Monday, February 28, 2011

Mountain West weekend in review

It wasn't a great weekend for the Mountain West Conference, but a huge factor was the high level of competition, particularly for Brigham Young, San Diego State and Utah, all of whom competed at the prestigious Cathedral City Classic.

Marquee opponents, ranked competition and high-caliber games were the rule of the weekend in Cathedral City and many national powers had trouble. The 34-team tournament included seven of the eight teams that reached Oklahoma City last year, 10 of the 16 Super Regional teams and 24 teams that advanced to last season's NCAA Tournament.

Brigham Young
The Cougars went 1-4 in Cathedral City, defeating Ohio State 5-1 for their only win. BYU came up on the short end of games against Florida State (6-4), Virginia (9-3), No. 18 Nebraska (4-3) and No. 8 Tennessee (4-1).

San Diego State
The Aztecs' brutal schedule continued and they went 1-4 in Cathedral City, defeating Florida State in an impressive 10-2 (five innings) win. San Diego State's losses came to Morgan Melloh and Indiana (3-2 in eight innings), No. 8 Tennessee (11-3 in six innings), No. 4 Florida (4-2) and No. 1 Arizona (5-0).

The Utes went 1-5 in Cathedral City, with the lone win coming via run rule (10-0 in five innings over Nevada). Utah fell to Virginia (4-2), Long Beach State (5-1 in eight innings), Syracuse (4-3 in eight innings), No. 4 Florida (7-3) and UC Santa Barbara (4-2).

New Mexico
The Lobos went 3-0 against Northern Colorado. UNM beat the Bears in a 3-game series by scores of 11-3 (six innings), 11-8 and 1-0 (eight innings).

The Rebels went 2-1 at the rain-shortened Amy S. Harrison Classic in Riverside. UNLV beat Boise State 9-0 and UC Riverside 10-2, but fell to Cal State Northridge 4-3.

Colorado State
The Rams went 1-4 against a competitive slate at the Stanford Nike Invitational. Colorado State defeated UC Davis 11-6 for its only win of the weekend. The Rams fell 7-0 to Kentucky, 11-3 in six innings to North Dakota State, 16-2 (five innings) to Stanford and 4-3 in eight innings to Memphis.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend results around the Mountain West

It was not the best weekend ever for softball teams in the Mountain West Conference as the league went just 9-18 overall.

Brigham Young (6-4)
The Cougars moved to 6-4 on the season after a weekend at the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas. BYU defeated SIU-Edwardsville 10-5, edged struggling Cal Poly 8-6, withstood a 6-run seventh inning by Boise State in a 12-11 win, and run-ruled Cal State Northridge. BYU lost its only game of the weekend against a ranked opponent, falling 7-4 to No. 19 Stanford.

Colorado State (2-7)
The Rams went 0-5 on a tough weekend at the Texas Invitational in Austin. Colorado State fell twice in run-rule decisions to host Texas (12-4 in six innings and 8-0 in five innings). The Rams also were beaten twice by Wisconsin (5-1 and 7-6) and lost to Missouri State (8-2). Coach Jen Fisher's squad has lost six consecutive games.

San Diego State (6-3)
It turned out to be a disappointing weekend hosting a rainy San Diego Classic I for the Aztecs. After moving into the national rankings last week, San Diego State could find itself out of the Top 25 as early as Tuesday. The Aztecs went 1-2 this weekend, falling to Missouri 9-1 in a five inning run-rule game and losing to Washington 6-3 today. San Diego State committed six errors in the loss to the Huskies. The Aztecs' one win this week was a 4-2 victory over Sacramento State.

New Mexico (3-3)
The Lobos were swept in a 3-game series at Baylor this weekend. The Bears are 8-0 on the season and New Mexico kept each game relatively close so that's an improvement for the program. Baylor won the three games by scores of 7-2, 4-0 and 3-1.

UNLV (4-5)
The Rebels went 2-3 in their own Louisville Slugger Desert Classic, but did it the unconventional way. UNLV upset a pair of Southeastern Conference opponents, beating Tennessee 4-3 and Arkansas 3-2 in eight innings. But the Rebels suffered frustrating losses in games they were probably expecting to win: 9-6 to in-state rival Nevada, 1-0 to SIU-Edwardsville and 14-9 to Utah State.

Utah (5-6)
Few teams suffered the types of heartbreaking losses the Utes endured this weekend in Las Vegas. Utah took big leads into the late innings against No. 14 Oregon and No. 9 Hawai'i, only to lose them both in their final at-bats. The Utes led the Wahine 6-1 before falling 8-7, and led Oregon 5-3 heading to the seventh inning before giving up the game's final five runs. In an 8-4 loss in eight innings to Arkansas, the Utes scored three in the seventh to force extra innings, only to give up four runs in the eighth. The team did pick up a pair of victories, defeating Boise State 12-8 and Long Beach State 3-2.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

San Diego State splits, BYU wins, UNLV falls

San Diego State split a pair of games, Brigham Young won its only game, and UNLV lost at home as the Mountain West Conference went 2-2 in action Thursday.

The Aztecs opened play in the San Diego Classic I, one of two tourneys they co-host this season with the University of San Diego. Things started out fine, but ended with a painful loss for San Diego State.

The Aztecs suffered a lopsided loss to a Top 10 ranked team for the second time in four days, falling 9-1 in a five inning, run rule affair to #8/10 Missouri. The loss came 48 hours after San Diego State had achieved its first national ranking of the season. The Aztecs entered the Softball Top 25 poll Tuesday at No. 22. Prior to the loss to Missouri, San Diego State defeated Sacramento State 4-2. Twice in the seventh inning, the Hornets brought the tying run to the plate, but were held off.

Meanwhile, BYU and UNLV were opening play in the Louisville Slugger Desert Classic in Las Vegas. The Cougars, ranked 23rd by the NFCA, came from a 3-run deficit to knock off SIU-Edwardsville 10-5. The host Rebels tried to come from eight runs down against rival Nevada, but couldn't claw all the way back. The Wolf Pack defeated UNLV 9-6.

Mountain West releases 2011 TV schedule

The Mountain West Conference today released its 2011 schedule of nationally-televised softball games. The slate includes eight games and will feature all six MWC teams.

Games will be broadcast on three different networks: CBS College Sports (HD), the mtn. (available locally in states where Mountain West teams play, and available nationally on DirecTV), and on BYU-TV, which is available on cable systems across the country, along with Central and South America.

The TV season kicks off Thursday, April 21, with New Mexico traveling to BYU.

San Diego State jumps into Top 25

The San Diego State Aztecs jumped into the Softball Top 25 poll this week, while Brigham Young dropped out of the rankings following a tough opening weekend.

The Aztecs are ranked No. 22 this week, while BYU is in the 'receiving votes' category at No. 30. San Diego State went 4-1 last week, defeating Utah State twice, along with Central Florida and North Dakota State. The Aztecs fell to top-ranked UCLA 8-2.

The Cougars went 2-3 last weekend, picking up wins over Texas A&M and Ole Miss. BYU suffered losses to Portland State, Texas Tech and Oregon. Utah, which went 3-2 at the Kajikawa Classic, including a win over No. 9 Arizona State, received one vote to rank 39th in the country.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BYU No. 23, San Diego State No. 29 in NFCA poll

Brigham Young, despite having the only losing record among Mountain West Conference teams, is the only MWC ranked in the NFCA/USA Today Top 25 coaches poll released this morning.

BYU dropped seven spots from the preseason poll, falling to No. 23 this week. The Cougars are 2-3 overall.

San Diego State, which lost only to No. 1-ranked UCLA in a 4-1 weekend, is in the receiving votes category at No. 29. The Aztecs received 17 votes after having just one in the preseason poll.

No other MWC team received a vote in the poll.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

BYU falls to 1-3; Aztecs win; UNLV wins a pair

Mountain West Conference favorite and 16th-ranked Brigham Young dropped its third straight game to begin the season Friday, losing 4-3 to Portland State in morning action before bouncing back for its first win.

After surprisingly losing for the third straight game (and second straight to an unranked opponent), BYU was suddenly staring at an 0-4 start to the season. The Cougars trailed Ole Miss 5-0 before rallying for a 9-5 victory. This over an Ole Miss squad that is struggling mightily itself. The Rebels of the Southeastern Conference are 0-4 and have been outscored 26-8 so far this young season. Ole Miss has committed nine errors and its pitchers have walked 20 batters in just the first two days of the year.

San Diego State, meanwhile, won its season opener in Los Angeles with a hard-fought 3-2 win over North Dakota State. Lorena Klopp hit a 2-out solo home run in the seventh for the win. The Division I head coaching debut of Jen Fisher didn't go quite as planned, Utah split a pair of games, and UNLV started 2-0 and picked up a marquee win over Mississippi State.

Friday's MWC results

Portland State 4, Brigham Young 3
Brigham Young 9, Ole Miss 5
San Diego State 3, North Dakota State 2
UNLV 10, Mississippi State 9
UNLV 13, UC Riverside 5
Utah 6, Western Michigan 0
Arizona 8, Utah 3
New Mexico State 13, Colorado State 5

Thursday, February 10, 2011

BYU loses a pair of games; Utah routs Ole Miss

The 2011 season is underway and the first three games contained some mixed results for the Mountain West Conference.

At the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, 16th-ranked Brigham Young fell to No. 14 Oregon 3-2 and then followed that up with a surprising loss to Texas Tech. Meanwhile, Utah run-ruled Ole Miss 10-0 in five innings.

Paige Affleck of BYU tossed a complete-game 3-hitter but it wasn't enough in the loss to the Ducks. Jessica Moore threw a 4-hitter for the Ducks and hit a home run that proved to be the difference. Oregon rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning.

Utah, meanwhile, ripped the Rebels of the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss hurt itself with three errors that allowed six unearned runs.

BYU's 7-5 loss to unranked Texas Tech came in nine innings. Cougars junior Delaney Willard hit a 2-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings.

Final MWC season begins today for BYU, Utah

Brigham Young and Utah begin their final softball seasons as members of the Mountain West Conference today at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.

The 16th-ranked Cougars and Utes open the tournament on opposite fields at the same time this afternoon (3:30 pm MT). BYU meets No. 14 Oregon of the Pac-10, while Utah opens against Ole Miss of the Southeastern Conference.

Later in the day, BYU takes on Big XII member Texas Tech at 6 pm MT.

All of the gametracker links for today's games can be found on the Kajikawa Classic web site.

BYU will leave the Mountain West and move to the WAC beginning in 2012. Utah will begin play in the newly-formed Pac-12 next season.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

BYU, San Diego State lead MWC coaches poll

Defending Mountain West Conference champion Brigham Young narrowly edged out San Diego State in the preseason MWC coaches poll released this morning.

BYU (46-13 last season) earned four first-place votes and 24 total points from the coaches, while the Aztecs (34-16 last season) got the remaining two first-place votes and 22 total points.

The Cougars are in their final year in the MWC before moving to the Western Athletic Conference next season. BYU, which went to its first Super Regional last season, is ranked 16th and 20th in the two major national preseason polls. The Cougars return seven starters from last season.

San Diego State, which was eliminated by Fresno State in the NCAA Los Angeles Regional a season ago, is ranked 27th and 42nd in the two national polls. The Aztecs reached their third consecutive NCAA Tournament last year (a first in school history) and return MWC Pitcher of the Year Samantha Beasley.

UNLV (33-20 last season) narrowly missed an at-large NCAA bid in 2010 and is picked to finish third this season. The Rebels return just three starters from last year's squad. Colorado State, with new head coach Jen Fisher, is predicted to finish fourth following a 29-20 (7-8 MWC) season.

Utah, in its final season in the MWC before bolting to the Pac-12, has been selected fifth. New Mexico returns five starters along with a new head coach in Erica Beach. The Lobos have been selected sixth and were ranked last on all coaches' ballots.

The Mountain West vs. WAC softball rivalry continues this season with 26 games between the two conferences. This year's schedule of MWC vs. WAC games: Colorado State at New Mexico State (Feb. 11, 13), San Diego State vs. Utah State (Feb. 12, 13), Nevada at UNLV (Feb. 17), Utah vs. Hawai'i (Feb. 18), BYU vs. Boise State (Feb. 18), Utah State at UNLV (Feb. 18), Utah vs. Nevada (Feb. 19, 27), UNLV vs. Boise State (Feb. 25), BYU vs. Fresno State (March 4), San Diego State vs. Fresno State (March 4), San Jose State at UNLV (March 6), San Diego State vs. Louisiana Tech (March 12), New Mexico at Nevada (March 13), New Mexico at San Jose State (March 16 DH), BYU at Hawai'i (March 17), Utah State at BYU (March 29), Boise State at Utah (March 30 DH), New Mexico at New Mexico State (April 4), BYU at Utah State (April 12), New Mexico State at New Mexico (April 19) and Utah at Utah State (April 26).

2011 MWC Preseason Coaches Poll

1. BYU (4) - 24
2. San Diego State (2) - 22
3. UNLV - 15
4. Colorado State - 13
5. Utah - 11
6. New Mexico - 5

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

MWC preseason coaches poll out tomorrow

The preseason Mountain West Conference coaches poll will be released Thursday, February 3, at 10 a.m. MT.

It's almost a 100 percent certainty that San Diego State and Brigham Young will be picked first and second, though the order is unknown. The Cougars have the higher preseason ranking in both national polls, though a lot of so-called experts predict the Aztecs will win the conference. San Diego State returns 2010 MWC Pitcher of the Year Samantha Beasley.

If we had a vote, we'd go this way in our predictions:

1. San Diego State
2. BYU
4. Colorado State
5. Utah
6. New Mexico