Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekend recap as 5 MW teams travel to Palm Springs

Palm Springs was the place to be this weekend as five Mountain West teams participated in the nation's most prestigious and competitive tournament -- the Mary Nutter Classic.

20th-ranked Fresno State, San Jose State and Colorado State faced the most daunting slates in Palm Springs, with each playing a pair of Top 25 opponents, and the Bulldogs facing an additional perennial power in Northwestern.  While San Diego State and Boise State were also in the tourney in Palm Springs, neither faced a nationally-ranked opponent, but still faced a quality schedule.

UNLV traveled to Florida to play a strong slate of games at the USF tournament, and New Mexico trekked to northern California for the UC Davis tournament.  Nevada continued what can best be described as a soft schedule with games at the Santa Clara tournament, while Utah State had the weekend off.

20th-ranked Fresno State - In Palm Springs, the Bulldogs earned a marquee win by defeating perennial NCAA Tournament team Northwestern of the Big Ten 6-4 in come-from-behind fashion.  In a tie game in the eighth inning, with the international tiebreak rule in effect, freshman Dominique Jackson smashed a 2-run home run, which was followed by a solo homer by Lindsey Willmon.  Jackson was the big hitting star for the Bulldogs, with four home runs in five games against elite competition this weekend, including two in the win over Northwestern.  In all, Fresno State hit an astonishing eight home runs in Palm Springs.  Jackson went deep versus 12th-ranked Oklahoma in a game that the Bulldogs narrowly lost, 3-2.  In the seventh, Jackson's homer cut the Sooners lead to a run and Fresno State had the potential tying run on base and winning run at the plate before falling.  In a 3-1 win over defending Big West champ Cal State Northridge Sunday, Jackson hit another homer and senior Bria Kennedy hit a pair of home runs in a game where she batted leadoff for the first time in her Bulldog career.  Jill Compton (7-1) limited Cal State Northridge to only two hits in a complete-game win over the Matadors.  It was CSUN's lowest hit total of the season.  7th-ranked Oregon and Loyola Marymount sent their ace pitchers to the circle to face the Bulldogs and won.  All-American Cheridan Hawkins shut down Fresno State, and LMU -- as it did when the Lions shut out Oregon State earlier in the tournament -- won in a game where the Bulldogs had trouble defensively.

San Jose State - In Palm Springs, the Spartans started off the weekend with a pair of wins, beating Bethune-Cookman University 13-6 and Long Island-Brooklyn 11-5.  Bethune-Cookman appeared at both weekends in Palm Springs as the Mary Nutter Classic expanded to two weekends this season.  BCU went 0-11 the past two weekends and has lost 12 straight games.  LIU-Brooklyn also went winless in Palm Springs and was outscored 56-3 in the process.  San Jose State had big problems in a game versus a very talented Washington team.  The Huskies rolled to a 17-1 win in five innings.  Against Georgia, Madison Aurin homered but the Bulldogs prevailed 7-3.  In a game against South Bay rival Stanford, the Cardinal rolled to a 9-3 victory.  Considering that Stanford has lost to Mountain West teams New Mexico, Boise State and San Diego State this season, the lopsided result was a surprise.  Chantelle Ladner (3-4) went the distance against Georgia, and gave up 15 hits.

Colorado State - In Palm Springs, the Rams defeated struggling Long Island-Brooklyn 12-0, and held off Loyola Marymount in a 4-3 win, their best of the weekend.  Against 25th-ranked Cal, 17th-ranked Missouri, and Long Beach State, the Rams were unable to score more than a run against any of the three teams, while allowing a total of 18 runs.  Maci Stouffer's 3-run homer in the win over LMU was the decisive blow in that one, and Holly Reinke tossed a 2-hitter in the victory over LIU-Brooklyn.

San Diego State - In Palm Springs, the Aztecs became the third Mountain West team this season to knock off a Stanford team that was selected to finish last in the Pac-12 by that conference's coaches.  A day after the Cardinal was run-ruled by Boise State in a shocker, Stanford was beaten 7-4 by the Aztecs.  San Diego State picked up a wild 14-12 win over Oklahoma State to begin the tournament, scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth for the come-from-behind win.  The Cowgirls (5-10) and Aztecs combined for seven errors and each team had 13 hits.  SDSU also had a win over struggling Bethune-Cookman, losers of 12 in a row.  San Diego State suffered losses against Cal State Northridge and Nebraska in its third and fourth games of the weekend.

Boise State - In Palm Springs, the Broncos might have found the secret to turning things around, at least a little.  After losing 11 straight games to begin the season, Boise State won three in a row.  BSU came from behind twice against LMU, and scored twice with the international tiebreak rule in effect in the eighth inning of that 1-run victory.  A 2-1 victory over defending WAC champion New Mexico State was a good one, but the one that will have people talking is Boise State's 9-1 thrashing of Stanford in run-rule fashion (six innings).  The Cardinal are no longer the power they were years ago, but a win over Stanford still looks good on paper.  Kayla Clausen homered and Nicole Wilson allowed only four hits in the victory over the Cardinal.  Boise State lost a 9-4 game to Cal State Northridge Sunday, and had a game cancelled against a Bethune-Cookman team that had lost 12 straight games and was unable to field a team for the scheduled morning game on Sunday.

New Mexico - At the UC Davis tournament, the Lobos continued a pattern that has continued for seven straight games:  Win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win.  New Mexico began the weekend with a 3-2 win over a South Dakota team that has struggled mightily this season, losing 14 of its first 15 games.  It was followed by a 6-0 loss to Iowa State and a pair of games (a win and a loss) versus Idaho State.  The Lobos came from a 3-run deficit, including scoring twice in the seventh, to knock off UC Davis 4-3 Sunday in what amounted to their best win of the weekend.  The Aggies, coached by former Boise State head coach Erin Thorpe, are 7-7.

UNLV - At the South Florida tournament, the Rebels started off hot, picking up a very nice 14-3, run-rule win over Wisconsin.  From there, it was four straight losses.  UNLV was run-ruled by the hosts from South Florida and then lost a pair of games versus Kansas.  Sunday, Wisconsin bounced back from that earlier run-rule loss and picked up a 6-3 win over the Rebels.  The 1-4 record isn't great, but it was a quality group of opponents the Rebels faced.

Nevada - The Wolf Pack spent another weekend beating up on outmatched opponents and have run their record to 13-2 on the season.  The record is great, just as we predicted in January.  The schedule, however, is alarming, especially when compared to the impressive slates the other Mountain West teams are facing in preparation for the conference season.  For the second consecutive weekend, Nevada did not face a team that currently has a winning record.  Two wins this weekend came over a Santa Clara team that is 4-10 and historically one of the worst softball programs in the west.  Two wins (both 1-run victories, and one in extra inings) this weekend came over a 3-11 UConn team.  The other was probably Nevada's best win since the season's opening weekend -- a 2-0 win over Illinois-Chicago.  The weekend before this one was a similar story ... victories over the likes of Portland State (4-11 overall), Robert Morris (2-11), and Southern Utah, which has won just 3 times in 17 games.  On the bright side, at least the Pack is winning these games rather than losing.

Utah State - The Aggies were idle.