Sunday, April 2, 2017

Top 4 teams in the MW standings all lose on Sunday

It was a wild day in Mountain West softball as the four teams at the top of the conference standings heading into Sunday all suffered losses.

Faltering Fresno State concluded a disappointing homestand by losing to Nevada for the second day in a row, Utah State took it on the chin against Boise State, San Jose State suffered a series loss at the hands of San Diego State, and Colorado State lost both halves of a doubleheader to New Mexico.

For the Bulldogs, it was more of the same.  Another day of defensive blunders took place Sunday for Fresno State, with three more errors and a passed ball leading to a pair of early unearned runs as Nevada went in front 3-0.  Over the last two games, Fresno State committed five errors leading to eight unearned runs. The Bulldogs, however, would cut the Nevada lead to 3-2 before a Wolf Pack uprising in the top of the seventh -- largely on a 3-run homer by Kenzi Goins -- gave Nevada a 5-run cushion. Fresno State would creep closer in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of 2-out runs, but fall short in a 7-4 loss.

The Bulldogs stranded 21 base runners in back-to-back home losses to Nevada, and 28 in the 3-game series.  The series loss snapped a string of 16 straight MW series wins for the 'Dogs, spanning three seasons.  Struggling Fresno State is now just 3-4 in its last seven conference games at home following a 32-game Mountain West winning streak.  And much of the blame lies with the Bulldog defense, which has now committed 16 errors in nine conference games this season, leading to a MW-worst 17 unearned runs allowed.

Only Boise State, which was predicted to finish last in the league race by conference coaches in the preseason poll, has committed more errors this season in Mountain West play than the Bulldogs.  Linda Garza's team has gone error-free in just one of its past nine contests.  And while Fresno State's defense has been lacking, its pitching has been the opposite.  Through Sunday's action, the Bulldogs lead the Mountain West in team ERA in conference games at 2.52.

But, as we've found out, even quality pitching can only take a team so far.

Utah State maintained its hold on first place in the Mountain West standings despite losing 4-2 at Boise State.  The Broncos, after committing nine errors in a loss to USU on Saturday, played error-free ball Sunday, and scored two in the bottom of the sixth for the win.  Kelsey Broadus improved to 5-0 with a complete-game 3-hitter.  Rebekah Cervantes had two hits, including a home run -- her seventh of the season.

New Mexico, which has played only two league series, moved into a statistical tie for first place, with a doubleheader sweep of Colorado State in Albuquerque.  UNM won 7-3 and 8-6, and has now won both of its league series by 2-1 margins.

San Diego State won its first conference series of the season in three tries, beating San Jose State 7-6 in nine innings.  Down to its last out and strike in the bottom of the ninth, the Aztecs tied it on a full-count, bases-loaded walk by Shelby Thompson against SJSU reliever Colette Riggs.  Jaylene Ignacio then singled up the middle to score the game-winner as SDSU won its second in a row against the Spartans.