin Jones added a solo shot later.  Fresno State left runners at second and third base in both the first and seventh innings, and the bases loaded in the second, third and fifth frames. Despite a 3-game losing streak, the Bulldogs can still wrap up the Mountain West's automatic NCAA berth with a simple scenario:  If Fresno State wins and San Diego State loses Saturday, the Bulldogs will reach their 31st NCAA tourney, as well as win a piece of the conference championship.

UNLV 2, Utah State 1 - Amanda Oliveto came on to pick up the game's final out as the Aggies had the potential tying run at third when the game ended.  Freshman Morgan Ettinger went 6 2/3 for the victory, which was aided by a solo homer from Pauline Monreal that gave UNLV an early lead.  The Aggies were held to just three hits and have lost nine straight and 13 of 14.  Monreal had two hits for the Rebels, who still can win a piece of the Mountain West title on Saturday with a victory and a loss by San Diego State.  UNLV also is not out of the race for the Mountain West's automatic NCAA berth.  The Rebels win it with a victory, plus losses by San Diego State, Fresno State and Colorado State.

Colorado State 7, San Jose State 4 - In a wild, back and forth affair, the Rams came up with four in the bottom of the sixth for the victory in Fort Collins.  Alyssa Greckel homered and Ashlie Ortega had three of the Rams' 11 hits.  Holly Reinke earned the victory, escaping some jams as SJSU threatened on multiple occasions.  In the day's second game, action was suspended by darkness with San Jose State leading 9-6 in the top of the sixth inning.  Colorado State must come back from that 3-run deficit on Saturday when the game is resumed (10 am MT) in order to have a chance at a Mountain West co-championship.  The Rams can only win a piece of the title by winning twice on Saturday.  In order to capture the conference's automatic NCAA berth, Colorado State will not only have to win twice, but hope that San Diego State, Fresno State and UNLV all suffer losses.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

3-way tie for first place with 2 games left

It's a 3-way tie for first place in the Mountain West with just two games remaining for the teams tied at the top.

San Diego State moved into the tie for first by virtue of its 4-0 shutout over Boise State, which saw its 8-game winning streak snapped on Danielle O'Toole's 2-hitter.  Fresno State fell into a first place tie by falling at Nevada, 3-2.  Jill Compton allowed only five hits in the game and the Bulldogs out-hit the Wolf Pack, but two of those five were solo homers by Megan Sweet.  Amanda Oliveto had no trouble keeping UNLV in the race with a 6-1 win over struggling Utah State, which has lost eight straight and 11 of its last 12 games.  The Rebels are just a game back with two left to play.  Colorado State, a game and a half back, and San Jose State were rained out in Fort Collins and will play two Friday.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ESPN's Hays: Fresno State, Boise State both in NCAA field resident women's sports expert Graham Hays released his updated NCAA Tournament projections today, and he has a pair of Mountain West teams in the field of 64.

Hays has both Boise State and Fresno State, who are currently tied for the conference lead, in the field of 64.  This is the second projection in less than 24 hours showing two MW teams reaching this year's NCAA Tournament.  As noted earlier, Eric Lopez (host of the ELOOnline Podcast on released his updated, final-week projection last night, and it has both Fresno State and San Diego State in the field.

This is an incredibly important weekend for the Aztecs, Broncos and Bulldogs as all three hold reasonable NCAA Tournament hopes.  For both Fresno State and San Diego State, at-large NCAA berths are possible.  For Boise State, its only path is through winning the MW automatic bid.  SDSU must win the series with the Broncos to have a shot at the conference title -- and almost certainly even an at-large bid as well.  The Bulldogs, meanwhile, close the season at Nevada.  A series win could be enough for Fresno State to win the MW outright if SDSU wins its series at home versus the Broncos.

San Diego State has an impressive 17 wins vs. the RPI Top 100, including one versus the Top 50 (No. 45 Long Beach State).  Fresno State appears to have an even stronger at-large profile, with two victories over current Top 25 RPI teams (No. 14 Washington and No. 19 Nebraska, the Big Ten regular season co-champion), another over No. 30 North Carolina State, and a MW-leading five wins against the Top 50.  The Bulldogs have 14 victories vs. the RPI Top 100.

While all three teams at the top enter the weekend with legitimate NCAA hopes, two others -- Colorado State and UNLV -- still have designs on a Mountain West title themselves, though grabbing the league's automatic NCAA berth would require several scenarios to all fall in their favor.

Softball bracketology: Fresno State, SDSU both in NCAA field

Bulldogs and Aztecs on the field prior to a game in 2014

Just five days away from NCAA Selection Sunday, one softball 'bracketology' expert projects two Mountain West teams -- Fresno State and San Diego State -- to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Eric Lopez, host of the ELOOnline Podcast that airs on, has provided NCAA softball projections for several weeks this season.  In his final-week projection, released May 5, he shows both the Bulldogs and Aztecs reaching the NCAA Tournament, and also provides some commentary on the race for the Mountain West title.

This projection makes the Mountain West one of 11 conferences in the country projected to receive multiple bids.  The leagues Lopez projects to have more than one team in the field of 64:  ACC, American, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Atlantic Sun, Colonial, Conference USA, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.

Fresno State has two wins over the final regular-season RPI Top 25 (No. 14 Washington and No. 19 Nebraska), three wins over the RPI Top 30 (No. 30 North Carolina State) and a Mountain West-best five wins over the current RPI Top 50.  San Diego State's best win, according to the RPI, is over No. 45 Long Beach State, but the Aztecs have a conference-best 16 wins against teams ranked between No. 51 and 100.  Fresno State has 14 wins over the RPI Top 100 and won the head-to-head series with the Aztecs.

Lopez hosts the 1080AM Insiders Show airing Sundays from 10-11 am Eastern on Sportstalk 1080 The Team in Orlando.
Eric Lopez host  ELOOnline  Podcast  which airs on  Eric Lopez also host 1080am Insiders Show that  airs Sundays from 10-11am eastern on Sportstalk 1080 the team in Orlando.

Monday, May 5, 2014

San Diego State and Fresno State on the NCAA bubble

The final Ratings Percentage Index of the regular season was released today.  It's the last look we'll get at the numbers used by the NCAA softball selection committee before the Field of 64 is announced Sunday live on ESPNU at 7 pm Pacific time.

A few weeks back, there was a 23-point difference between the positions held by San Diego State and Fresno State.  Those two have been ranked first and second in the Mountain West all season in the RPI.  At one point in April, the Aztecs were 36th and the Bulldogs 59th.

The gap has closed considerably and now just four spots separate the two.  San Diego State is ranked 48th in the final RPI of the regular season, while Fresno State comes in at No. 52.  It's NCAA bubble territory for both teams, and each likely needs to win its final conference series of the season this weekend to have a chance at both the Mountain West championship, or an at-large NCAA berth should it be necessary.

San Diego State and Fresno State both present the selection committee with interesting profiles for at-large selections.  SDSU leads the Mountain West with 17 wins against the RPI Top 100, while Fresno State leads the conference in wins over the RPI Top 25 and the RPI Top 50.  In fact, the Bulldogs have two Top 25 wins (over No. 14 Washington and No. 19 Nebraska) and three Top 30 wins when you add in No. 30 North Carolina State.  Fresno State also leads the MW in wins over the RPI Top 50 with five.

The Aztecs, whose best win (according to the RPI) is over No. 45 Long Beach State, have 16 wins over teams ranked 51st to 100th.  The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are right behind SDSU with 14 victories over the RPI Top 100.

If Fresno State is one of the final teams in consideration for an at-large bid (should it not win the automatic NCAA berth by capturing the MW regular season title), the Bulldogs' wins over Washington, Nebraska and NC State could loom large.

Instead of leaving any of this in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, both Kathy Van Wyk's and Trisha Ford's squads will want to try their best to win the Mountain West regular-season title this weekend.  And they both surely have their eyes set on that.

Elsewhere, Colorado State rose five spots in the RPI to No. 74, despite losing two of three at Fresno State.  Boise State swept a 3-game set from New Mexico and climbed to No. 78, its highest position of the season.  Despite losing two of three to SDSU, San Jose State climbed two places to No. 83.  And UNLV split a pair of non-conference games with Oregon State and dropped four spots to No. 90, giving the Mountain West six teams in the RPI Top 90 again this week.

Nevada (142nd), New Mexico (176th) and Utah State (180th) rounded out the Mountain West RPI rankings this week.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Broncos and Bulldogs tied for first with one series left

The race for the Mountain West softball title got a little bit closer on Sunday after a pair of wild 1-run games.  Boise State moved into a tie for first with Fresno State after the Broncos won in dramatic fashion for a second day in a row, and the Bulldogs nearly pulled off a late miracle.

Elsewhere, San Diego State eliminated San Jose State from contention, and Nevada completed a 3-game sweep of struggling Utah State.

Colorado State 8, Fresno State 7 - The Bulldogs lost at home on Senior Day for the fifth time in six seasons in a game that started and ended wildly.  Chelsea O'Connor hit a home run to put the Rams up 2-0 with only one out recorded in the game.  In the top of the second, it was already 4-0 before the Bulldogs rallied for four straight runs to tie it.  Fresno State scored three in the bottom of the second with the help of two Rams miscues on a day when both defenses were sloppy.  Colorado State took the lead for good in the fifth by adding a run on a Kendal Butterfield RBI single.  Bulldogs second baseman Whitney Smith committed a pair of errors in the sixth inning that led to three CSU runs.  Alyssa Greckel's 2-out, 2-run triple put the Rams up 8-4.  In the bottom of the seventh, Fresno State nearly rallied from four runs down to win it.  Brooke Ortiz started the rally off with a single, and winning pitcher Holly Reinke walked a pair, including one with the bases loaded to force in a run.  A groundout scored another to trim the deficit to 8-6, and Paige Gumz' RBI single made it an 8-7 game with two outs in the seventh.  Senior Kapri Angotti, in the final at-bat for Fresno State at home this season, was retired on a groundout with the potential tying and winning runs on base.  While the Bulldogs have won 45 of their past 53 home conference games spanning several seasons, more than half of those losses (5 of 8) have come on Senior Day.  Fresno State has lost on Senior Day five of the past six seasons (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014).  CSU stayed alive in the race for a conference title on a day when the Bulldogs could have eliminated the Rams.

Boise State 5, New Mexico 4 - For the second day in a row, the Broncos won on a walk-off home run.  With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Mackenzie Whyte hit a homer to send the Broncos into a first-place tie with Fresno State.  Even more importantly, Boise State holds the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs after being the only Mountain West team to win a season series against coach Trisha Ford's squad.  The Broncos, however, face a mighty task next weekend when they face a road series at San Diego State.  The Aztecs have not lost a conference series at home this season and haven't been swept in a league series in San Diego in nine years.  Boise State trailed 1-0 until the fourth when it scored four runs -- all with two outs.  New Mexico responded with a 3-run top of the fifth to tie it, but ended up losing all three games in the series.  UNM's season came to a close as the Lobos finished 7-17 in Mountain West play and 16-36 overall.  Both teams had only five hits in the game, with Rebecca Patton getting the complete-game win and Lauren Soles the tough loss.  Soles had allowed just one hit in three innings of relief before Whyte's home run.

San Diego State 5, San Jose State 3 - Patrice Jackson homered to begin the top of the fourth inning, and Dominique Dinner added the first home run of her career -- a 3-run shot -- in the same inning as the Aztecs rallied to win the series in San Jose.  The Spartans out-hit San Diego State 12 to eight and had no errors compared with the Aztecs' two, but still suffered the loss and were eliminated from the Mountain West championship race.  Madison Fish came in to replace SJSU starter Katelyn Linford in the fourth after Linford had given up the homer to Jackson and walked a pair with one out.  Dinner, the only batter Fish would face, promptly hit the 3-run home run that gave San Diego State the lead for good.  SJSU had several opportunities but stranded nine base runners against the pitching duo of Erica Romero and Danielle O'Toole.

Nevada 3, Utah State 0 - Wolf Pack senior pitcher Karlyn Jones recorded a career-best 11 strikeouts to complete a 3-game sweep of the Aggies in Logan. Jones didn't walk a batter and almost had to be perfect in a game with very little offense.  Both teams had just four hits, and the Aggies went with a first-time makeshift lineup that featured all six seniors -- including some who rarely have played this season -- starting the game.  Megan Sweet had a 2-run home run for Nevada in the fifth and finished with two hits and all three RBI.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

New stadium name, same result: Bulldogs win!

Fresno State re-named its softball stadium Saturday in a pregame ceremony honoring its legendary former head coach, Margie Wright.  And then the Bulldogs went out and played the type of game that happened a lot under her tutelage.

Using stellar pitching, the league's top defense, and some clutch hitting and monster at-bats, Fresno State defeated Colorado State 7-2 to win the series against the Rams and move a game closer to the Mountain West championship and the automatic NCAA berth that goes along with it.

Elsewhere, Boise State remained on the Bulldogs' tail, getting a walk-off win in the eighth inning over New Mexico after the Lobos came up with a 3-run seventh inning to tie it.  San Jose State stayed in the hunt with a shutout win over San Diego State, which fell two games off the pace.  And Nevada won for the second day in a row at faltering Utah State, which has lost 14 of its last 17.

Fresno State 7, Colorado State 2 - Stesha Brazil hit home runs in her first two at-bats of the day, and Michelle Solomon delivered the knockout blow with a 2-out grand slam off of Holly Reinke in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Bulldogs won their sixth consecutive Mountain West series.  Hannah Harris picked up the win, going the first five innings and allowing four hits. Jill Compton entered in the sixth with a 3-2 lead and earned the save.  Fresno State had 10 hits and took a 1-0 lead on Brazil's solo homer in the second.  It would be the first Bulldog home run in the newly re-named Margie Wright Diamond, with the legend in attendance as part of the 1,351 on hand.  CSU took a 2-1 lead in the third when Shae Rodriguez hit a 2-run shot to right, scoring Haley Hutton.  Brazil's second home run of the day came in the fourth when the Bulldogs tied it 2-2.  A 2-out RBI single by freshman Kierra Willis in the same frame gave Fresno State a lead it wouldn't relinquish.  After Compton struck out Danielle Wikre with the bases loaded to escape a sixth inning jam, Reinke wasn't as fortunate in the bottom half of the inning.  After Paige Gumz, Brenna Moss and Brooke Ortiz all singled, Solomon stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in a 1-run game.  On a full count pitch, she launched a deep blast to left over the fence and the outfield berm behind it for her first grand slam of the season.  Moss, Brazil and junior Kelly Megee all finished with a pair of hits for the Bulldogs.  Colorado State, which entered the weekend as the Mountain West's top hitting team this season, has been limited to eight combined hits in the first two games of the series.  Fresno State maintained its hold on first place with the victory, and now knows a 4-0 finish to the year will result in a conference championship and automatic NCAA berth.

San Jose State 5, San Diego State 0 - Allison Lang held the Aztecs to five hits in a shutout win that kept the Spartans' slim title hopes alive.  Casey Watt hit a 2-run home run off of Danielle O'Toole, who started her second straight in the series, and San Diego State is now 7-7 in its last 14 conference games.  Devin Caldwell and Alyssa Martinez both hit doubles as part of the Spartans' 9-hit attack against O'Toole.  Sharon-Renae Estrada and Jessica Garcia had two hits each for SJSU, while Patrice Jackson had two of the Aztecs' four hits.  Despite the win, San Jose State moved to the brink of elimination in the Mountain West race Saturday because of Fresno State's win over Colorado State.  The Bulldogs are three games ahead of the Spartans with four to play, and Fresno State holds the tiebreaker if the two should tie.  Meanwhile, San Diego State likely now must win a minimum of three of its final four conference games in order to have a shot at an NCAA bid.  SDSU has been to six straight NCAA tourneys, but is two games back of the Bulldogs, who also hold the tiebreaker over the Aztecs.  San Diego State's best path to an NCAA berth may be by winning next weekend's series at home in San Diego versus Boise State, and trying to secure an at-large NCAA berth.  SDSU was 45th in the RPI entering the week and in bubble territory.

Boise State 7, New Mexico 5 (8 innings) - Despite being out-hit 11 to six and giving up three runs in the seventh, the Broncos rallied to win it in extra innings.  Brittany McCray hit a 2-run homer off of Lobos pitcher Carrie Sheehan for the walk-off victory in eight innings.  New Mexico trailed 5-2 entering the seventh but scored three runs -- all earned -- against Rebecca Patton.  Hailey Torrez hit a grand slam in the second as Boise State moved in front comfortably.  She and Jordan Kreiger were the lone Broncos players with multi-hit games versus New Mexico, which entered with a team ERA approaching 10.00 in conference play.  The Lobos had four players with double-digit hit totals.

Nevada 5, Utah State 3 - The Wolf Pack won their second series of the season with a victory for a second day in a row against the Aggies in Logan.  Utah State's late-season slump continued with a loss for the 18th time in it last 23 games.  McKenna Isenberg beat Abby Indreland in a battle between freshman pitchers.  The Pack had nine hits while the Aggies had eight.  Erin Jones had two hits to lead a balanced Nevada attack.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fresno State tops Rams, maintains hold on first place

Another quality pitching performance from Jill Compton and a dramatic late rally helped Fresno State maintain sole possession of first place in the Mountain West with just five games remaining.

Elsewhere, San Diego State picked up a road win in San Jose, Boise State shut out New Mexico, and Nevada powered past Utah State.

Fresno State 5, Colorado State 1 - Jill Compton was tossing a 1-hitter through six innings, but the Bulldogs headed to the bottom of the sixth trailing 1-0. Despite getting hits themselves in every inning against Rams starter Holly Reinke, the Bulldogs were 0-for-10 with runners on base through five frames.  It all changed in the sixth with a dramatic 5-run Fresno State uprising.  The Bulldogs got four hits in the inning and took advantage of a pair of Colorado State errors.  With one out, Stesha Brazil singled before a Rams error gave the Bulldogs runners at first and second.  Fresno State loaded the bases on another Colorado State miscue and took its first lead on a 1-out, 2-run single by Whitney Smith.  Then it was a pair of seniors adding key RBI singles on the opening day of Senior Weekend. Kapri Angotti's RBI single plated a third run, and -- with two outs -- Brooke Ortiz got her third and most important hit of the day, a 2-run single.  That was enough for Compton, who gave up bookend singles -- one in the first inning and one in the seventh -- but that was all the Rams offense could muster.  CSU's run came in the third (without benefit of a hit) as Compton issued a pair of walks to begin the frame after getting ahead of both batters with 0-2 counts.  A sacrifice advanced the runners and the Rams scored on what was ruled a wild pitch.  Ortiz had three hits and two RBI, Brazil a pair of hits and a run, Smith a hit and two RBI, and Angotti a hit, RBI and run scored.  The Bulldogs remain a full game ahead of both San Diego State and Boise State, who play each other next weekend.  Fresno State is now two full games ahead of the Rams with five to play and can win the series Saturday with a victory on a day when the school officially re-names its stadium Margie Wright Diamond in honor of its legendary former coach.

San Diego State 8, San Jose State 3 - Danielle O'Toole got through a very rough first inning but was smooth the rest of the way as the Aztecs rallied from two runs down for the win in San Jose.  The Spartans touched O'Toole for five hits and three runs in the bottom of the first inning alone, including a 3-run home run off the bat of Jessica Garcia.  That gave SJSU a 3-1 lead it held until the fourth inning.  San Diego State took the lead for good with a 4-run fifth inning, and O'Toole allowed only one hit after the tough first inning.  Garcia's home run, her team-leading 10th, gave her 52 RBI on the year, a new school record.  Jaylene Ignacio hit a 2-run homer for the Aztecs and she was one of six SDSU players with mult-hit games.  Leia Ruiz had three RBI for the Aztecs and freshman Katelyn Linford took the loss for the Spartans.  SDSU remained a game behind first-place Fresno State, while SJSU moved close to being eliminated from the race for the MW title with a ninth conference loss.

Boise State 7, New Mexico 0 - The Broncos stormed to a big early lead and looked like they would get a run-rule win, but UNM buckled down and made it go the distance.  Rebecca Patton turned in a quality pitching performance, taking a no-hitter into the fifth and finishing with a complete-game, 4-hitter.  It was her fourth shutout of the year and the seventh of the senior's career.  Hailey Torrez had a pair of hits and two RBI for the Broncos, who remained a game out of first place with five to play.  Boise State still must travel to San Diego State on the season's final weekend next week.

Nevada 7, Utah State 1 - The Wolf Pack won game one in Logan behind the bat of Amanda Weis.  It was a grand slam off Weis' bat in the first inning that set the tone for the contest as Nevada stormed to an early 5-0 lead.  Despite being out-hit in the contest eight to six, the Pack's early lead held up.  Nevada pitcher Karlyn Jones went the distance, scattering those eight Utah State hits.  Sara Parsons had three of the Pack's hits and Weis had two.  USU got multi-hit games from a trio of players.  After starting Mountain West play 3-0, Utah State has slumped with losses in 13 of its past 16 conference games.  Nevada is still in last place but is 2-2 over its past four contests.