Friday, May 5, 2017

Spartans overtake Aggies; Fresno State's Dung earns MW-best 8th shutout


San Jose State scored the game's final seven runs Friday, knocking off Utah State 7-3 in game one of a 3-game series in Santa Clara.  The Aggies moved in front 3-0 early against Spartans starter Katelyn Linford, who settled down after a rocky first couple of innings.  Meanwhile, SJSU was getting clutch hit after clutch hit against Utah State freshman pitcher Kellie White, who has struggled in back-to-back starts.

The Spartans strung together a series of 2-out hits every inning from the third through the sixth on Friday, scoring seven unanswered against White.  In her last two outings, White has allowed 15 earned runs on 15 hits in just seven innings.  After giving up eight earned runs in two innings Sunday in a 15-5 loss to San Diego State, the Spartans got to White for seven runs (all earned) on 10 hits in 5+ innings Friday.

Casey Watt and Madison Aurin had three hits apiece, and White walked five.  Linford allowed six hits in the complete-game win.

Utah State, which held a commanding 3 1/2 game lead in the Mountain West standings in mid-April, has gone 4-4 in its last eight league contests to fall out of first place.  By percentage points, SJSU leads USU .684 to .667 heading into the final two games of the series.

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State kept its slim title hopes alive as pitcher Kamalani Dung continued her dominance.  Dung tossed her MW-leading eighth shutout of the season and second in six days with a complete-game 3-hitter as the Bulldogs beat New Mexico 5-0.

Fresno State also kept alive one of the more impressive streaks in college softball.  The Bulldogs clinched their 36th consecutive 30-win season, and are now 30-20 overall.  This is also the third straight season that first-year Bulldog head coach Linda Garza has won 30 or more games.  Garza led UC Riverside to the first two 30-win seasons in Highlander softball history in 2015 and 2016.

In 15 of her 30 starts this season, Dung has allowed three or fewer hits. Tonight marked her 21st start of the year where she allowed two or fewer runs, and she lowered her league-best ERA in conference play to a paltry 1.99.  Only 14 pitchers in the nation had more than eight shutouts this season entering this week's action.

Dung's total of eight shutouts this season is three more than the entire Bulldog pitching staff threw last year during a record-setting season where it finished 22-1 in league play and 42-12 overall. Her eight shutouts also tied the highest number of shutouts in a season by former Bulldog pitching star (and MW Pitcher of the Year) Jill Compton, who had eight in both her sophomore and junior seasons.

The Bulldogs are 2 1/2 games behind San Jose State with five to play, and now just a half-game behind Nevada and San Diego State, which face off next weekend.  Nevada suffered an 8-5 loss at Boise State, leaving no margin for error the rest of the way.  SDSU, meanwhile, edged UNLV 5-3 in San Diego as the Aztecs kept their slim title hopes intact.