San Jose State will go down in Mountain West softball history as the first team to get run-ruled on the day it won a conference title.
The Spartans were humbled in a 9-1 (five innings) loss to a UNLV team that entered the day tied for last place in the conference. But, when that game was in the opening innings, SJSU already knew it had won the MW title and the automatic NCAA bid that came along with it. The Spartans were declared champions after Nevada knocked off San Diego State in Reno 5-4 in eight innings. That game ended while UNLV and SJSU were in progress.
UNLV pitcher Breana Burke scattered seven hits and the Rebels pounded out 13 in the run-rule win. Spartans starting pitcher Colette Riggs allowed nine runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings and took the loss. It was a balanced effort as all nine Rebels starters had hits in the contest. SJSU captured its first MW title and just the second softball conference championship in program history.
Elsewhere, Fresno State sophomore pitcher Kamalani Dung continued her dominance, making an eighth consecutive start for the Bulldogs and picking up her Mountain West-leading 24th win overall. Dung also leads the league in ERA and wins in conference play now, with 12. Sophomore Morgan Howe (2-run shot) and senior Lindsey Willmon (solo shot) hit homers, and Howe finished with three of the Bulldogs' nine hits.
A win by Fresno State on Saturday would continue one of the school's most impressive streaks, as it would enable the 'Dogs to finish in the top three in its conference standings for 40 consecutive years. In a program that began in 1978, Fresno State has never finished lower than third in any conference in which it has been affiliated. A win Saturday guarantees the Bulldogs at least third place. Wins by both Fresno State and Nevada would give the 'Dogs a tie for second in the final standings.
In Albuquerque on Friday, Boise State beat New Mexico 5-0 as the reeling Lobos lost their 10th straight game and guaranteed themselves a last-place finish in the final MW standings. The Broncos, meanwhile, can finish at .500 in conference play with a win Saturday, and grab a 30th win on the year. Boise State, along with Nevada and Utah State, received notice of a bid to the inaugural Women's National Invitational Softball Championship. The NISC's full 48-team field will be announced Sunday.
While Fresno State and San Diego State both have at-large NCAA Tournament hopes, each is likely to receive an NISC bid if the NCAA does not come calling.