Friday, March 31, 2017

Fresno State run-rules Nevada 9-1 in 6 innings

Fresno State continued its Friday night magic, scoring nine or more runs for the third straight Friday to begin Mountain West play and run-ruling Nevada.

The Bulldogs routed the Wolf Pack 9-1 in six innings, with both Savannah McHellon and Lindsey Willmon hitting home runs and finishing with three RBI each.  Sophomore pitcher Kamalani Dung was nearly unhittable with a complete-game 2-hitter.

Fresno State has now scored 28 runs in its three Friday series-opening wins the past three weeks to start conference play.   The Bulldogs have had a 10-7 win at San Diego State, followed by a 9-0 (five innings) win over Boise State last week, and tonight's 9-1 (six innings) victory over the Wolf Pack.

In other games, Utah State defeated Boise State 4-1 on the road behind freshman pitcher Kellie White, San Jose State edged struggling San Diego State 5-3 in San Diego as Katelyn Linford struck out 12, and Colorado State got a quality outing from pitcher Kaylynn Pierce in a 12-2 (six innings) run-rule win at New Mexico.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Late error, lack of clutch hitting as Bulldogs waste pitching gem by Dung

Fresno State couldn't have asked for any more from sophomore pitcher Kamalani Dung Sunday, but, in the end, it was Boise State that snuck away with a 2-1 win in nine innings at Margie Wright Diamond to snap an 8-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

Fresno State won the series two games to one and has now won 16 straight MW series -- a conference record.  The Bulldogs, however, dropped into a tie for first place in the league standings.

Dung was at the top of her game, going nine innings without walking a batter, and having a no-hitter intact until two outs in the fifth inning.  Dung held the Broncos -- who came in with the nation's ninth-best team batting average in the latest NCAA stats -- to just two hits through eight innings.  But in the ninth inning, a Fresno State error -- its second of the game -- proved very costly once again and doomed the Bulldogs, who've seemingly made it a habit to play poor defense behind Dung of late.

Katie Castellon's throwing error allowed Boise State's Rebekah Cervantes to reach second base, and on Dung's first pitch following that Castellon miscue, Makenzie Sullivan drove in the game-winning run with an RBI double.  And that would be the game.

Cervantes played a part in both BSU runs, as her solo home run in the sixth put the Broncos up 1-0.  It was just the second hit of the game allowed by Dung.  Fresno State would respond with a run of its own in the bottom half of the sixth on a bases-loaded walk to Vanessa Hernandez, but the Bulldogs wasted opportunities all game long and paid the price.

Fresno State stranded 11 base runners (compared to just four for the Broncos) and continually botched scoring chances inning after inning.  The Bulldogs out-hit Boise State six to four, and also were unable to take advantage of six walks and two Broncos errors, with some poor at-bats and questionable base running decisions adding to a frustrating afternoon for the home team.

It was the second Sunday in a row where Fresno State failed to muster much effort at the plate when it was looking to complete a 3-game conference sweep.  After scoring 37 runs in their Friday and Saturday MW games the last two weekends, the Bulldogs have only scored 4 combined runs in their two Sunday games.  They're 4-0 on Friday and Saturday in Mountain West play (outscoring opponents 34-14), but 0-2 on Sundays.  The Bulldogs are averaging nearly nine runs per game in games one and two of weekend series, but averaging two runs per game on Sunday when going for the sweep.

With one out in the third inning today, Fresno State had consecutive base runners reach on back to back Boise State errors, but the Bulldogs failed to advance either runner.  An inning later, Morgan Howe and Kierra Willis both singled, but Fresno State left runners on the corners.  The following inning, Fresno State blew a chance to score when it had runners at first and third with just one out.  Pinch runner Christina Rodriguez was thrown out at the plate on an ill-advised double steal attempt, and Malia Rivers followed with an inning-ending pop up with a runner in scoring position.

In the sixth, after BSU took the 1-0 lead on Cervantes' homer, Fresno State looked to be in position to not only take the lead, but break the game open.  Morgan Howe and Chase LeeHong singled, and both advanced into scoring position with one out on a wild pitch.  Broncos coach Cindy Ball elected to intentionally walk Willis to load the bases, and Hernandez was then walked on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game at 1-1.  With the bases loaded and just one out, BSU pitcher Kelsey Broadus retired the Bulldogs' No. 8 and No. 9 hitters -- Schuylar Broussard and Castellon -- on a strikeout and flyout to end the threat.

In the seventh and eighth innings, Fresno State again stranded two each frame.  The eighth had a familiar ring to it as Willis and Hernandez walked to lead off the inning, but Broadus again retired Broussard and Castellon, with Bulldog head coach Linda Garza opting not to go to a pinch hitter.  Broussard struck out for the second straight at-bat, and Castellon hit into an inning-ending double play.  Broussard and Castellon had the two errors for Fresno State in the game as well, with Castellon's ninth inning throwing error leading to the unearned, game-winning run that was charged to Dung.

Broadus improved to 4-0, while Dung fell to 14-7.  In Dung's four starts in conference play this season, the Bulldogs have now committed seven errors that led to eight unearned runs.

Colorado State 11, San Diego State 5 - In Fort Collins, the Rams took advantage of three Aztecs errors and won the series two games to one.  Freshman Carina Gamboa had three hits and four RBI to pave the way against San Diego State, which has now lost its first two series in Mountain West play this season.  SDSU had not lost its first two conference series of the year since 2005.  Kaylynn Pierce allowed eight hits in relief, but picked up the victory.  The Aztecs used four pitchers, but the three early unearned runs and three errors were too much to overcome.

Utah State 17, Nevada 5 (5 innings) - In Reno, this one was all about errors and some poor Nevada defense.  The Wolf Pack committed errors in every inning of the game, leading to eight unearned runs, and that was the ballgame in a nutshell.  Devan Sperry and Jazmin Clark had four hits apiece, with Sperry launching a home run and double to finish with seven RBI.  Kellie White overcame five walks and allowed five hits to grab the win, her 11th.

New Mexico 5, UNLV 4 - In Las Vegas, the Lobos captured a series win by taking the rubber match.  Each team had 11 hits, with Shelbie Franc and Chelsea Johnson having three each.  Morgan Ettinger took the loss and UNM starter Tess McPherson earned the victory.  Krissy Fortner picked up the save as the Rebels nearly came back from a 5-1 deficit.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Quality pitching, inside-the-park HR push Bulldogs to top of MW standings

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State moved into sole possession of first place with a convincing 8-2 win over Boise State Saturday.

Junior transfer Savannah McHellon, who hit a grand slam in Friday's win, picked up the complete-game pitching victory tonight, allowing just five hits and striking out seven.  Freshman Miranda Rohleder hit a rare, inside-the-park home run -- a 2-run shot that bounced off the blue foam padding atop the fence in right field before caroming away from the Boise State outfielder.  The speedy second baseman never stopped while rounding the bases and pushed the Bulldogs' lead at that point to four runs.

That was more than enough for McHellon, who tossed her fifth complete game of the year, and was rarely in trouble.  All five hits were singles, and three were of the infield variety.  Meanwhile, Fresno State's offense -- for the second night in a row -- consisted of a lot of patience at the plate where the Bulldogs worked nine walks for the second straight game.  Senior Kierra Willis walked three times and scored a pair of runs.  Willis is now six walks shy of the all-time Fresno State record in that category.

In other MW games Saturday, Colorado State's Amber Nelson hit a home run in the Rams' home win over San Diego State; Nevada and Utah State split a pair of games in Reno; and UNLV evened its series with New Mexico at a game apiece, with a 4-2 win in Las Vegas.

Heading into Sunday, Fresno State is the only MW team assured a series win for the second straight weekend.  The Bulldogs will attempt to become the first team in the conference to sweep a 3-game series, while Colorado State, Nevada, UNLV and New Mexico will all look for their first series win.

The Bulldogs hold a one game lead in the conference standings thru Saturday's play.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Fresno State hits 2 grand slams in 9-0 rout of Boise State

For the first time in the long and storied history of Fresno State softball, the Bulldogs hit grand slams in back-to-back innings Friday, on their way to a 9-0 (five innings) rout of Boise State at rainy Margie Wright Diamond.

In the first inning, Savannah McHellon hit her fifth home run of the season, and first grand slam, to put the Bulldogs up 4-0 early.  McHellon's shot to left was a no-doubter from the time it left her bat.  One batter later, Boise State senior ace Christina Washington, who entered the game with an 11-3 record and ERA under 2.00, was pulled.  But Fresno State's bats continued hitting.

In the bottom of the second, Vanessa Hernandez went deep with the Bulldogs' second grand slam in two innings, another deep shot over the fence in left.  Just like McHellon's blast, it was the fifth home run of the year by Hernandez.  It would be Fresno State's third grand slam of the week, following a Tuesday win over Cal State Bakersfield, where Morgan Howe launched a grand slam of her own.

And while the Bulldogs were enjoying a big day at the plate, sophomore pitcher Kamalani Dung was mowing down Boise State, which entered the game 20-7 overall and ninth in the nation in team batting average (albeit against one of the country's weaker schedules).  Dung allowed just three hits in her fifth complete-game shutout of the season, and struck out seven.

In other games, San Diego State beat Colorado State 9-4 in Fort Collins behind a double-digit hit attack, and New Mexico edged UNLV 3-2 in Las Vegas as the teams scored all five of their runs in the seventh inning.  Utah State and Nevada were postponed by weather in Reno and will play two Saturday.

Monday, March 20, 2017

First RPI of the season has Fresno State 30th, and 5 MW teams in the top 100

RPI Top 30 (click to enlarge)
The NCAA released its first Ratings Percentage Index numbers of the 2017 season today, and Fresno State lands at No. 30, tops among Mountain West teams and within sights of an NCAA at-large bid should it become necessary down the road. While the Bulldogs are the only MW team in the top 50, a total of five Mountain West teams are in the top 100 of the RPI, and seven are in the top 107, with two on the cusp of the top 100.  Only one Mountain West team resides outside the top 150 in today's RPI release.

The NCAA also released Strength of Schedule data this morning, and the Bulldogs have played the nation's 28th toughest schedule.  Both Fresno State's RPI and SOS numbers lead the rest of the Mountain West by a wide margin.

Additionally, the Bulldogs are one of just four teams from non-power conferences to rank among the country's Top 30 RPIs.  Fresno State still has a 2-game non-conference series remaining in April against Cal, which sits at No. 18 in the RPI.

San Diego State finds itself 58th in the latest RPI, definite bubble territory when it comes to NCAA seeding, but with a lot of room still left to move up.  The full RPI can be found here.  Colorado State (82), San Jose State (92) and Boise State (98) all rank in the top 100.  Utah State (104) and UNLV (107) are close to being inside the top 100, with Nevada (135) and New Mexico (164) rounding out the conference.

When it comes to Strength of Schedule, the Aztecs (54th) are behind only the Bulldogs (28th), as both Kathy Van Wyk and Linda Garza continued to have the two traditional powers play national-caliber schedules.  Jen Fisher and Colorado State have played the nation's 80th best schedule of 295 teams, according to the NCAA.

Strength of Schedule - National rank in red (click to enlarge)
At the other end of the spectrum, three Mountain West teams have faced some of the country's weakest overall slates.  New Mexico has the nation's 258th ranked schedule, Utah State the nation's 273rd, and Boise State the country's 287th.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fresno State wins series against San Diego State for 4th straight year

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State was the only team in the conference to win a road series on the opening weekend of league play, which ended Sunday.  In a matchup of the two teams predicted to finish at the top of the conference standings in the preseason poll of Mountain West coaches, the Bulldogs came through with a key road series win at San Diego State.

But after winning the first two games of the series in San Diego, Fresno State wanted to become the first MW team to sweep a 3-game road series against the Aztecs since the conference implemented the 3-game format.  It wasn't to be, as the Bulldogs had some defensive issues in a 6-3 setback, allowing San Diego State to salvage one of the three games at home.

Fresno State won its series with San Diego State for a fourth straight season, and now leads the all-time series with SDSU by a commanding 64-13 margin.

The Bulldogs got on the board first, scoring a first inning run as Lindsey Willmon grounded out following hits by both Malia Rivers and Morgan Howe.  As was the case for nearly the entire game, the Bulldogs wasted additional opportunities to score, leaving base runners stranded in scoring position in six of seven innings, including the first five innings in a row.

In the top of the second, Fresno State had base runners at second and third base with only one out and failed to score.  Poor defense in the bottom of the inning would change the complexion of the game.  With starting pitcher Kamalani Dung in the circle, she got a pair of potentially easy fly balls to right and left field, but both were dropped for outfield errors as SDSU put together a 3-run inning, with all three runs unearned.

Dung was pulled from the game, despite not allowing an earned run and having tossed just 1 1/3 innings.  Freshman Samantha Mejia entered in the first action in Mountain West play of her career, and SDSU teed off with six hits and three runs over the next 2 2/3 innings, including a 2-run homer to straightaway center by Molly Sturdivant.  They would be the only three earned runs San Diego State would score Sunday, and they were enough for the win.

Fresno State committed five errors in the series, leading to seven unearned runs.  All five errors came with Dung in the circle.  Savannah McHellon pitched the final two innings for the Bulldogs and held SDSU scoreless.

The game ended in wild fashion, as reigning MW Player of the Year Kierra Willis was at the plate representing the potential tying run.  With pinch runner Christina Rodriguez at second and Willmon at first, Willmon was called out on a snap throw from catcher Jenavee Peres.  Initially called safe at first base on the throw, San Diego State fans in the stands squawked at the call.  Umpires huddled near home plate, and the home plate umpire overruled the call, and instead ruled Willmon out, ending the game.  Coach Linda Garza argued, to no avail, and the reversed call went the home team's way.

Fresno State reached double-digits in hits for the third straight game against San Diego State, and the Bulldogs' 37 hits in the series were the most by a Mountain West team this weekend.

In other games Sunday, both other teams looking to complete 3-game conference sweeps came up short.  San Jose State fell 6-2 to Nevada, falling into an early hole and never escaping; and likewise, UNLV scored six first inning runs and went on for an 8-5 win in Logan over Utah State, which committed six errors.  Home teams won three of four Mountain West series this weekend, with only Fresno State picking up a road series win.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bulldogs win, clinch huge series road victory over San Diego St.

Fresno State rode its high-powered offense to a second consecutive road victory at San Diego State Saturday, clinching the Mountain West-opening series against the Aztecs with a 7-6 win.

The Bulldogs pounded out 15 hits against SDSU freshman phenom Marissa Moreno, the Aztecs' leader in ERA, wins and strikeouts this season.  Kierra Willis, Katie Castellon and Morgan Howe all had three hits apiece in an entertaining, back-and-forth game between the rivals.

Fresno State, with a victory Sunday, can become the first team ever to sweep a Mountain West road series from San Diego State since the league implemented the 3-game series format.

For the second day in a row, the Aztecs took the lead but were unable to hold it.  In the third inning of a scoreless pitcher's duel between Moreno and Fresno State starter Savannah McHellon, the Bulldogs blinked first.  Molly Sturdivant doubled home Katie Byrd, who was hit by a pitch, and SDSU went in front 1-0.

The Bulldogs tied it in the fourth when Howe singled and Willis hit an RBI double.  An inning later, Fresno State would go in front by a 3-1 score.  Castellon doubled to lead off the fifth, and Malia Rivers followed with an infield single.  With two outs, Howe -- who is batting nearly .700 this season with runners in scoring position -- gave Fresno State the lead with a 2-run single.

SDSU responded quickly in the bottom of the inning, however.  Byrd doubled, Jenavee Peres walked, and the Aztecs scored a run on a double steal when Peres hung in long enough on an extended tag out play on the base paths.  Sydnee Cable and Taylor Stewart got hits, and Bulldog coach Linda Garza summoned Kamalani Dung from the bullpen.  A 2-run triple by Shelby Thompson followed, and SDSU went back in front 4-3, with those runs charge to McHellon.

But Fresno State wouldn't be denied.  Trailing by a run with two outs in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs went to work.  Willis singled, and Castellon smacked an RBI triple to knot the game at 4-4.  Freshman Miranda Rohleder followed with a run-scoring single and the Bulldogs were back in front.

Dung retired San Diego State in order in the sixth, and Fresno State added two big insurance runs in the top of the seventh for the second straight day.  Lindsey Willmon and McHellon both singled to begin the frame, and Willis added a third straight hit to load the bases with no outs.  That was enough for Kathy Van Wyk to go to pitcher Julie McDonald.  A bases-loaded walk to Vanessa Hernandez, who had two home runs Friday, gave the Bulldogs a 2-run lead.  The margin reached three runs when McDonald plunked Castellon with a full-count pitch.

The Aztecs made it close in the seventh as Peres tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, and Zaria Meshack hit an infield RBI single.  With the bases loaded, Dung induced Kiera Wright to fly out to center, where Hernandez made a nice grab to end the threat and the game.

Fresno State won its 34th Mountain West game in its last 35 tries spanning three seasons.

Elsewhere, Boise State scored eight unearned runs due to five Colorado State errors in an 8-5 win, San Jose State shut out light-hitting Nevada for the second day in a row in Stockton, and Utah State used a 6-run inning to top UNLV 6-2.

Friday, March 17, 2017

4 HRs power Fresno State to key MW road win over Aztecs

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State pounded four home runs, including two by sophomore Vanessa Hernandez, to open defense of its conference championships with an impressive road win at San Diego State.

In a matchup between the teams predicted to finish first and second in the Mountain West by the league's coaches this year, the Bulldogs used their high-powered offense and overcame a shaky start to snap several long San Diego State streaks.

The Aztecs had won nine straight conference openers and 28 consecutive games when scoring seven or more runs.  Also, SDSU had been undefeated this season when scoring in the first inning.  Each of those streaks came to a halt against the Bulldogs, who continued their dominance against Mountain West opponents.  Fresno State has won 33 of its past 34 MW games spanning three seasons.

Friday's game was won by the Bulldogs 10-7, as coach Linda Garza's squad overcame three big defensive miscues that led to four unearned runs.  Fresno State got behind 3-0 in the first inning as pitcher Kamalani Dung committed consecutive throwing errors to start the game.

On comebackers to the circle, Dung twice threw in the dirt to first base as the ball skipped past first baseman Savannah McHellon and rolled down the right field line.  Instead of two outs and no one on base, Fresno State already trailed 1-0 and SDSU had a runner in scoring position.  Following an out, Molly Sturdivant launched a 2-run homer to put the Bulldogs in a 3-0 hole just minutes into the game.

From that point on, Dung settled into a groove, however.  She didn't allow her second hit of the game until the fifth inning, and by that time, Fresno State had already scored eight unanswered runs to take control.

Sophomore Morgan Howe hit a 2-run home run against SDSU starter -- and eventual losing pitcher -- Erica Romero, and Kierra Willis tied the game 3-3 with an RBI triple.  Lindsey Willmon launched a 3-run home run to right-center that extended Fresno State's lead, and Hernandez blasted two deep bombs over the fence in left.

Hernandez hit a no-doubter deep to left in the fifth, well over the outfield bleachers.  In the top of the seventh, she added key insurance runs for Dung with a 2-run shot, also to left.  That came with two outs in the frame against reliever Alex Formby, and it would be enough.  Dung gave up a run in the seventh as Fresno State overcame three errors, leading to four unearned runs in the game.  Conversely, all 10 Bulldogs runs were earned.

Freshman Miranda Rohleder had three hits in her first three at-bats in a Mountain West game.

Elsewhere, Colorado State and Boise State split a pair in Boise with the Broncos winning the opener 10-3, and the Rams the nightcap (9-4).  Utah State run-ruled UNLV 10-2 in five in Logan, and San Jose State shut out Nevada 2-0 in Stockton.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bulldogs go 2-0, Aztecs 0-2 in Thursday tournament openers

Fresno State and San Diego State opened weekend tournament play a day ahead of everyone else in the Mountain West, with both teams playing twice Thursday.

For the Bulldogs, it was the prestigious Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, and for the Aztecs, it was their annual San Diego Classic.

Fresno State (12-6) swept a pair of games, beating 2016 NCAA Tournament team Long Beach State 4-2 in eight innings, and the Big Ten's Iowa Hawkeyes by an 11-7 score.  Against the 49ers, Fresno State pitcher Kamalani Dung was sensational, tossing a complete-game 3-hitter.  It was the fifth time already this season she's allowed three or fewer hits in a game.  Dung struck out a season-high 10 and did not allow an earned run.

Against Iowa, freshman pitcher Samantha Mejia started for Fresno State and picked up the win, going 6 1/3 innings.  Dung came on to face one batter, earning the save by inducing a game-ending double play.  Mejia improved to 3-0, while Dung lowered her ERA to 1.46.  Dung (8-3) paces the Mountain West, with eight wins this season.  Morgan Howe went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI for Fresno State against the Hawkeyes.

The victory over Iowa was Fresno State's third over a team from the Big Ten in three-plus weeks.

For San Diego State, it was a different story.  The Aztecs suffered a pair of losses, falling 7-6 to McNeese State, before losing 5-1 to BYU later in the day.  Cougars pitcher McKenna Bull handcuffed the Aztecs with a 4-hitter, while SDSU left the potential game-tying and winning runs in scoring position in the seventh during the loss to the Cowgirls.