Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bulldogs, Broncos unveil their 2013 schedules


The entire Mountain West Conference softball slate for 2013 has now been revealed after Fresno State and Boise State became the final two teams to release their schedules.

Fresno State will face a number of firsts this season.  The Bulldogs are joining the Mountain West after nearly two decades in the Western Athletic Conference and will have a new head coach for the first time in a generation.  Legendary head coach Margie Wright concluded a tremendous, 27-year run as the Bulldogs head coach last year, and new coach Trisha Ford steps in after nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford.

Ford's Bulldogs will be looking at a different type of schedule than previous years.  There are significantly fewer home games than last season for Fresno State, and the Bulldogs will no longer be participating in two of the most demanding in-season tournaments where they've been mainstays for years -- the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic (formerly the Cathedral City Classic) and the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton.

Fresno State will face a non-conference slate that appears, on paper at least, less demanding than previous seasons.  That's not to say it will be easy, but it's hardly the juggernaut of a slate to which Bulldog fans became accustomed with a program that has reached 30 of the past 31 NCAA Tournaments.

The concentration will definitely be California-focused as the Bulldogs have 23 non-conference games against in-state opponents, including three each against Long Beach State, St. Mary's, Cal State Northridge and the University of San Diego.  Fresno State will also play a total of 11 games against in-state rivals Sacramento State, Pacific, UC Riverside, Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly, UC Davis, Santa Clara and San Jose State.

The highlight of the Bulldogs' home slate comes in March when they host a very strong field at the annual Bayer CropScience Classic.  Fresno State will host defending Women's College World Series entrants California and Oregon, along with 2012 NCAA Tournament participant Oregon State, in addition to Iowa State of the Big 12 Conference, St. Mary's and fellow MW member San Diego State.

Along the way, Fresno State will play two games against SEC (and former Big 12) powerhouse Missouri at a tournament in Santa Barbara, meet former conference rival BYU (to whom it lost in last season's WAC championship game), and Pac-12 power UCLA at a tourney in San Diego.  Last season, the Bulldogs snapped a 12-year drought in their series against the Bruins with a 6-3 win over then-No. 5 ranked UCLA at the Cathedral City Classic.

In its first Mountain West season, Fresno State will host 3-game conference series versus fellow MW newcomer Nevada, Boise State and New Mexico.  The Bulldogs' road series will take them to San Diego State, Colorado State and UNLV.

While Fresno State is beginning its inaugural season in the Mountain West, Boise State will be playing its second and final year in the conference before joining the Big West for the 2014 campaign.  The Broncos, as it stands now, are set to depart the Mountain West on July 1, 2013.

Boise State also will see a drop-off in home games in 2013 compared to 2012.  The biggest change this season will be the fact the Broncos have a new home.  After playing their first four seasons of collegiate softball on a makeshift, former high school facility at Mountain Cove, Boise State will be on campus at the new Dona Larsen Park.  The park's official dedication ceremony came on August 15, 2012.

Coach Erin Thorpe's Broncos, who are hoping for their first NCAA Tournament berth, will begin the 2013 season with 22 consecutive road or neutral-site games in an unbalanced schedule.  In addition to their nine scheduled home conference games (three series), the Broncos will be at home just one other weekend.  Boise State's annual home tourney is slated for the weekend of March 15-17.

The Broncos will face a tough opening weekend, meeting Pac-12 powers Arizona State and Oregon, along with Northwestern at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.  Boise State will be at the same San Diego tourney as Fresno State in early March, facing both BYU and UCLA.

A 3-game series against powerful Arizona in Tucson will take place for BSU in early March.  Neutral-site games against Texas Tech and Tulsa in Las Vegas will test the Broncos later that month.  Boise State will face a tough task of opening its final Mountain West campaign with six consecutive road games, playing New Mexico in Albuquerque, followed by Fresno State on the road as well.

Conversely, the Broncos have the luxury of knowing that three of their final four conference series will come at home on their newly-crafted field.