Thursday, April 30, 2015

Crunch time is here as the calendar turns to May

Well, the calendar is turning to May.  It's the next-to-last weekend of the regular season in Mountain West softball this week and there is a chance we could be down to two teams left in the race for the conference title by Sunday.  In fact, there's even an outside chance the title could be decided this weekend, but it's unlikely.

It's senior weekend in San Jose, Fort Collins and Logan.  Mountain West leader Fresno State is idle in conference play this weekend but takes a trip up Highway 99 to Stockton to face a Pacific Tigers team that has won four of its last five games.

Both Nevada and Utah State have a chance to play spoiler in the race for the MW title this week.  Nevada, currently tied for last place, may need at least one win this week to avoid finishing alone at the bottom.  The Wolf Pack are already assured of a losing record in conference play for the fifth time in six seasons and have lost 10 of their last 12 games overall.

Nevada will face a San Jose State team that has lost back-to-back games, including a surprising home loss to Santa Clara on Tuesday.  SJSU is 2 1/2 games out of first place and no longer controls its own destiny in the race for the MW title.

Utah State's senior weekend will come against 3-time defending conference champion San Diego State, which faces long odds of becoming a 4-time champion.  One win by Utah State this weekend would mean SDSU can no longer secure the Mountain West's automatic NCAA tournament bid.

The Aggies appear to be a far different team than they were a few weeks ago when talented pitcher Noelle Johnson was healthy.  After leaving with an apparent injury (we're just guessing ... no one seems to be talking, and nothing has been made official as far as we know) after one inning of game two of Utah State's series against San Jose State, the Aggies haven't been the same.  Johnson has not played or pitched in a game since April 18.  If Johnson is not in the pitching rotation again this weekend, it bears noting that USU's three other pitchers carry a combined 2-19 record and ERA over 9.00.  That probably won't cut it against San Diego State.

Utah State is on an 8-game losing streak and has been outscored 55-16 in the process.  USU must defeat SDSU this weekend to avoid that streak reaching 11, which would be its longest since a disastrous 20-game losing streak to begin the 2012 season.  An 11-game slide would also mark the third time in two seasons under coach Steve Johnson that USU has had a double-digit losing streak.  Twice last year, the Aggies lost 10 in a row.  They opened the 2015 season by losing seven straight.

A win by Utah State this weekend would be huge for a team that can still finish with a winning record in conference play.  Meanwhile, San Diego State must sweep in order to have any chance at a fourth straight Mountain West title, and even then, it would require a great deal of outside help from UNLV, Nevada and New Mexico down the stretch.

It's senior weekend in Fort Collins where Colorado State will try to get back on the winning track against UNLV.  The Rams have been a major disappointment this season, losing eight of their nine home conference games so far and failing to win a single MW home series.  The Rebels, meanwhile, are 9-9 and in the middle of the pack at 23-26 overall.

Boise State visits New Mexico and this series matches a pair of teams going in opposite directions.  While BSU has the most losses in a single season in its brief program history, coach Erica Beach has New Mexico in fourth place in the Mountain West during a season where the Lobos were predicted to finish last.  UNM has won both of its home conference series so far this year and will look for a third straight.

Fresno State has a big test in its Highway 99 rivalry series with Pacific in Stockton, where the Bulldogs and Tigers meet in a single game Saturday at 2 pm.  This one could match the reigning 4-time Mountain West Pitcher of the Week -- the Bulldogs' Jill Compton -- against the current West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Week, Dani Bonnett of UOP.  The two faced each other earlier this season when Fresno State won a 1-0 squeaker.  The Bulldogs are riding a 7-game winning streak, and a victory at Pacific (which already has a win over nationally-ranked Baylor this season) could be huge in terms of NCAA at-large selection if it comes to that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TUESDAY: Spartans shocked at home by Santa Clara

In the only softball game involving a Mountain West team Tuesday, San Jose State was stunned at home in a 7-6 loss to Santa Clara.  Allison Lang started and took the loss, going 3 1/3 innings and giving up eight hits as the Broncos stormed to a 7-0 lead.  SJSU got back in it, scoring six runs between the fourth and sixth innings before Santa Clara reliever Micaela Vierra retired the Spartans in order in the seventh.  SCU snapped a 3-game losing streak (the Broncos were swept in a 3-game series against Pacific last weekend) and won for just the 28th time in a 99-game series dominated by the Spartans.  Santa Clara (15-32) entered the week with an RPI of 228, a team batting average of .259, and had scored seven or more runs in a game only five times all season.  Erin Rodriguez led the Spartans with two hits, including a double, and two RBI. San Jose State, which has now lost two straight games, had 12 hits, 10 of which were singles.  The seven runs were the most SCU had scored in a game in more than a month.

Compton sets record as Bulldogs sweep MW honors

Fresno State swept the Mountain West Player and Pitcher of the Week honors this week, with shortstop Whitney Smith winning her first weekly honor, and pitcher Jill Compton setting a record with her fourth straight award.  (Watch the video.)

Compton, who pitched a pair of 1-hit shutouts and went 3-0 last week in a series sweep over Nevada, made Mountain West history when she earned her fourth weekly honor in a row.  Since the conference began sponsoring the sport in the year 2000, no pitcher had won the award four straight weeks until now.

The old record for consecutive weekly MW pitching honors was three, first set by Jacque Kerrigan of UNLV in 2005.  That mark was tied by San Diego State's Christina Ross (2008) and Samantha Beasley (2010), before Compton tied it last week.

Today, Compton became the first Mountain West pitcher to capture the award four straight weeks.  In addition, she is the first to ever win the honor six times in a 7-week span.  It is the ninth time the junior right-hander has won the award during her Fresno State career.

Winning the Player of the Week honors was Smith, who has become one of the Mountain West's most underrated players batting in the No. 9 spot for Coach Trisha Ford's Bulldogs.  Smith has started all 50 games for Fresno State this season and is now batting over .400 in conference play after hitting .800 with an .889 on-base percentage in last week's sweep of Nevada.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Red-hot Fresno State leads MW by 2 games after 12-0 rout

Fresno State took a 2-game lead in the Mountain West standings with a 12-0 (five innings) rout of Nevada Sunday, marking the Bulldogs' seventh straight win.  A 9-run bottom of the third inning was more than enough for pitcher Jill Compton, who all but solidified a fourth straight MW Pitcher of the Week honor with another remarkable effort on a perfect 3-0 week.  Aside from her second 1-hitter in three days and winning her 25th game of the year, Compton struck out 25 batters in 16 1/3 innings to run her conference-leading season strikeout total to 214.

Compton allowed just one hit in a game for the second time this weekend, winning her 11th consecutive start.  And she got plenty of offensive support too as the red-hot Bulldogs rolled to not only their seventh straight victory overall, but their 12th win in their last 13 games.  It came on Senior Day when the Bulldogs honored the team's five seniors, two of whom are starters.

The Bulldogs also got some help in Las Vegas where UNLV shocked San Jose State 8-0 in six innings, pushing the Spartans 2 1/2 games behind Fresno State in the standings.  The Bulldogs control their own destiny heading into their final regular season series May 7-9 after taking next week off in conference play.

San Diego State remained two games back of Fresno State with three to play, though the Bulldogs also hold the tiebreak advantage over the Aztecs after taking two of three earlier in San Diego.  The Aztecs defeated New Mexico 10-2 in six innings in San Diego.

Fresno State 12, Nevada 0 (5 innings) - Jill Compton allowed only one hit before head coach Trisha Ford turned to senior Kiley Shae Aldridge on Senior Day to record the final two outs of the Bulldogs' seventh straight win.  Nevada had no answer for Compton for the third consecutive day as the junior right-hander pitched her second 1-hitter of the weekend and third 1-hitter in her last five starts.  Compton, who picked up her 25th win of the year, has won 11 straight games in which she's been the Bulldogs' starting pitcher.  She got plenty of run support Sunday in a 10-hit attack as the Bulldogs swept Nevada for the first time since the 2005 season and outscored the Wolf Pack 23-3 in the process.  In her final regular-season home game, senior Brenna Moss had three hits, an RBI, two stolen bases and scored a pair of runs.  Fellow senior Michelle Solomon had a hit and two RBI, while sophomore Malia Rivers had a pair of hits and three RBI, including a 2-run single in the Bulldogs' 9-run third inning.  Kierra Willis had two hits and two RBI in a single inning during that 9-run uprising that gave Compton more than enough wiggle room.  The top four batters in the Fresno State lineup went 8-for-14 with eight RBI as the Bulldogs spread the wealth around with all nine hitters scoring runs in the game.  Compton was just four outs from her second perfect game in two months before Megan Sweet broke it up with a single, Nevada's only hit.  For the weekend, Compton led the league by going 3-0 with two shutouts, two 1-hitters and a 1.29 ERA.  Nevada, which entered the week ranked third in the Mountain West with a .309 team batting average, scored in just one inning during the entire series.

UNLV 8, San Jose St. 0 (6 innings) - In a game that was a near complete role-reversal from Saturday, this time it was the Spartans who were unable to come up with a clutch hit, while the Rebels took advantage of nearly every scoring opportunity.  Pitcher Janine Petmecky, who struggled and took the loss in Friday's series opener and entered Sunday with a 2-8 overall record, shut out the Spartans and limited them to four hits.  Petmecky had given up six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings Friday, but kept SJSU off the scoreboard early Sunday when the Spartans repeatedly threatened.  Unlike yesterday when UNLV continually stranded base runners in key situations, this time it was the Spartans who left two runners aboard in each of the first three innings.  San Jose State stranded runners in every inning but the fourth, while UNLV scored early and often against Spartans pitchers Madison Fish and Katelyn Linford.  In fact, the Rebels scored in all six innings.  Garie Blando had a pair of hits, including a home run in the fourth inning to push UNLV in front 5-0.  Alyssa Cordova had two big hits -- an RBI single that put the Rebels on top 1-0 in the first, and a solo homer that extended the margin to 4-0 in the third as UNLV made its eight hits in the game really count.

San Diego St. 10, New Mexico 2 (6 innings) - The Aztecs hit three home runs on their way to a rout of the Lobos in San Diego.  Lorena Bauer, Jenavee Peres and Kayla Jordan all went deep on a day San Diego State had 11 hits against two New Mexico pitchers.  Things started out fine for UNM, but the Aztecs broke through in the bottom of the third to snap a scoreless tie against Lobos starter Krissy Fortner.  A bunt single by Samantha Camello came just before Jordan launched a 2-run shot to right.  With two outs in the inning, Peres belted a homer to left, chasing Fortner and bringing in Carrie Sheehan.  SDSU increased the lead to 5-0 an inning later and Bauer added a home run in the fifth.  In the sixth, Sheehan walked three batters and it proved very costly as all three went on to score.  Erica Romero picked up her 30th win of the season, scattering six hits.

Boise State 7, Colorado St. 1 - In a matchup of struggling teams, the Broncos improved to 4-14 in conference play, while the Rams dropped to 5-13.  Boise State freshman pitcher Rachel Rodriguez improved to 5-18 on the season, allowing three hits and an earned run.  Colorado State's Holly Reinke, a second-team all-conference selection a year ago, fell to 10-18 and didn't make it out of the second inning.  Makenzie Sullivan and Jordan Kreiger both hit home runs and finished with two RBI for Boise State.  For Kreiger, it was her first round-tripper of the year.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bulldogs win their 6th in a row; Spartans, Aztecs win too

The top three teams entering Mountain West play Saturday all won to remain atop the conference leaderboard.

Fresno State clinched a series win over Nevada and won its sixth straight game.  San Jose State run-ruled UNLV for a second day in a row.  San Diego State rebounded from a heartbreaking loss on Friday with a come-from-behind win over New Mexico.  And in a game between a pair of teams at the bottom of the conference standings, Colorado State outlasted Boise State in nine innings.

Fresno State 5, Nevada 3 - The Bulldogs ran their winning streak to a season-best six games and won for the 11th time in their last 12 by defeating the Wolf Pack.  Pitcher Jill Compton won her 10th consecutive start and picked up her 24th win of the year, running her scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 innings before Nevada finally scored.  Fresno State got a multi-hit game from Paige Gumz and a two RBI night from Whitney Smith, who moved her batting average above .400 in MW play.  All nine Bulldogs in the lineup reached base safely in the game, and Kierra Willis tripled for the second game in a row, giving her a conference-best eight on the season.  Hannah Harris threw two hitless innings to grab the save after Nevada erased a 5-0 deficit in the fifth with three runs on four hits and a Bulldog error.

San Diego State 5, New Mexico 4 (8 innings) - Lorena Bauer hit a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Aztecs rallied for a come-from-behind win over the Lobos.  New Mexico never trailed until Bauer's shot in the eighth and gave up a late lead in the bottom of the sixth inning on a fluke play.  With two outs and the bases loaded, UNM hurler Lisa Rodrigues struck out Kayla Bufardeci on a swinging third strike, but the ball got away on a wild pitch, allowing Bufardeci to reach first base and pinch runner Zaria Meshack to score from third and tie it.  The Lobos out-hit SDSU nine to eight, but starting pitcher Lauren Soles walked eight batters in just 2 1/3 innings.  Soles' walks led to two runs on just one Aztec hit.

San Jose State 10, UNLV 0 (5 innings) - The Spartans took advantage of all of their scoring opportunities, while the Rebels had plenty of chances but couldn't muster much of an offense despite a slew of early base runners.  UNLV starting pitcher Morgan Ettinger walked the first two batters of the game and both came around to score, while the Rebels had Kwyn Cooper take over in the second and she walked a pair as well.  SJSU surged to a big lead, getting 3-hit efforts from Jessica Madrid and Erin Rodriguez.  Allison Lang limited the damage in the circle for SJSU, despite UNLV threatening with runners at second and third base with just one out in each of the first three innings.  The Rebels were unable to come up with a clutch hit and were doomed from that point, stranding eight in the first four innings.

Colorado State 8, Boise State 5 (9 innings) - The Rams scored four in the top of the ninth en route to a win over the Broncos.  In a 4-4 tie in extra innings, Colorado State got an RBI double by Shae Rodriguez, followed by an RBI single by freshman Savannah Clark and a 2-run homer by Jaelyn Manzanares.  Boise State got a run in the bottom of the ninth but couldn't get any closer.  CSU pitcher Logan Losh improved to 4-1 with the victory, giving up four hits and a pair of earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of relief.  Rodriguez had four hits for the Rams, while Clark had four RBI in a 14-hit attack.  Colorado State was able to overcome another in a long line of shaky defensive performances this season, committing four errors in the game.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Compton & Fresno State roll, while Lobos rally for road upset

It was quite an amazing Friday around Mountain West softball as Fresno State's Jill Compton continued her spectacular run of pitching performances with another 1-hit shutout and a season-high 11 strikeouts.  One of the most shocking upsets of the season occurred in San Diego when New Mexico erupted for seven runs in the top of the seventh for a stunning win over the defending MW champ Aztecs.  Boise State got a walk-off grand slam from Devon Bridges to beat Colorado State, and San Jose State came back from an early deficit to knock off UNLV in Las Vegas.

Fresno State 6, Nevada 0 - Jill Compton won her ninth consecutive start and pitched a complete-game, one-hitter with a season-high 11 strikeouts as the streaking Bulldogs won for the 10th time in their last 11 games.  Compton ended the game by recording her 200th strikeout of the season and earned her 23rd win of the year.  After allowing a double to Jasmine Jenkins with only one out in the game, Compton held Nevada hitless over the game's final 6 2/3 innings with another in a series of dominant performances in Mountain West play.  Fresno State took a 1-0 lead in the first when Kierra Willis hit her conference-leading seventh triple of the season to score Brenna Moss.  The Bulldogs broke it open with a 5-run sixth when Willis hit a 2-run single to finish with three RBI.  Malia Rivers and Whitney Smith both had a pair of hits on the night and each had a single in the 5-run sixth.  Rivers, Moss and Paige Gumz had RBI in that frame.

New Mexico 8, San Diego State 6 - Facing a 5-run deficit heading to the seventh inning, the Lobos responded with seven runs to stun the Aztecs and send the 3-time defending Mountain West champs to a fifth home loss in their last seven in San Diego.  New Mexico's victory snapped a string of 58 straight wins for San Diego State when the Aztecs were leading after five innings.  This one looked to be a case of missed opportunities for UNM, which stranded 11 base runners in the first six innings and trailed 6-1.  San Diego State pitcher Erica Romero routinely escaped jams but saw New Mexico take the lead in the seventh on six hits and a pair of Aztecs errors.  Down to their last out, the Lobos got a bases-loaded single from Mariah Rimmer (who earlier led off the inning by reaching on an error), and SDSU's fourth error of the game cleared the bases and gave UNM its first lead.  Krissy Fortner, who entered in the fifth in relief, grabbed the win and retired SDSU in order in the bottom of the seventh to complete the shocking comeback victory. 

San Jose St. 11, UNLV 3 - Jessica Madrid and Michelle Cox both had three RBI as the Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit to score 11 of the game's final 12 runs in a 6-inning, run-rule decision over the Rebels in Las Vegas.  UNLV was up 2-0 in the top of the third when SJSU scored three to take the lead.  After an Emily Haslinger home run tied it in the bottom of the third, the Spartans took advantage of UNLV miscues to go in front for good. Pitcher Janine Petmecky, after getting two quick outs in the fourth, hit a batter and walked another before being called for an illegal pitch that advanced both base runners.  A UNLV outfield error on a double by Michelle Cox then changed the complexion of the game as San Jose State went in front 6-3.  Four runs in the sixth put it away and invoked the run rule, with Alyssa Martinez hitting a key, 2-run double.  Allison Lang scattered seven hits and picked up the win.

Boise State 6, Colorado State 5 - Down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Broncos got a walk-off, grand slam from Devon Bridges to pull out a win over the Rams.  Holly Reinke was just two outs away from a 3-run victory when things changed suddenly for Colorado State.  After Reinke had overcome her team's shaky defense and four errors earlier, she was able to get the first out of the seventh on a Kayla Clausen groundout.  Consecutive walks and a Sara Ketelsleger single loaded the bases for Bridges, who'd been 0-for-3 in the game to that point.  Bridges belted a shot over the fence in right-center as BSU won for the third time in its last four home games.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fresno State on verge of Top 25, landing at No. 26

Click to enlarge poll graphic

The new ESPN/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 is out for the week and it gives the Mountain West its highest poll position of the season. Fresno State, which reached the No. 29 spot earlier this season, is on the doorstep of the national rankings once again.

The Bulldogs (33-14) received 15 votes this week to rank in the No. 26 spot, the first team in the "others receiving votes" category.  Fresno State, currently alone in first place in the Mountain West standings, has won nine of its past 10 games.  The Bulldogs own a pair of victories this season over other teams receiving votes, having beaten both Texas (31-12) and Cal State Northridge (37-10).

Fresno State has faced six of the nation's top 20 teams this season, including three of the current top 10, and both the nation's No. 1 (Florida) and No. 2 (Oregon) ranked teams.

Compton & Schultz win MW weekly honors

Courtesy Mountain West Conference 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Compton's 7th shutout keeps Fresno State in first place

Sunday concluded another weekend of Mountain West softball and we're in a holding pattern of sorts as the teams at the top continued to win.

Streaking Fresno State won for the ninth time in its last 10 games and maintained its hold on first place.  The Bulldogs got another remarkable pitching performance from Jill Compton, who struck out 10 and shut out Boise State to sweep the 3-game series.  San Jose State withstood a late Utah State comeback and held on for a 1-run victory over the Aggies to sweep that series.  And San Diego State bounced back from a loss Saturday to stay within striking distance of the top spot by winning its series at Colorado State two games to one.

UNLV captured the Governor's Series in softball with a road win at Nevada to move into a tie with idle New Mexico for fourth place in the Mountain West and keep its slim title hopes alive.

Fresno State 5, Boise State 0
Jill Compton did more Jill Compton-type things in another shutout win and 3-game series sweep for the first-place Bulldogs.  The junior right-hander, who's won Mountain West Pitcher of the Week honors four of the last five weeks, all but wrapped up the award again with another spectacular weekend.  Compton tossed her seventh shutout of the season and won her eighth consecutive start with a complete-game 5-hitter.  For the week, Compton went 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 15 strikeouts, allowing just one earned run in 16 1/3 innings of work.  She lowered her overall ERA this year to a Mountain West-best 1.94 and saw her league-leading ERA in conference games drop below 1.00.  Compton allowed no runs and had 10 strikeouts Sunday against a Boise State offense that scored 24 runs last weekend against Nevada.  Fresno State got a 3-for-3 performance from Malia Rivers, who also had an RBI on a day where the Bulldogs doubled the Broncos in hits, 10 to five.  Brenna Moss continued an impressive weekend with two more hits and two RBI, while Kierra Willis had a pair of hits, including one that drove in a pair of insurance runs in the sixth with two outs.  Freshman Chase LeeHong had two hits, including a leadoff double that jump-started Fresno State's 3-run rally in the sixth.  Nicole Wilson took the loss for Boise State.  The Bulldogs head into their final two series of the season with a one-game lead over San Diego State and a game and a half advantage over San Jose State.  The 3-game series in Fresno drew a Mountain West season-high of 3,937 fans.

San Diego State 8, Colorado State 4
The Aztecs stormed out of the gates with five runs on a pair of long balls in the opening inning en route to claiming a 2-1 series win over the Rams in Fort Collins.  Lorena Bauer hit a pair of home runs, including a 2-run shot that gave San Diego State a 2-0 lead just three batters into the game.  A pair of walks followed, and Sydnee Cable launched a 3-run shot to quickly make it a 5-0 Aztecs advantage, and that was all coach Jen Fisher needed to see of starting pitcher Holly Reinke, who'd pitched well on Saturday.  Fisher turned to freshman Logan Losh, who escaped that first inning without further trouble and would last until the fourth.  CSU responded with three in the bottom of a wild first inning, with Taylor Hutton's 2-run home run off Erica Romero being the Rams' biggest hit of the frame.  It remained a 5-3 game until the fourth when Bauer hit her second homer of the game -- a 3-run shot -- to give her a school-record 53 RBI.  Trinity Harrington entered to pitch for CSU in the fourth and completely shut down SDSU the rest of the way, going 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief.  But it wouldn't be enough as CSU could only rally for one additional run against Romero.  That's not to say the Rams didn't have their chances.  But, just like Saturday, CSU was often unable to come up with a clutch hit, despite having twice as many opportunities as the Aztecs with runners on base.  CSU was 6-for-22 with runners on base in the game, leaving the bases loaded twice in consecutive innings midway through the game and stranding 11 overall.  Each team finished with eight hits.

San Jose State 5, Utah State 4
The Aggies, again playing without their top player in Noelle Johnson, scored two in the top of the seventh to pull within a run before the Spartans held on for the victory to complete a 3-game sweep in San Jose.  With the victory, San Jose State remained tied in the loss column with league-leading Fresno State, but a game and a half behind the Bulldogs in the standings.  SJSU, in a battle with Fresno State and San Diego State for the conference title, has nine games remaining in Mountain West play, while the Bulldogs and Aztecs have just six.  The Spartans scored three runs in the first inning against USU starter Alleyah Armendariz, who entered the game with a 9.88 ERA and dropped to 1-13 on the season with the loss.  SJSU had two hits in the inning and took advantage of a Paxton Provost error that allowed a pair of unearned runs.  Those two runs would end up being the difference in a 1-run game as Armendariz and freshman reliever Jordyn McCracken allowed just one earned run on five hits the rest of the way.  Armendariz hit a pair of solo home runs for the Aggies' first two runs of the game.  In the seventh, USU rallied to score a pair of runs and make it close, with the help of two walks by Spartans reliever Allison Lang.  In for starter Madison Fish, who earned the victory, Lang walked the first two batters she faced in the seventh.  Utah State got a groundout and RBI single and had the potential tying run in scoring position when Sarah Chow grounded out to end the game.  Nicole Schultz had two doubles, and Erin Rodriguez hit a 2-run triple in the first to lead the way for SJSU.  Johnson, who's picked up all but two of Utah State's pitching victories this season, did not play.

UNLV 7, Nevada 3
In the finale of their weekend Governor's Series matchup in Reno, the Rebels picked up a road victory over the Wolf Pack to claim the series two games to one.  Nevada held an early 3-1 lead and Amanda Weis hit her eighth homer of the season, but UNLV fought back with six unanswered runs for the victory.  Garie Blando hit her 14th round-tripper of the 2015 season and Merina Ili delivered a clutch, 2-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning for the Rebels.  Four of UNLV's nine hits went for extra bases, including a double for freshman Janine Petmecky, who finished with two RBI.  She was the lone Rebel with a multi-hit game and also earned the pitching win, which was just her second of the season against seven losses.  Petmecky allowed four hits and three earned runs in four innings.  Megan Dortch took the loss for Nevada, which got two hits from Nikki Orozco.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

First-place Fresno State wins, while Spartans keep pace

It was another wild day in Mountain West softball action Saturday.  Fresno State and San Jose State both won to keep pace at the top of the conference leaderboard, while San Diego State split a doubleheader and fell a game off the pace.

At the end of the day, it was Trisha Ford's Bulldogs moving a full game in front of the Aztecs and maintaining a 1 1/2 game lead on the Spartans, who are tied with Fresno State in the loss column.

Fresno State 4, Boise State 3
The Bulldogs remained alone in first place thanks to Michelle Solomon's big bat and a rare, but excellent relief performance by Jill Compton.  Solomon was the difference at the plate in this one, going 3-for-3 with a home run, triple and single on a three RBI night when she scored half of her team's runs.  She hit a triple in the first inning to tie the score at 1-1 after Boise State took an early lead.  After the Bulldogs went in front 2-1, the Broncos came back to take a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth, but Solomon answered back.  She launched a towering, 2-run blast to left that put Fresno State on top for good.  Starter Hannah Harris struggled at times in the circle, and was replaced by Compton in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded and BSU in front by a run.  Compton got a strikeout to end the threat and picked up her 21st win by keeping the Broncos off the board the rest of the way.  Boise State was credited with a double off Compton in the seventh when miscommunication between a pair of Bulldog outfielders allowed an out to drop.  That was the only base runner she allowed in 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.  Solomon's RBI total pushed her back into the top five among MW players and moved her to a team-leading 43.

San Diego State 9, Colorado State 7
Colorado State 10, San Diego State 9
The Aztecs saw their unbeaten road record in conference play come to an end, and the Rams saw their winless home record in Mountain West action come to an end as well in a wild doubleheader split.  The Rams had 30 hits in the doubleheader, but stranded an agonizing number on the base paths and nearly lost game two because of five errors.  CSU out-hit the Aztecs in both games and had 15 hits in each, but left 25 runners on base in a doubleheader that featured a little bit of everything.  Game one featured six home runs, with SDSU hitting four.  Kayla Jordan went deep twice, while Hayley Miles and Jenavee Peres hit one each.  In game two, the Rams committed four errors in a nightmare first inning and were down 4-0 before they even came to bat.  To its credit, CSU battled through the miscues and had five players with multi-hit games.  Erica Romero took the loss in the nightcap after winning the opener.  Holly Reinke, who lost game one, came back with a clutch relief performance to earn the save in game two.  Reinke entered in the sixth inning with one out and the bases loaded in a 1-run game and struck out two.  She escaped a scary seventh inning when SDSU left the bases loaded.  Logan Losh, the second of three Colorado State pitchers, earned the victory.

San Jose State 10, Utah State 0 (5 innings)
The Aggies lost their fourth game in a row and USU ace Noelle Johnson took the loss, despite allowing just one run in one inning of work.  Johnson was gone by the second frame, replaced by freshman Paige Mills (19.00 ERA).  San Jose State's hot-hitting offense had no trouble against Mills, scoring nine earned runs in 1 2/3 innings.  Mills walked four, hit a batter and had a wild pitch, while the Spartans had nine hits in the contest.  Three SJSU hits, including a home run by Jessie Hufstetler, went for extra bases.  Madison Fish picked up the win for SJSU, allowing just three hits.

Nevada 10, UNLV 5
In Reno, the Wolf Pack earned a win to claim game two of the Governor's Series, which is now knotted at one game apiece.  The hitting hero of this one was Karley Hopkins, who finished with a career-best five RBI and had three hits.  Jasmine Jenkins and Alyssa Mendez also had three hits each against a trio of Rebels pitchers.  Ashley Butera hit a home run and Megan Dortch grabbed the victory in the circle for Nevada.  Garie Blando hit her 13th home run of the season for UNLV and has a 15-game hitting streak.

Friday, April 17, 2015

FRIDAY: Bulldogs take over sole possession of first place

There were just three games played in Mountain West softball action Friday as the first game of the San Diego State-Colorado State series was postponed by weather.  The two teams will play a doubleheader to begin that series on Saturday.  With SDSU idle, Fresno State took advantage and moved into sole possession of first place with a 4-2 win over Boise State.  The Bulldogs looked flat again at home, which has been a concern at times this season.  It prompted head coach Trisha Ford to say afterwards, "We'll go back and look at film and make some adjustments but I was not pleased with our performance tonight."  But Fresno State, which has scored 52 runs on the road in conference play compared to 29 at home, had Jill Compton on its side Friday and she was the difference again at Margie Wright Diamond.  The junior right-hander struck out four and allowed just one earned run to pick up her 20th win of the year.  Compton won her seventh consecutive start in conference play.  Fresno State took a 2-0 lead in the first on a Kierra Willis 2-run single, but Willis was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.  After BSU scored a run to cut its deficit in half, Alyssa Villalpando hit a home run to make it a 3-1 Bulldog lead.  Villalpando's blast came on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth inning.  In the sixth, Bria Kennedy stretched it to 4-1 on an RBI double, but she was thrown out trying to extend that hit into a triple as Fresno State had a few base running issues.  Each team committed two errors and the Bulldogs' miscue with one out in the seventh inning nearly proved costly as Boise State scored on a Makenna Weir groundout following a pair of singles.  Compton got a groundout to end it when BSU had the potential tying run at second base.  Nicole Wilson allowed five hits, four runs (three earned) and took the loss.  Fresno State improved to 12-4 in conference play and 31-14 overall, matching its win total for the entire 2014 season.  Boise State dropped to 2-11 and 10-33 ... In San Jose, Utah State scored the game's first two runs before watching San Jose State come back with five unanswered for a 5-2 Spartans victory.  USU had five of its eight hits in the first two innings to go on top early but could have had more.  An Aggies base runner was ruled out at home on a very close play in the first, and Utah State left the bases loaded in the second versus Allison Lang.  Sarah Chow singled to lead off the game and later scored in the first inning of a game where she had three hits to lead both teams.  Noelle Johnson, USU's starting pitcher was throwing well early before SJSU rallied with three in the fourth and two more in the sixth.  A 2-run single by Michelle Cox in the fourth gave the Spartans their first lead and she finished with a pair of hits and three RBI as SJSU out-hit Utah State nine to eight.  Nicole Schultz had two hits and two RBI for the Spartans.  San Jose State moved to 9-4 in Mountain West play, a game and a half behind the Bulldogs and a game behind the Aztecs, but with the tiebreak advantage against both.  Utah State saw its record in conference play fall to .500 at 8-8 and lost a third straight game ... In Reno, game one of the Governor's Series between UNLV and Nevada went to the Rebels by a 10-5 score.  This one was all UNLV early as the Rebs went in front 7-0 in the top of the third.  Jamie DePippo's 3-run blast was the key hit of the third inning, and the Rebels got another 3-run homer later as Janine Petmecky hit one in the seventh.  Petmecky's home run was a big one because Nevada had scored five unanswered runs to cut the 7-run deficit to just two.  UNLV's Samantha Juarez had four hits and scored three runs in a game where the teams combined to use five pitchers and commit six errors -- including four by the Rebels.  Megan Dortch, who allowed six earned runs in 2 1/3 took the loss for Nevada, while Kwyn Cooper picked up the victory in relief.  Alyssa Cordova had three hits and three RBI for UNLV, which moved over .500 in Mountain West play for the first time at 7-6.  Nevada remained in eighth place at 3-10.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TUESDAY: Lobos battle NMSU tough in road loss; USU loses

There were two non-conference games involving Mountain West softball teams Tuesday, and in both games the MW came up two runs short.  New Mexico played well and battled in-state rival New Mexico State tough, but ultimately fell 4-2 on the road in Las Cruces.  The Aggies got a 3-run home run from Fiana Finau to take an early 4-0 lead and withstood a late Lobos rally.  UNM got a 2-run home run from Mariah Rimmer in the sixth to cut the deficit in half, but could get no closer.  NMSU, leading the WAC and unbeaten at 9-0, improved to 35-12 overall.  The Lobos dropped to 24-21 overall after giving New Mexico State a battle where both teams finished with just four hits.  The Aggies entered the game with one of the nation's leading offenses but were held in check by a trio of UNM pitchers ... Meanwhile, Utah State dropped a disappointing 8-6 decision at home to Utah Valley when the Aggies were just one out away from a 2-run victory.  Alleyah Armendariz gave up a 3-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning to relinquish a 6-4 lead, and then allowed another home run immediately after that to take the loss.  Utah State started this game without five of its top seven hitters in the lineup.  Sarah Chow (team-leading .426 batting average), Noelle Johnson (.318), Hailey Froton (.362), Paxton Provost (.274) and Victoria Saucedo (.280) did not start.  Provost entered with two outs in the bottom of the seventh in a pinch-hitting role and struck out.

Aztecs, Bulldogs continue to top Mountain West RPIs

The latest Ratings Percentage Index numbers are out for the week.  San Diego State held at 36 after going 4-2 for the week and splitting two series.  Fresno State had the Mountain West's best record of the week, going 5-1 and winning both of its series, but the Bulldogs dropped two spots to 41.  A loss to Utah State will do that.  San Jose State, which went 2-1 and took two of three games at SDSU, made a leap of six spots to 53, its high-water mark of the season.  UNLV went 3-3 last week, sweeping Boise State and getting swept in a 3-game set at California.  That was enough to move the Rebels up three spots to 75 in the RPI, entirely because of those quality losses to the nationally-ranked Bears.  Colorado State went 1-5 and dropped a hefty 21 spots to No. 127.  New Mexico went 2-4 this week, but rose five spots to a season-best 130 in the RPI, largely because of three losses to highly-ranked Fresno State.  Utah State made the biggest upward move in the MW, going 4-2 for the week and rising an amazing 27 spots.  Beating Fresno State for the first time in 14 years gave the Aggies their biggest week-to-week rise in the RPI.  Nevada and Boise State, who faced each other last weekend, both fell.  The Pack dropped 17 spots to 220, while the Broncos fell eight to 227.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Compton's 1-hit shutout has Fresno State tied with Aztecs for first

In what's become a familiar theme over the last couple of seasons, Fresno State and San Diego State find themselves tied atop the Mountain West softball standings late in the season.  And another familiar scene:  Fresno State's Jill Compton, who's been named MW Pitcher of the Week three of the past four weeks, will likely hear her named called again after a 1-hit shutout Sunday.  It was Compton's sixth win in 11 days and fourth this week.

As play concluded around the league in four weekend series, the Bulldogs rode Compton's arm and blasted Utah State 8-0 in five innings to claim their third consecutive Mountain West road series win.  Later, San Diego State snapped a surprising 3-game home losing streak by salvaging a win in extra innings over San Jose State.

Elsewhere, New Mexico won its fourth series of the season, coming from behind to beat Colorado State 7-4.  Nevada and Boise State split a doubleheader, with the Pack winning 4-3 in nine innings in the opener, before the Broncos picked up a wild 16-13 win in the nightcap.  And in non-conference play, UNLV fell 9-1 in five innings at 20th-ranked Cal as the Bears swept the 3-game weekend series.

Fresno State 8, Utah State 0 (5 innings) - Jill Compton pitched a 1-hit shutout -- her sixth of the season -- and finished a remarkable 11-day string where she won six games during that time.  It was also her fourth win of the week as the Bulldogs went 5-1 over the last six days, winning both of their conference series, including this one in Logan.  Coach Trisha Ford's squad was the only Mountain West team to win three series during a rigorous stretch where most teams were required to play nine games in 11 days.  Fresno State had little trouble against Utah State's starting pitcher Noelle Johnson a day after she led them to their first win over the Bulldogs in 14 years.  Paige Gumz hit a 2-run home run in the third inning and was one of four Fresno State players with multiple-hit games.  A 6-run fourth inning was the Aggies' undoing as the Bulldogs pounded out seven hits in that frame alone to finish with 32 hits in the series.  The first four Fresno State batters in the frame (Chase LeeHong, Whitney Smith, Brenna Moss and Malia Rivers) all had singles.  Kierra Willis had an RBI single and Alyssa Villalpando a 2-run single as the Bulldogs had five hits with runners in scoring position.  Compton gave up a leadoff single to Sarah Chow to start the game, and that was it for Utah State for the entire game.  Gumz, Rivers, Villalpando and Michelle Solomon all had two hits in Fresno State's 12-hit attack.  The Bulldogs became the first Mountain West team to reach 30 wins this season.  And in doing so, Fresno State (30-14 overall) has now achieved 30 or more wins in every season since softball became an official NCAA sport in 1982.  That's 34 straight years.

San Diego St. 3, San Jose St. 2 (9 innings) - In quite a change from the first two games of this series, a pitcher's duel broke out and the Aztecs avoided being swept at home.  It was the same two starting pitchers for a third straight day as Erica Romero and Allison Lang went the distance in a tense game with a slew of stranded base runners.  The teams combined to leave 22 runners on base as both pitchers got out of tough situations late in the game.  Ultimately, an ill-advised decision to attempt a pick-off at second base changed the complexion of the game.  In the bottom of the ninth, Kayla Jordan walked to lead off the frame for San Diego State.  With one out, Jordan was at second base when San Jose State catcher Emma Entzminger tried to catch her leaning.  Entzminger's errant throw allowed Jordan to take third base.  A bunt single by Jenavee Peres then allowed Jordan to score the game-winning run and SDSU salvaged a win after giving up 20 runs in its previous two games.  The Aztecs had lost three straight and four of five at home prior to today's win.  San Jose State missed out on a chance to take a commanding lead over SDSU in the Mountain West standings that would've essentially amounted to three games.  Peres homered in the second and her two RBI led the Aztecs.  The somewhat sloppy game featured four errors and 10 walks as Lang and Romero combined for 296 pitches, with Lang throwing 156 of those.

New Mexico 7, Colorado State 4 - After spotting the Rams a pair of early runs on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly, the Lobos rallied for four runs in the fourth on their way to a win over the Rams.  After dropping the series opener on Friday, UNM won its second straight to claim a fourth series victory in Mountain West play.  Freshman Chelsea Johnson hit an RBI single to make it a 2-1 deficit for the Lobos in the fourth before Michala Erickson gave New Mexico its first lead with a 3-run home run.  After Colorado State tied the game 4-4, Mariah Rimmer hit the Lobos' second home run of the day.  Rimmer's 2-run shot made it 6-4, and UNM would add another run on a Rimmer groundout following a Rams error.  Each team finished with eight hits and Rimmer's two led the Lobos.  CSU got a pair of 2-hit games as both Haley and Taylor Hutton had two.

Nevada 4, Boise State 3 (9 innings)
Boise State 16, Nevada 13 - After Saturday's game was postponed, the teams split a Sunday doubleheader that featured several long balls.  In the opener, Jennifer Purcell singled and Ashley Butera hit her seventh home run of the season -- a 2-run shot, scoring Purcell -- to tie the game 3-3 in the sixth inning of a game that would go into extras.  In the ninth, Purcell's sacrifice fly won it after Karley Hopkins and Megan Sweet singled in the inning, and Jasmine Jenkins walked.  Megan Dortch (4-8) earned the opening-game win, while Nicole Wilson (2-7) took the loss for Boise State and it was exactly the reverse in the nightcap.  The first game of the doubleheader was the Broncos' 32nd defeat of the season, tying the program record for most losses in a single season.  In a back-and-forth game in the nightcap, Boise State took an 8-1 lead before watching Nevada come all the way back and go in front 10-9.  A 7-run bottom of the sixth gave the Broncos a 16-10 lead before the Pack scored three in the seventh to close the gap.  The teams combined for 12 extra-base hits in game two, including five home runs.  Nevada had a pair of players -- Amanda Weis and Molly McWilliams -- hit two each, while Boise State had a home run from senior Devon Bridges.  Weis and McWilliams both finished with five RBI. Five Broncos had multi-hit games in the nightcap.  Teauna Hughes had three hits and two RBI, Jordan Kreiger three hits and two RBI, and Sara Ketelsleger two hits and three RBI.  Nevada's three errors meant a staggering eight of Boise State's 16 runs were unearned.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

SATURDAY: Mayhem at the top of the standings after SJSU rout

There were just three Mountain West softball games Saturday after Boise State's home game with Nevada was postponed and changed to a Sunday doubleheader.  Two of the three games produced shocking results.

San Jose State handed San Diego State its first run-rule loss ever at  home in Mountain West play, and Utah State defeated Fresno State for the first time in 14 years.  Elsewhere, New Mexico beat Colorado State, and UNLV was swept in a non-conference doubleheader at Cal.

San Jose State 10, San Diego State 1 (6 innings) - In San Diego, the Spartans' offense throttled Aztec pitching for the second night in a row.  San Jose State pounded out 15 hits, including 11 against starter and losing pitcher Erica Romero.  The sophomore, who's thrown more innings than any other pitcher in the country this season, has now allowed 23 hits in 9 1/3 innings of work in the series.  The Aztecs have lost four of their last five games at home, and must win Sunday to avoid being swept.  Even more importantly, with San Diego State having already suffered series losses to both Fresno State and now San Jose State, the Aztecs likely need to win to remain in the chase for a fourth straight conference crown.  Less than two weeks after suffering their worst conference loss in 14 years (an 8-1 defeat at home to Fresno State), San Diego State was handed its first home run-rule loss as a Mountain West member.  The Spartans turned a 1-1 game into a rout with a 5-run fifth that chased Romero.  In the sixth, Kathy Van Wyk turned to Taylor Stewart in the circle.  After Stewart retired SJSU in order in one of inning of work Friday night, the Spartans had no problem against her Saturday.  San Jose State got four hits, including a 3-run home run by Alyssa Martinez, in the sixth to go in front 9-1.  A San Diego State error allowed a 10th run to score.  For much of the game, San Jose State was hitting the ball well, but was unable to come up with a clutch hit.  Through four innings, it was a 1-1 game and SJSU had stranded seven base runners.  That changed in the fifth when the Spartans scored five runs on four hits to snap the tie.  Among the big hits of the frame: A 2-run double by Taylor Purdy and a double by Emma Entzminger that came just before a 2-run homer by Nicole Schultz.  That was Schultz' second home run of the season.  Six Spartans had multi-hit games and they now move into that odd space in the league standings where they trail by a half-game because they've played one fewer series than both San Diego State and Fresno State, yet they lead by 0.013 percentage points.

Utah State 4, Fresno State 3 - The Bulldogs had twice as many hits as Utah State, but it was the hometown Aggies who made their hits count in Logan.  Utah State had just five hits in the game, but three were home runs -- two solo shots from Paxton Provost and an important 2-run homer from pitcher Noelle Johnson, who helped her own cause. The Bulldogs had twice as many hits -- 10 in all -- but have stranded 20 base runners in the series after leaving 10 aboard for the second straight day.  Fresno State hitters came up to bat 17 times with runners on base, and continually whiffed.  It was eerily reminiscent of a Bulldog loss last year at Nevada that ultimately ended up being the difference between Fresno State winning the Mountain West title and being left out of the NCAA tournament entirely.  The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when freshman Chase LeeHong doubled home Bria Kennedy, who singled with two outs.  The lead would be short-lived.  Pitcher Hannah Harris, who'd given up just one generously-labeled "hit" to that point, gave up a home run to Provost with one out in the bottom of the fourth to tie it.  Alleyah Armendariz followed with a double, and Johnson's 2-run homer was next, immediately chasing Harris.  Taylor Langdon entered in relief for the Bulldogs and retired all five hitters she faced.  In the sixth, Fresno State tied it as Alyssa Villalpando singled and Kennedy doubled to begin the inning.  With one out, Whitney Smith's perfectly-placed bunt scored a run, and Brenna Moss followed with an RBI single.  With two runners in scoring position, number two and three hitters Malia Rivers and Michelle Solomon (who combined to go 0-for-7) grounded out and struck out as Johnson escaped the jam.  Despite Langdon's perfect outing in relief to that point (and one that required just 15 pitches to retire all five batters), Bulldog head coach Trisha Ford turned to Jill Compton.  The second batter Compton faced -- Provost -- went deep with her second home run of the game and it was the game-winner.  Compton took the loss, allowing just that one hit.  Fresno State left runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.  When the Bulldogs left the bases loaded in the fourth, it was the sixth time they've done that in their past three games.  Utah State's win snapped Fresno State's 14-year, 23-game winning streak in a lopsided series long dominated by the Bulldogs.  The Aggies had not defeated Fresno State since the 2001 season.  This loss is potentially devastating to the Bulldogs' MW title chances and also puts a dent in the team's NCAA at-large chances if it should come to that.  Utah State came in with an RPI of 199.  The only players with three hits in the game were both Bulldogs -- Moss and Kennedy.  Fresno State faces a must-win rubber match Sunday at noon Mountain time.

New Mexico 4, Colorado State 3 - In Albuquerque, the Lobos rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to snap a 5-game losing streak and tie their series with the Rams at one each.  Mia Hignojos hit a sharp single to left with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to score the game-winner.  New Mexico had struggled all game long with runners on base.  Out-hitting Colorado State 11 to two, the Lobos still trailed 3-1 entering the final frame.  CSU's three runs all scored on New Mexico mistakes.  Wild pitches by Lauren Soles scored each of the first two Rams runs, and CSU went up 3-1 with the help of a Lobos error.  In a game that featured a lot of sloppiness, the teams combined for six errors.  Soles walked three and hit three batters only days after hitting four batters in a loss at Fresno State.  She did, however, allow just two hits to earn the win.  The rubber match will be played Sunday at noon Mountain time.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fresno State, San Diego St. in first-place tie after Friday drama

The busiest part of the 2015 season continued Friday with four series openers in Mountain West play, capping a stretch where most teams play nine games in 11 days.  And Friday's action featured some of the most exciting games this season with all four coming down to the seventh inning.  When play concluded, Fresno State and San Diego State stood atop the conference standings, tied for first place with 10-3 records.  Tied in the loss column is San Jose State, a game and a half back of the Aztecs and Bulldogs at 7-3.

San Jose St. 10, San Diego St. 9 - In San Diego, the defending Mountain West champions lost at home for the third time in their last four home contests in a thriller.  Both teams showed off some offensive firepower, both committed costly errors on defense, and each team surprisingly ran into pitching problems.  With their respective aces -- SJSU's Allison Lang and SDSU's Erica Romero -- starting the game, it was believed that runs would be hard to come by.  That wasn't the case.  Neither starting pitcher was able to work long into the game as Lang was pulled in the fourth inning and Romero lasted just 4 1/3.  Both teams used three pitchers apiece, and Lang was forced to come back in with two outs in the seventh to pick up the save in a wild game where SJSU almost lost a late 5-run lead.  Jessica Madrid went 4-for-5 and had three doubles in her first three at-bats against Romero, who threw 114 pitches in just 4 1/3 innings.  The Spartans' 16 hits were the most given up by San Diego State in a game this season.  The normally strong SDSU pitching staff has now allowed double-digit hit totals in six of its past eight Mountain West games.  Katelyn Linford (5-3) came on in relief of Lang to earn the win, but was later pulled for Madison Fish, who had trouble keeping the ball in the yard late.  The Aztecs hit two seventh inning home runs -- from Kayla Jordan and Jenavee Peres -- to cut the margin to a run before Lang re-entered to record the final out.  The big innings for the Spartans were the fifth and sixth.  In the fifth, SJSU had six consecutive hits against Romero (who took the loss, allowing 12 hits in 4 1/3) and her replacement, Sydnee Cable.  Five straight SJSU batters reached base safely in the sixth when the Aztecs had two of their four errors.  A Taylor Purdy error for SJSU with two outs in the second proved very costly and directly led to three unearned runs when Lang was about to escape the inning unscathed.  Purdy would atone for the mistake later with a pair of hits. She, Michelle Cox, Emma Entzminger and Nicole Schultz all had two hits while Madrid led the way with her four.  SDSU got a 3-hit night from Hayley Miles and a three RBI performance from Peres.  The Aztecs fell into a tie for first place with Fresno State, though the Bulldogs hold the tiebreak if those teams should finish the season tied.  San Jose State pulled within a game and a half of the league lead, but tied in the loss column.

Fresno State 5, Utah State 2 - On the road in Logan, sophomore Kierra Willis blasted a clutch, 2-run home run with two outs in the seventh inning to snap a 2-all tie and send the Bulldogs to their fifth consecutive victory.  Willis, who hit a run-scoring double in the first inning, finished with three RBI.  Fresno State went on top early in the first inning as Michelle Solomon's 40th RBI of the year drove in Brenna Moss, who walked.  Willis followed with her RBI double to make it 2-0, and the Bulldogs left the bases loaded after sending eight to the plate right off the bat.  From there, it was pitchers Jill Compton and Noelle Johnson putting up zeroes across the board as neither team could do much.  USU would tie it in the fourth, though, as Compton walked a batter, and Alleyah Armendariz followed with a 2-run home run, her 8th round-tripper of the year.  It remained a 2-2 game until the seventh.  Moss led off the final inning with a single to left, and a line out and ground out followed.  Down to the Bulldogs' final out before heading to the bottom of the seventh inning tied, Willis slugged her team-leading seventh home run to left-center for a 4-2 lead.  Willis' 18th extra-base hit of the season was the first of four straight hits for Fresno State with two outs in the seventh. Paige Gumz and Alyssa Villalpando followed with singles, and Bria Kennedy made it a 5-2 game with her fifth double of the year.  Compton retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to move her record to 18-9 overall and 7-2 in conference play.  Johnson went the distance for the Aggies and scattered 10 hits to see her record fall to 13-11.  Fresno State, which got two hits each from Willis, Solomon and Gumz, left the bases loaded twice and stranded 10 base runners.  The win was the 23rd straight by the Bulldogs over the Aggies in a series long dominated by Fresno State, which moved into a first place tie in the Mountain West with the win.  Utah State, which got two of its six hits from Armendariz, saw its 3-game winning streak come to an end.

Boise State 5, Nevada 4 - The Broncos' long nightmare of a losing streak came to an end thanks to some seventh inning heroics from Izzy Serrano.  The sophomore designated player hit a 2-out, walk-off double with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to give Boise State only its second win since February.  The Broncos had lost a school-record 16 straight games and 19 of their last 20.  The win prevented Boise State from tying the program record for most losses in a season at 32.  Struggling Nevada lost its fourth straight and dropped to 2-8 in conference play, just a game ahead of the last-place Broncos.  The Wolf Pack got a pair of home runs from Megan Sweet, including one in the top of the seventh that gave them a 4-3 lead.  BSU freshman pitcher Rachel Rodriguez, the third Broncos pitcher of the game, picked up the win in only 2/3 of an inning pitched.  Nevada freshman Chase Redington took the loss in relief, walking a pair in the seventh before Serrano's game-winner. The Pack out-hit Boise State 10 to seven and Sweet's three hits led both teams.

Colorado State 2, New Mexico 0 - In Albuquerque, the theme of the day -- late-game heroics -- continued as the Rams snapped a 4-game losing streak and sent New Mexico to a fifth consecutive loss.  In a pitcher's duel between Carrie Sheehan of the Lobos and Holly Reinke of the Rams, it was Sheehan who blinked first.  She took a 2-hitter into the top of the seventh but allowed three hits in the final frame, including the game-winning home run from Jaelyn Manzanares with two outs.  In that final inning, Colorado State freshman Savannah Clark led off with a single, but that hit was later erased on a failed stolen base attempt.  With two outs, Danielle Wikre kept CSU alive with a single, and Manzanares followed with a 2-run homer to right.  It was her fifth home run of the season.  Reinke (10-13) allowed four hits and retired the final five batters she faced.  Sheehan fell to 6-4 on the year for New Mexico, which stranded six and was unable to take advantage of two CSU errors.

Second half of conference play begins Friday

The second half of conference play begins for most Mountain West teams Friday with the opening of four big weekend series.

Many eyes will be focused on a huge showdown between San Diego State and San Jose State in a battle of first- and third-place teams.  The Aztecs hold a slim, 1-game lead in the Mountain West standings over Fresno State, but the Bulldogs hold that tiebreaker.  The Spartans, meanwhile, are 2 1/2 games back of San Diego State and 1 1/2 behind Fresno State.

While the winner of the SDSU-SJSU series will be in strong position to contend for the conference title, the series loser will face a very tough road to the title.  Over its last 16 conference games spanning two seasons, the Aztecs are 1-2 versus Fresno State, but 13-0 versus everyone else.  But with pitcher Erica Romero almost certainly being asked to shut down one of the nation's top offenses for all three games this weekend, that streak is in jeopardy.

The Spartans last month won two of three in Fresno to put themselves in prime position to challenge for the MW title.  A week later, San Jose State lost two of three at home to a Colorado State team that entered winless in conference play.  SJSU can't afford to slip up again. The Spartans are 14-19 in the all-time series with the Aztecs, who won two of three in San Jose last year.

Fresno State will be in Logan in a battle of teams coming off 3-game midweek sweeps in Mountain West play.  The Bulldogs have long dominated their series with Utah State and carry a 14-year (!) winning streak into the series with the Aggies.  If Fresno State should sweep, the Bulldogs would be guaranteed at least a portion of first place in the league standings in every scenario except a San Diego State sweep of San Jose State.  The Bulldogs can also match their entire 2014 season win total (31) this weekend.

New Mexico, which was tied for second place at the beginning of the week and just a game out of first, now finds itself four games behind.  The Rams host a Colorado State team that has been very up and down this season.  CSU entered conference play with wins in 11 of its previous 12 games, but is all but out of the league title race at 2-7.

Nevada and Boise State meet in a battle of struggling teams.  The Pack scored 16 runs against San Diego State this week in a 3-game series, despite being swept.  Boise State scored an impressive 25 runs at UNLV this week, but lost all three games.  Offense hasn't been the problem.  Pitching has been the sore spot for both the Broncos and Wolf Pack.  With one more loss, Boise State will tie the program-record for most losses in a season (32).  BSU's current 16-game losing streak is the longest in Boise State history.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fresno State, San Diego State sweep DHs

The only mid-week conference series of the season ended on Wednesday, and all four series were sweeps.

Fresno State and San Diego State swept doubleheaders today, while Utah State and UNLV picked up victories in single games.  The Bulldogs, Aztecs, Aggies and Rebels all won three games in two days.

Fresno State 4, New Mexico 0 - Hannah Harris pitched a 4-hit shutout and the Bulldogs took advantage of wildness by UNM's pitchers.  New Mexico walked 12 batters in the game and Lobos starter Lauren Soles hit four Fresno State batters as the Bulldogs continually had runners aboard but left a season-high 14 stranded. Bria Kennedy was walked three times and had a pair of RBI.  Michelle Solomon reached base safely in all four plate appearances, going 1-for-1 with a walk and two hit-by-pitches a night after getting three hits and three RBI.  Harris had little trouble in this one and did not walk a batter.

Fresno State 4, New Mexico 1 - Jill Compton tossed a complete-game 3-hitter and was untouchable for nearly her entire outing once again.  The reigning Mountain West Pitcher of the Week was five outs from her second perfect game of the season before UNM got its only run of the game on its first hit, a solo homer just over the right field fence by Lisa Rodrigues.  The Bulldogs had nine hits against UNM's Krissy Fortner, including Solomon's 2-run double in the third that gave them a 2-0 lead.  The two RBI gave Solomon 39 on the year, a new career single-season best.  Brenna Moss and Whitney Smith both had two hits that included doubles for both, while Kierra Willis hit her conference-leading sixth triple and had an RBI.  Kennedy added a pair of hits.  With half of its conference schedule completed, Fresno State has a pitching staff ERA of 1.04 in Mountain West games.  That figure is ahead of the all-time MW record of 1.09, a mark established by San Diego State 12 years ago.

San Diego St. 14, Nevada 3 (5 innings) - Trailing 3-1 in the fourth inning, the Aztecs took advantage of two Wolf Pack errors in the frame to score nine runs en route to a run-rule victory.  Six of the nine runs SDSU scored in that fourth inning were unearned in a game that featured four errors and a whopping 12 unearned runs.  Seven of San Diego State's 12 hits in the contest went for extra bases, including six doubles, two of which came from Kayla Jordan.  Lorena Bauer hit her Mountain West-leading 12th home run of the season.  Megan Sweet's 2-run home run in the third was part of a 3-run inning when Nevada took a brief 3-1 lead.  Three SDSU pitchers were used in the 5-inning contest.

San Diego St. 9, Nevada 7 - The Aztecs scored three runs in the top of the seventh to go in front 9-2 and they would need those insurance runs as Nevada rallied in a big way in the bottom of the inning.  Jennifer Purcell hit a grand slam with one out in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 9-7 game but that was as close as Nevada could make it on a day the Wolf Pack committed five errors in the doubleheader.  The two unearned runs in the nightcap were the difference as each team finished with seven earned.  Just like in the first game between the two teams today, SDSU went with three pitchers in a "pitching by committee" attempt to keep arms fresh for this weekend's big clash with power-hitting San Jose State.  The Aztecs finished with 12 hits, including a home run by Samantha Camello.  In addition to Purcell's round-tripper, one of Nevada's 10 hits was a home run by Alyssa Mendez.

UNLV 12, Boise State 11 (8 innings) - In a season full of very little but heartbreaking losses, the Broncos were handed another Wednesday in Las Vegas.  For the second straight game, Boise State was unable to hold a lead with three outs to go.  The Broncos were able to rally for three runs in the top of the seventh to force extra innings and pull into a 10-10 tie though.  UNLV committed one of its three errors in the contest with two outs in the seventh to allow a pair of runs to score and tie it up.  Morgan Ettinger also hit a pair of BSU batters in the frame.  In the eighth, Teauna Hughes doubled to lead things off, and Kayla Clausen gave the Broncos a 1-run lead with a sacrifice fly.  But in the bottom of the frame, freshman shortstop Sara Ketelsleger's second error of the game put a Rebels runner on base to begin that inning.  After a sacrifice bunt, BSU pitcher Nicole Wilson hit a batter, and Samantha Juarez singled to tie it.  Emily Haslinger then hit the game-winner to send Boise State to a 16th consecutive loss.  Kwyn Cooper pitched the final 1 1/3 to grab the win and the teams combined for six errors.  Senior Devon Bridges had three hits, giving her 219 for her career and breaking the Boise State school record for most in a career.

Utah State 5, Colorado State 3 - The Aggies got a 2-out home run from Alleyah Armendariz to snap a 2-2 tie in the sixth on their way to a win over the Rams.  Colorado State, after winning two in San Jose last weekend, has dropped four in a row and is a surprising 0-6 in Mountain West play at home.  Utah State scored a pair of runs in the seventh to go in front 5-2, and after Aggies pitcher Noelle Johnson gave up a run in the bottom of the frame, CSU had runners at second and third base, meaning the tying run was in scoring position.  Johnson escaped the jam and Utah State, for the second day in a row, denied Colorado State a win when the Rams had the potential game-tying runs in scoring position.  Johnson scattered seven hits and overcame five walks for the victory.  Hailey Froton had three hits, including a double, and three RBI to lead the way for the Aggies. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Wacky weather day as Aztecs, Bulldogs stay in front

Image courtesy Fresno State Athletics

It was a wild and bizarre day full of weather-related issues and strange games in the Mountain West's only regular-season midweek series that began Tuesday.  In the end, it was the status quo as San Diego State and Fresno State rolled to victories to remain in front of the rest of the Mountain West.

San Diego State overcame a 2-hour snow delay and posted a 9-6 win over Nevada in Reno.  Erica Romero grabbed the victory and the Wolf Pack, after trailing big, brought the potential tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. Instead of playing two on Tuesday, the second game of the day was postponed and will be made up in a Wednesday doubleheader at 11 am ... Fresno State broke a tie for second-place in the conference with a 7-1 victory over New Mexico on a day when rains forced postponement of game two there as well.  Jill Compton allowed just five hits in the win, while Michelle Solomon had three hits, including two doubles with three RBI.  Malia Rivers had two hits and scored three runs, adding two RBI as well ... UNLV swept Boise State in a doubleheader, coming from behind by large margins in both games for a 10-5 and 10-9 sweep.  The Rebels trailed 5-0 in game one after a Devon Bridges grand slam, but UNLV scored 10 unanswered with the help of five home runs, including two by Garie Blando.  In the nightcap, the Broncos appeared poised to win their first Mountain West game but were unable to hold a 3-run lead in the seventh as the Rebels scored four runs, including two with two outs.  Emily Haslinger had five RBI and Boise State lost its 30th game of the season and a school-record 15th straight ... Utah State swept a pair at Colorado State as the Rams had all sorts of issues with their pitching and defense.  After the Aggies held off the Rams 9-8 in the opener, Utah State took advantage of three Colorado State errors in the nightcap that led to six unearned runs in a 9-1 win ... In non-league action, San Jose State had its scheduled home game with Stanford rained out.  No make-up date had been established as of late Tuesday.

The season's lone midweek series start today

The only midweek series of the Mountain West season are set to begin today.  In jeopardy because of weather are the series in Fresno and Reno.  Today's weather forecast for the Lobos and Bulldogs contains a 100% chance of heavy rain.  So we'll see.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aztecs, Bulldogs both in the 30s of the latest RPI

For the first time since the 2010 season, the Mountain West has a pair of teams ranked in the top 40 of the Ratings Percentage Index (see full list). 

In the latest RPI release out Monday morning, San Diego State and Fresno State are neck-and-neck at Nos. 36 and 39, respectively.  The Bulldogs took two of three games from the Aztecs on the road in San Diego last weekend to win that key series.

Last week, SDSU was No. 35, so losing to the Bulldogs twice ended up costing the Aztecs just one spot in the rankings.  Fresno State had been flirting with the top 40 in each of the past two RPI releases, coming in at Nos. 42 and 43 before climbing four spots to the No. 39 position this week.

The last time the Mountain West had two teams in the RPI top 40 was 2010.  (See the 2010 RPI)  That year, San Diego State was 28, while former member BYU was 31.  Both teams reached the NCAA Tournament.  Fresno State, then a member of the Western Athletic Conference, received an at-large NCAA berth that season with an RPI of 41.

The Aztecs have been in the 30s all three weeks of this season's RPI, but have fallen slightly each week, going from 30 to 35 to 36.  The Bulldogs find themselves in the 30s of the RPI for the first time since the 2011 season, the last year of a national-record, 30-year string of NCAA Tournament bids.

San Jose State is 59th this week in the RPI and has hardly fluctuated in the three weeks the RPI has been released this year.  The Spartans have been 59th, 58th and now 59th again this season.

UNLV, which held at 67 the past two weeks, fell to 78, despite winning two of three at Utah State.  Colorado State, up 15 spots to 106, made the biggest rise in the conference this week after winning two of three at San Jose State.  The Rams are at a season-high.  Also reaching a season peak is New Mexico.  The Lobos are up four to 135 after taking two of three from Nevada last weekend.

Utah State (198), Nevada (203) and Boise State (219) round out the RPIs for Mountain West teams.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Fresno State overpowers Aztecs 8-1 to win key road series

There were no series sweeps in Mountain West softball action this week, but Saturday featured some standout performances.  Fresno State, behind a stunning weekend performance from pitcher Jill Compton, became the first Mountain West team since 2012 to win a road series at 3-time defending conference champion San Diego State.  Compton went 2-0 with her second complete game win of the weekend over the Aztecs, finishing with 14 innings pitched and a perfect 0.00 ERA.

Meanwhile, Allison Lang, after losing a tough one to Colorado State on Thursday, bounced back with a 1-hitter in San Jose State's 5-inning win over the Rams to salvage a game in that series.  UNLV won for the second day in a row in Logan to defeat Utah State and win that series.  And Nevada picked up its first road victory, snapping New Mexico's 4-game win streak.

Fresno State 8, San Diego State 1 - Jill Compton, celebrating her 21st birthday Saturday, delivered one of the better pitching weekends in conference history.  Compton was in control throughout this one, just as she was on Thursday when she led the Bulldogs to a 5-0 win.  Allowing only one unearned run when Fresno State committed a pair of errors in the third, Compton was nearly untouchable again.  She finished the weekend with a 0.00 ERA and earned two huge road wins that not only kept Fresno State on pace for its first NCAA Tournament berth in four years, but handed 3-time defending Mountain West champion San Diego State its first home series loss since 2012.  The Aztecs had won eight straight home series prior to Saturday.  The 7-run margin of defeat for San Diego State represents the Aztecs' worst loss in regular-season conference play in 14 years.  Not since the 2001 season had SDSU suffered a defeat by seven or more runs during the regular season to a MW opponent.   New Mexico pulled off a 9-0 win over San Diego State on April 13, 2001.  In today's game, Brenna Moss and Whitney Smith both had three hits and were instrumental in the win as Fresno State pounded out 13 hits for the second time in three days against the Aztecs.  Erica Romero started for SDSU and took her second loss in the series.  For the first time this weekend, Romero was unable to finish the game, giving way to Sydnee Cable in the seventh.  Michelle Solomon, who had a pair of RBI, singled down the line to score Moss in the first as the Bulldogs went on top early.  Fresno State stretched its lead to 3-0 in the third with a pair of hits. With the bases loaded, Romero hit Paige Gumz to force in a run, and Alyssa Villalpando followed with a sacrifice fly.  Smith, who had five hits in the last two games of the series, tripled to lead off the sixth, and scored on an RBI single by Malia Rivers.  Still maintaining a 3-run lead entering the seventh, the Bulldogs erupted in the final frame for four runs to put the game away.  Villalpando led off with a double and -- with one out -- Taylor Green delivered a clutch, pinch-hit RBI double to make it a 5-1 score.  Three more hits would follow in succession as Smith hit an RBI single, Moss doubled, and Rivers hit a run-scoring single.  Solomon's sacrifice fly concluded a 4-run inning and Compton kept SDSU off the board in the seventh.  Rivers and Kierra Willis, who returned from a scary injury on Thursday that kept her out of Friday's game, had two hits each.  Leia Ruiz had two singles to pace the Aztecs.

San Jose State 8, Colorado State 0 (5 innings) - After surprisingly being unable to do anything on offense in the first two games of this series, the Spartans had little problem Saturday to salvage one win at home in the 3-game set.  Allison Lang, who lost to Colorado State on Friday, allowed just one hit in the 5-inning game.  Danielle Wikre singled with one out in the second, but that was all the offense CSU could muster after winning the first two games of the series and scoring seven runs in the process.  Lang hit a batter and SJSU committed an error for the other Rams base runners.  Taylor Purdy's sacrifice fly gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead in the second following an Erin Rodriguez single, a Colorado State error and a passed ball.  A 5-run third was the difference.  Jessie Hufstetler homered after Jessica Madrid walked, making it a 3-0 game in favor of the Spartans.  Alyssa Martinez singled before Purdy and Alissa Pinedo hit back to back doubles, scoring three more in the inning.  Purdy would finish the game with three RBI to lead San Jose State.  In the fourth, Madrid singled and Hufstetler doubled.  Both runners came home on a 2-run single by Martinez and it was suddenly 8-0.  The run-rule was invoked after the top of the fifth when Lang retired the Rams in order.  SJSU finished with 12 hits.

Nevada 7, New Mexico 4 - In Albuquerque, the Wolf Pack picked up their first road win of the conference season, scoring three runs in the sixth to snap a 4-all tie.  Nevada had 10 hits to just five for the Lobos, who used five different pitchers in the game.  Megan Dortch, who'd won just twice in 2015 prior to Saturday, earned the victory by pitching the first five innings and allowing five hits.  Dortch was able to overcome six walks, and freshman Chase Redington earned her third save by pitching the final two innings and holding the Lobos hitless.  A Jennifer Purcell sacrifice fly scored Megan Sweet, who doubled, to give Nevada a 1-0 lead in the second.  In the fourth, Nevada pushed the lead to 4-0 on a run-scoring fielder's choice and a New Mexico error that allowed two more to score.  UNM responded with a 4-run bottom of the fourth to tie it.  Shelby Franc and Mia Hignojos hit RBI singles, and Michala Erickson delivered a 2-out, 2-run single to make it 4-4.  In the sixth, UNM had some major pitching woes as reliever Lauren Soles entered with two runners aboard with one out following a single and walk given up by eventual losing pitcher Tess McPherson.  Soles proceeded to hit three of the first four batters she faced, plunking two with the bases loaded to force in runs and give Nevada a lead it wouldn't relinquish.  A passed ball allowed a third Wolf Pack run in the inning, and -- following a walk -- Soles was pulled.  But the damage had been done.  Redington sealed the win for the Pack and didn't allow a base runner for New Mexico during either of the final two innings.

UNLV 8, Utah State 6 - Another slugfest broke out in Logan, and just like Friday, it was the Rebels who came out on top.  There were five home runs in this one, three by UNLV and two by the hometown Aggies.  For the series, the teams combined to score 57 runs.  Garie Blando had three hits, including a solo home run, to pace the Rebels' 11-hit attack.  Blando homered to lead off the game and UNLV's lead was 2-0 in the second after a Utah State throwing error on an attempted steal.  Two more Aggies errors in the third led to two more Rebels runs and it was 4-1 after 2 1/2 innings.  Utah State rallied for four runs in the bottom of the third to take the lead.  Jo Koons and Hailey Froton singled before Paxton Provost got the Aggies on the board again with an RBI single.  Victoria Saucedo followed with a 3-run homer that pushed Utah State in front.  An inning later, USU extended the lead when Koons tripled home Nicole Arata, who led off the fourth with a walk.  Facing a 6-4 deficit, UNLV scored three runs in the fifth to take the lead back for good.  Blando singled to lead off the fifth and came home on a 2-run blast off the bat of Fahren Glackin to left-center.  Samantha Juarez followed with a solo shot of her own to make it 7-6.  A bunt single by Emily Haslinger and a double by Jamie DePippo had UNLV looking for more with runners at second and third with just one out.  Noelle Johnson, who went the distance in the circle for USU and absorbed the loss, escaped the jam with a flyout and ground out, but the Aggies were never able to get closer.  UNLV added an insurance run in the sixth and Morgan Ettinger, who came on in relief of starter Sydney Mundell, picked up the victory.  Ettinger threw the final 4 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and a pair of earned runs.

Saturday's Bulldogs-Aztecs series finale is a huge one

The final game of this weekend's 3-game series between Fresno State and San Diego State in San Diego likely holds the key to determining the Mountain West regular-season champion and the automatic NCAA bid that goes along with it.

Only three weeks into the conference race, some may say it's too early to forecast the Mountain West champion with over a month still left to go.  History suggests otherwise.  The Aztecs have won three straight conference titles and have never finished lower than third in the Mountain West since joining the league.  Fresno State, in its 30+ year history, has finished in the top three every season in every conference in which the Bulldogs were a member.

Last year, just a game separated the Bulldogs and Aztecs in the final Mountain West standings, and San Diego State had to win its regular-season finale against Boise State or it would've been the Bulldogs grabbing the league's automatic NCAA bid.

Today's game is huge for a number of reasons.  With Fresno State having an extremely top-heavy and front-loaded slate to begin Mountain West play this season, today already marks the team's final road game of the year against a team that currently owns a winning record -- either in conference or overall.  The Bulldogs' daunting start to the conference schedule meant their first 12 games in MW play have all come versus teams with winning records. 

The Bulldogs host New Mexico (22-15) at Margie Wright Diamond next week in their lone remaining series against an opponent over .500.  Fresno State's final four series of the season come against Utah State (12-23), Boise State (8-28), Nevada (11-23) and UNLV (16-20).

SDSU faces the more difficult remaining schedule on paper, as the Aztecs still have yet to play 3-game series each against Colorado State (21-16), San Jose State (25-14) and New Mexico (22-15).  Three of the Aztecs' final five series will be on the road, as well. 

While Colorado State, New Mexico and San Jose State, as well as one or two other teams, will still have a lot to say about the way the Mountain West race -- and ultimately the title -- shakes out, all eyes today will be on San Diego.

Today's game is important because it will represent a big, 2-game swing in the standings, one way or the other.

The Aztecs have a chance to push the preseason conference favorite Bulldogs three games out of first.  Moreover, winning the series for SDSU would give the Aztecs the important tie-breaker in the event of a regular-season tie.  In essence, a win by San Diego State today would effectively give Kathy Van Wyk's squad a 4-game advantage over Fresno State.  With 15 games left in the regular season, that would be a huge hole from which the Bulldogs would have to recover.

Fresno State, on the other hand, has a chance to win the series today and move within a game of first place.  Holding the tie-breaker over the Aztecs would be big and the importance of it can't be overstated.  Even though SDSU would remain in front of the Bulldogs by a game, it would give SDSU little to no margin for error down the stretch against a more difficult remaining schedule.  With the Aztecs relying almost exclusively on one pitcher this season, the upcoming slate looks even more ominous for SDSU.

So nothing will be settled today either way, but history suggests today's winner between the Bulldogs and Aztecs holds the inside track to the conference championship.  A month from now, we'll know for sure.