Friday, December 13, 2013

All of next year's schedules revealed

Every Mountain West softball team has now released its 2014 schedule, and there are some marquee opponents dotting nearly everyone's slate.

Fresno State will face a difficult schedule in 2014, returning to a non-stop onslaught of national powers in non-conference play.  Five of the eight teams that reached the Women's College World Series in 2013 will be Bulldog opponents this season, a Mountain West high.  Fresno State will have six games against those five teams, as it will face SEC power Tennessee twice, and Washington, Arizona State, Texas and Nebraska once each.  Also on the schedule for the Bulldogs:  Arizona, Oregon, Virginia, Houston and Ohio State, to name a few.

Defending conference champion San Diego State is set to face a typically demanding schedule to which the Aztecs have become accustomed.  Easing things a bit is the fact SDSU will play 29 games at home.  San Diego State, which went 18-5 in 23 games at home a year ago, will host the likes of California, Tennessee, Utah, Ole Miss and BYU.

Colorado State will play 16 consecutive games away from Fort Collins to begin the season, and won't open its home schedule until the second weekend of March.  Highlighting CSU's 2014 schedule:  Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Ohio State.  The Rams will meet the Big Ten's Buckeyes on one of two trips it will take to Fresno this coming season.  Not only will CSU face the Bulldogs there in a 3-game MW conference series, but the Rams will also be one of seven teams to play in the Fresno State Classic in mid-March.

Boise State will play 23 home games, weather permitting, during the 2014 season -- a staggering number for a program that had just 15 at home a year ago.  Included is a 14-game homestand in March.  After finishing up at the St. Mary's Classic on March 2, the Broncos will not be on the road again until traveling to Colorado State on March 28.  The 26-day stretch between road games is the longest for Boise State in program history.  A highlight of the Broncos' slate:  a February 20 meeting in Palm Springs with defending NCAA champion Oklahoma.

San Jose State, which joins the Mountain West after winning its first WAC championship in 2013 and advancing to the NCAA Tournament a season ago, will play its first 10 games of the year in Tempe, Arizona.  The Spartans will play in consecutive tourneys at Arizona State to open the year, facing teams such as Washington, Michigan State and Indiana.  In a surprising scheduling move for a team located in the Golden State, SJSU will play 23 consecutive games away from home to begin the 2014 season.

UNLV will see the most home cooking of all.  The Rebels will host a Mountain West-high 30 home contests, and will face an impressive home schedule with several big names making the trip to Las Vegas.  Arkansas, Arizona, Oregon State, DePaul, Washington, Oregon and Baylor will all face the Rebels on the road.  UNLV will play just nine of its 55 games outside of the Las Vegas or Southern California area.

New Mexico will face a demanding schedule in 2014.  And like Fresno State, most of the Lobos' toughest opponents will come away from home.  UNM will tangle with several traditional heavyweights, including Alabama, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Northwestern and Georgia Tech.

Nevada will play 20 consecutive games away from Reno to begin the year, playing in tournaments in four different states (Arizona, Nevada, California and Utah) to start the season.  Michigan, Illinois and Hawai'i are all on the schedule for the Wolf Pack.  Nevada will play several teams multiple times in 2014, including Southern Utah (4 games), North Dakota (3), UC Santa Barbara (3), Seattle (2), UC Davis (2), BYU (2) and Grand Canyon (2).

Utah State, after winning just 11 of 54 games last year as a WAC member, enters a challenging first season in the Mountain West.  The Aggies will play just 15 home games, weather permitting, and won't face an opponent in Logan until they begin conference play on March 21 versus Colorado State.  Utah State's schedule includes BYU, Utah, Ole Miss and East Carolina.

Boise State 2014 schedule

Colorado State 2014 schedule

Fresno State 2014 schedule

Nevada 2014 schedule

New Mexico 2014 schedule

San Diego State 2014 schedule

San Jose State 2014 schedule

UNLV 2014 schedule

Utah State 2014 schedule

Monday, October 7, 2013

Opponents, times set for 2014 Palm Springs tourney

The complete (and revised) schedule for the 2014 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs has been unveiled, and it contains some marquee games for Mountain West teams.

Among the highlights:

Fresno State will take on perennial powerhouse Arizona in what amounts to a rematch of the 1998 NCAA championship game, won by the Bulldogs.  Coach Trisha Ford's squad will open the tourney against the Wildcats, and play four teams from power conferences, including SEC power and 2013 Women's College World Series qualifier Tennessee.  Fresno State will also tangle with Big 12 power Texas, which advanced to the WCWS a year ago.  The Bulldogs and Longhorns have a history of meeting in Palm Springs, with Fresno State knocking off Texas twice previously in the tournament.

Coach Erin Thorpe and Boise State will meet defending national champion Oklahoma, which arrives in Palm Springs without one of the best pitchers in NCAA history.  Former national Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts has graduated, but the Sooners (who went a staggering 57-4 in 2013) are sure to remain a force behind coach Patty Gasso.

Defending Mountain West champion San Diego State and head coach Kathy Van Wyk will take on two teams that advanced to Super Regional action in 2013, facing Missouri and Texas A&M.

New Mexico, under the leadership of coach Erica Beach, will face 12-time national champion UCLA among its five opponents.  And UNLV is a late tourney addition, facing the potentially weakest slate in the field.  The Rebels will not face a team from one of the nation's major conferences in the tourney.

The schedules for Mountain West teams in Palm Springs:

Thursday, February 20
12:30 pm - Boise State vs. Oregon State
3 pm - San Diego State vs. Fordham
5:30 pm - Boise State vs. Oklahoma
8 pm - San Diego State vs. Texas A&M

Friday, February 21
10:30 am - New Mexico vs. LIU Brooklyn
1 pm - New Mexico vs. CS Northridge
5:30 pm - Fresno State vs. Arizona
8:30 pm - San Diego State vs. Missouri
8:30 pm - Boise State vs. Pacific

Saturday, February 22
9:30 am - Fresno State vs. Texas
10 am - UNLV vs. UC Davis
12 pm - Fresno State vs. Virginia
12:30 pm - San Diego State vs. Northwestern
3 pm - UNLV vs. LIU Brooklyn
7:30 pm - New Mexico vs. Long Beach State
8 pm - Boise State vs. Cal State Fullerton

Sunday, February 23
9 am - Boise State vs. Nebraska
11:30 am - New Mexico vs. Cal Poly
11:30 am - Fresno State vs. LIU Brooklyn
2 pm - UNLV vs. Cal Poly
2 pm - New Mexico vs. UCLA
4:30 pm - Fresno State vs. Tennessee
4:30 pm - San Diego State vs. Oklahoma State
4:30 pm - UNLV vs. Cal State Northridge

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Monster field set for Palm Springs in 2014

There were some late changes, with two teams added and two dropping out, but the 2014 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic will host one of its best fields in history.

Teams that account for 28 of the 32 all-time NCAA tournament championships will be on hand in the neighboring Palm Springs community of Cathedral City in February, including defending NCAA champion Oklahoma.  Along with the Sooners will be former national champions Fresno State, UCLA, Arizona, California, Washington, Texas A&M, and Cal State Fullerton.

Joining the Bulldogs in representing the Mountain West will be Boise State, New Mexico and San Diego State.  Fields and game times are expected to be announced soon.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Four MW teams to face off against nation's best in 2014

The nation's best in-season softball tournament will have four participants from the Mountain West in 2014.

At the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs' neighbor, Cathedral City, four of the Mountain West's best will face off against the nation's elite in this 34-team field.

After not traveling to Palm Springs last year for the first time in eight years, Fresno State will make its eighth appearance in the last nine seasons in the tournament in 2014.  San Diego State will return for a fifth consecutive year, and both New Mexico and Boise State will be in the field as well.

Among the notable powers the Mountain West teams could play:  UCLA, Arizona, Missouri, Washington, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Oregon, defending NCAA champion Oklahoma, Stanford, Cal, and Baylor.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

San Diego State's season ends with 3-2 loss

San Diego State got some big hits from Mountain West Player of the Year Patrice Jackson Saturday, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Aztecs' season from coming to an end.

Jackson blasted home runs in both SDSU games today.  Her grand slam broke a 1-all tie with future MW member San Jose State in a 5-1 win Saturday afternoon.  In the evening's late game, she hit a 2-run homer in the fifth to erase a 3-run deficit against Georgia of the Southeastern Conference, but the Aztecs fell 3-2.

In the bottom of the seventh inning against the Bulldogs, Jackson drove a double just inside the left field line with one out.  Following an intentional walk to Lorena Bauer, San Diego State not only had the potential tying run in scoring position, but the possible winning run at first base, still with only one out.

Kamerin May lined out to third base on the first pitch of the at-bat for the second out of the inning.  Her sister, Kristin, then surprisingly swung on a 3-0 pitch with two runners aboard, ending the game and the Aztecs' season on a soft groundout to third.

It culminated a night where San Diego State blew several strong scoring chances.  In the first inning, the Aztecs had the bases loaded with no outs and failed to score.  SDSU left the bases loaded again in the fourth inning and stranded 10 in the game.

Freshman Danielle O'Toole gave up a 3-run home run in the third inning as Georgia went in front 3-0.  O'Toole settled down after that, allowing only two hits over the game's final four innings.  She needed just 80 total pitches in a complete-game effort, but still took the loss.

San Diego State finished the season 36-20 overall, but 0-11 against teams ranked in at least one of the two major Top 25 polls.  Georgia must beat Arizona State twice Sunday to advance to Super Regional play.

Jackson's grand slam in Saturday's first game came against Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Amanda Pridmore of San Jose State.  The Spartans finished 0-2 in their first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than two decades. SJSU's next softball game will come in February 2014 when the Spartans will be Mountain West members.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Aztecs fall to Georgia 9-3 in NCAA opener

San Diego State gave up five early runs and couldn't complete a comeback in a 9-3 loss to Georgia in the NCAA Tournament Friday in Tempe.

Mountain West Pitcher of the Year Rebecca Arbino struggled in two innings of work and took the loss.  After getting a pair of quick outs in the first inning, Arbino allowed three straight Georgia hits, including a 3-run homer as the Bulldogs took the early lead.

After Arbino gave up two additional runs in the second for a 5-0 Georgia lead, San Diego State answered back with a 3-run top of the third.  The Aztecs had five consecutive singles to begin the third inning, but those would be their first and only hits of the game.

Mountain West Freshman of the Year Danielle O'Toole came on to pitch the bottom of the third inning, but also had some trouble with the UGA bats.  O'Toole allowed eight hits and four Bulldog runs in four innings, though only one was earned.  SDSU had two errors in the contest.

Patrice Jackson, the Mountain West Player of the Year, was 0-for-3 but had an RBI.  Kayla Jordan and Tiffany Corder had a hit and RBI each for the Aztecs.  Kaylee Puailoa and Anna Swafford hit home runs for Georgia, and both finished with three RBI.  Freshman Geri Ann Glasco was 4-for-4 for the Bulldogs.

The Aztecs (35-19) fell to 0-10 this season against teams that are ranked in at least one of the major Top 25 polls. Georgia, No. 21 in the country in one poll and receiving votes in another, improved to 39-19 on the year.  SDSU is now 12-17 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.

San Diego State will play an elimination game Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time against San Jose State, a 5-2 loser to Arizona State today.   If SDSU wins that one, it would have to come back in an additional game later Saturday night and win again in order to advance to Sunday's regional final.

Saturday's San Diego State-San Jose State game will be a preview of things to come next season when the Spartans join the Mountain West in all sports, including softball.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

All-Mountain West selections announced

The 2013 All-Mountain West softball team was announced Tuesday, and San Diego State, Fresno State and UNLV led the way with four picks each.

Despite not clinching a very tight race until the next to last day of the regular season, the Aztecs ran away with top honors across the board, sweeping all four major awards in coaches' balloting.

In addition to Kathy Van Wyk winning Coach of the Year honors, SDSU junior Patrice Jackson (.396 batting average, conference-leading 9 home runs, conference-leading 19 RBI, conference-best 1.042 slugging percentage) was named Mountain West Player of the Year.

Aztecs senior Rebecca Arbino (8-4, 2.02 ERA, 1 complete-game shutout, .235 opposing batting average, conference-best 73 strikeouts) was named Pitcher of the Year.  And Danielle O'Toole (5-1, conference-leading 1.46 ERA, 3 complete games, no complete-game shutouts, .246 opposing batting average) was named Freshman of the Year.

All-conference selections included:

Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton (7-3, 2.37 ERA, conference-best 5 complete-game shutouts, conference-best 8 complete games, conference-best .211 opposing batting average, 70 strikeouts -- second best in the MW).

UNLV junior outfielder Stefany Valentino (.452 batting average -- second best in the MW, conference-best 28 hits, ranked in the Top 10 of 11 offensive categories), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team.

Boise State senior outfielder Holly Bourke (.355 BA, 14 runs scored, 3 home runs, 8 RBI).

Fresno State sophomore outfielder Brenna Moss (.358 BA, conference-leader in stolen bases both in MW games with 13 and overall with 34, national leader in triples with 9).  Moss is the only sophomore from any MW school on the all-conference team.

Colorado State junior third baseman Chelsea Biglow (.379 BA, 15 RBI, 10 extra-base hits in conference play), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team.

UNLV freshman catcher Emily Haslinger (.378 BA in 10 starts, 12 hits, 3 HR, 10 RBI, .703 slugging percentage).

Fresno State junior third baseman Vonnie Martin (.436 batting average -- third best in the MW, conference-best 14 game hitting streak, 24 hits, 12 RBI, .475 OBP), who made her second straight all-conference team after earning All-WAC honors last year.

Boise State junior first baseman Devon Bridges (.421 batting average -- fourth best in the MW, .522 OBP, 6 home runs -- second best in the MW, 16 RBI), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team.

UNLV junior pitcher Amanda Oliveto (6-6, 4.33 ERA -- 10th best in conference games, 3 complete-game shutouts -- second best in the conference).

San Diego State junior designated player Lorena Bauer (conference-leading .469 batting average, 23 hits, 5 HR, 15 RBI).

Nevada junior second baseman Karley Hopkins (.412 BA, conference-leading 28 hits, 16 RBI -- third best in the MW, .431 OBP).

Fresno State freshman catcher Paige Gumz (.352 BA, started all 54 games behind the plate as a true freshman, 19 hits, .407 OBP, allowed just eight steals).

UNLV junior first baseman Tayler Van Acker (.388 BA, 14 runs scored, .492 OBP), who was named to her second All-Mountain West team.  Van Acker's other honor came as a freshman in the 2011 season.

Boise State junior outfielder Tara Glover (.275 BA, 19 hits, 1 home run, 9 RBI, 9 stolen bases -- second best in the conference), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team.

Colorado State senior pitcher Kacie McCarthy (7-5, 2.37 ERA, 3 complete-game shutouts -- tied with Oliveto for second-best in the MW behind Compton, .251 opposing batting average, 79.2 innings pitched to lead the conference), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team after being named Pitcher of the Year as a junior.

Nevada freshman third baseman Jasmine Jenkins (.362 BA, conference-leading 7 doubles in MW games, .483 slugging percentage).

Colorado State junior shortstop Ashlie Ortega (.404 BA, 23 hits, .521 OBP, .614 slugging percentage), who made her second straight All-Mountain West team.

The 20-member team included just three seniors, setting the stage for what should be a strong next few years for the Mountain West.  There are 11 juniors on the all-conference team, just one sophomore and five freshmen.

In 2014, both Fresno State and UNLV will return four all-conference players.  The Bulldogs are the only Mountain West team to have two freshmen named to the all-conference team.  New Mexico was the only school without a representative named All-MW.

Notable omissions from the squad included Nevada's Lauren Lastrapes (.358 BA, 19 hits, .528 slugging percentage), Fresno State's Diane Runge (.339 BA, 20 hits), Michelle Solomon (who ranked in the top 4 of both RBI and stolen bases in conference play) and Hannah Harris (2.19 ERA -- third best in the MW), Colorado State's Cassy Mosser (.322 BA, 19 hits), UNLV's Pauline Monreal (19 RBI -- best in the MW, .509 slugging percentage), and Boise State's Jordan Kreiger (.348 BA, 16 hits, .587 slugging percentage), among others.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Aztecs open NCAA play Friday vs. Georgia

San Diego State will open NCAA Tournament play Friday at the Tempe Regional, hosted by Arizona State.

The Mountain West champion Aztecs will take on the Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference in Tempe at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time Friday afternoon.  The game, like all of the games that will take place in Tempe this weekend, will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Also in the Tempe Regional are host Arizona State and San Jose State, the Western Athletic Conference champion.  The Spartans will join the Mountain West on July 1 and will be a MW softball team next season.

View the complete NCAA bracket here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 regular season comes to an end Saturday

All seven teams were in action Saturday as the 2013 regular season came to a close.  San Diego State and Colorado State completed 3-game sweeps in conference play, while Boise State won its final series of the season over Nevada.  UNLV and New Mexico experienced a winless weekend, while Fresno State saw its season come to a disappointing end when it was swept at Long Beach State.

San Diego State 2, UNLV 1 -- Patrice Jackson hit an RBI single in the first and Kamerin May added another in the third as the Aztecs swept the Rebels in San Diego. Rebecca Arbino scattered six hits to grab the win, while Amanda Oliveto gave up seven in the loss.  Heather Harrison's RBI single in the sixth accounted for UNLV's lone run.  San Diego State finished 13-5 in Mountain West play with a second straight regular season title.  The Aztecs, who finished two games ahead of second-place Fresno State and Colorado State, will learn their NCAA Tournament matchup Sunday at 7 pm PT on ESPNU.  The Rebels finish the year alone in sixth place in the conference at 7-11.

Boise State 7, Nevada 6 -- Both teams finished tied for fourth in the Mountain West at 9-9 after the Broncos won the series two games to one in Boise.  Kenzie Cole got the win and senior Lela Work picked up the 12th save of her career in her final game as a Bronco.  Karlyn Jones took the loss for Nevada.  Boise State hit five home runs in the game from five different players.  Work and fellow senior Holly Bourke both went deep, along with Devon Bridges, Brittany McCray and Jordan Kreiger.  Senior Lauren Lastrapes hit a home run for Nevada in her final collegiate game.

Colorado State 10, New Mexico 5 -- The Rams swept the series from struggling New Mexico, sending the Lobos to a 10th consecutive loss in Mountain West play to end the season.  Colorado State, which was predicted to finish second in the conference in the preseason coaches poll, ended the year in a tie for second alongside Fresno State.  UNM, predicted to finish fifth in the preseason by Mountain West coaches and last in our preview here at the blog, finished last.  Kaela DeBroeck took the loss in her final career start for the Lobos.  Colorado State freshman Holly Reinke got the win.  Shae Rodriguez hit two home runs and had five RBI for CSU.  Cassandra Kalapsa hit a homer and had three RBI for the Lobos.  Danielle Wikre and Ashlie Ortega also hit round-trippers for the Rams, who finished 25-24 overall.

Long Beach State 4, Fresno State 3 -- Jill Compton saw her scoreless innings streak end at 23 after entering in relief as Long Beach State came from behind for a win at home over the Bulldogs.  Fresno State was up 2-1 in the fourth after freshman Hannah Harris went the first three innings.  Compton lost the lead in the fifth when she allowed three hits, including a 2-run home run as Long Beach State won its sixth straight game.  Vonnie Martin homered for the Bulldogs against two-time reigning Big West Pitcher of the Week Erin Jones-Wesley, who earned the win.  Martin extended her conference-best hitting streak to 14 games, while Brenna Moss hit her NCAA-leading ninth triple and stole her MW-leading 33rd base of the season. 

Long Beach State 3, Fresno State 2 -- In a near carbon copy of the day's first game, Jill Compton took a second straight loss and allowed a 3-run home run as Long Beach State beat the Bulldogs for a third time this season and swept the doubleheader.  Fresno State hit two home runs of its own with Stesha Brazil putting the Bulldogs up early with her 10th, and Michelle Solomon belting one in the sixth.  The 49ers' home run came in the fourth, immediately following a Bulldog infield error with Fresno State up 1-0.  Trailing by a run in their final inning of the season, the Bulldogs went quietly as Amanda Hansen retired the side in order for the first time in the game.  It was a record-setting day, both in a good and not so great way.  Brenna Moss stole her 34th base of the year and the Bulldogs tied a Mountain West single-season record with 87 steals.  The defeat, however, tied a dubious school mark.  Fresno State joined the 1993 Bulldogs squad with 24 losses in a single season, most in the school's softball history.  That '93 team, however, played eight more games than this year's team and advanced to the NCAA Tournament where it won a game and went 1-2.  The 2013 team also finished the season with 21 losses away from home, winning just 12 of 33 contests away from Bulldog Diamond.  No previous Fresno State softball team had lost more than 15 road and neutral-site contests in a single season.

Friday, May 10, 2013

SDSU takes advantage of UNLV miscues in rout

San Diego State won the Mountain West regular-season title outright Friday night in a nationally-televised rout of UNLV on the Aztecs' home field.

The Rebels weren't sharp defensively from the outset and SDSU took advantage.  UNLV committed five errors in the contest from five different players -- three in the infield and two outfielders -- and Lorena Bauer hit a 3-run home run to power the Aztecs to a 7-0 win.

The win secured a second straight outright Mountain West crown for San Diego State as the Aztecs moved a game and a half in front of idle Fresno State with just one day remaining in the regular season.

Elsewhere, Nevada came from behind to tie Boise State in the seventh inning and win it with a 5-run eighth.  And Colorado State beat New Mexico for the second day in a row, despite also being out-hit for the second consecutive day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aztecs clinch automatic NCAA bid

By virtue of Thursday's results, there will not be much drama as the rest of the weekend continues in Mountain West action.

Once San Diego State defeated UNLV Thursday, the race for that coveted automatic NCAA Tournament berth was over.  All that remains to be answered is whether the Aztecs will now win the Mountain West championship outright.

San Diego State 5, UNLV 1

In a tight pitcher's duel where each team finished with four hits, Lorena Bauer came up big in her final two at-bats of the night for San Diego State.

Locked in a 0-0 game where neither team had a hit entering the bottom of the fourth inning, a UNLV error opened the door.  With two runners on base in the fourth following a walk by Rebels pitcher Amanda Oliveto and the aforementioned error, Bauer hit an RBI double.  It was San Diego State's first hit of the game, and Kristin May followed with a 2-run single.

In the sixth, after the Rebels trimmed the lead to a run, Bauer hit a 2-run homer for the final margin.  Rebecca Arbino scattered four hits for the victory, while Oliveto allowed four hits in defeat.  The win moved San Diego State to 11-5 in conference play and -- at worst -- clinched a tie for first place with Fresno State.  With the Aztecs now holding every possible tiebreaker, they clinched the Mountain West's automatic NCAA bid.

A win Friday over UNLV, in a nationally-televised game on CBS Sports Network, would give San Diego State the outright Mountain West regular-season championship.

Colorado State 3, New Mexico 2

In Albuquerque, the Rams sent the Lobos to an eighth straight conference loss.

After getting down 3-0, New Mexico's late rally fell short despite a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh.  UNM out-hit the Rams 10 to seven in the game.

Kacie McCarthy went 5 2/3 innings to grab the win, while Molly Randle picked up the save.  A 2-run homer by Naomi Tellez off Randle in the seventh accounted for UNM's runs.  CSU got back to back RBI doubles from Chelsea Biglow and Danielle Wikre in the third and an Emily Pohl RBI single in the fifth.

Boise State 10, Nevada 2 (5 innings)

A 7-run third inning uprising was the difference in this one as Boise State routed Nevada early Thursday afternoon, ensuring the Wolf Pack couldn't capture the MW title.

Makenna Weir had a double and three RBI, while Jordan Kreiger had a pair of singles for the Broncos.  Starter Rebecca Patton gave up seven hits in 3+ innings but still captured the win.  Lela Work pitched the final two frames for Boise State, allowing just a hit.

Nevada left the bases loaded in two of the first four innings.  Karley Hopkins and Sara Parsons each had two hits for the Wolf Pack.  Megan Dortch started and took the loss, allowing five earned runs.  Though she allowed just three hits, Dortch walked six in 2+ innings.

Final week: 4 teams can still claim MW title

We're down to the final three days of the regular season and there are still four teams alive in the race to claim the Mountain West softball championship.

Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and San Diego State still have championship dreams entering the final weekend of the 2013 season.

The 64-team NCAA field will be announced Sunday at 7 pm PDT on ESPNU, and it's guaranteed to include one of these three:  Colorado State, Fresno State or San Diego State.  Nevada, which has an outside chance of claiming a piece of the regular-season Mountain West title, can not claim the conference's automatic NCAA bid, however.

The Wolf Pack can only tie for the regular-season title, and can not win the automatic bid under any tiebreak scenario.  Meanwhile, San Diego State can clinch an NCAA berth as early as tonight with a win over UNLV.

The Aztecs (10-5 MW, 32-18 overall) need just one win over the Rebels this weekend to clinch at least a tie for the Mountain West regular-season crown.  One win would also be enough for SDSU to claim the conference's automatic NCAA bid since every tiebreak scenario breaks the Aztecs' way.  Two wins would give San Diego State an outright MW championship.

Fresno State (11-7 MW, 30-22 overall), which already has completed its conference season, will earn the Mountain West's automatic NCAA bid if the following occurs:  UNLV sweeps its series at San Diego State and New Mexico wins at least one of three games against Colorado State.

The Rams (8-7 MW, 22-24 overall) will earn the Mountain West's automatic bid if the following occurs:  Colorado State sweeps its series at New Mexico and UNLV sweeps San Diego State.

The Aztecs are looking for their sixth straight NCAA appearance and their sixth Mountain West softball title.  Fresno State is looking for a national-best 31st NCAA appearance in 32 years.  Already guaranteed no worse than a tie for second place in the MW, the Bulldogs have continued a remarkable streak:  Every Fresno State softball team in the 36-year history of the program has finished in the top three of its final conference standings.

Nevada, with at least one win this weekend at Boise State, can capture a 30-win season for the first time since 2009.  The Broncos, with a sweep over the Wolf Pack,  can finish with a winning overall record.

UNLV (7-8, 21-28) at San Diego State (10-5, 32-18)
Today, 6 pm PDT; Friday, 5 pm PDT; Saturday, 1 pm PDT
Outlook:  The Aztecs win the conference title outright with two wins this weekend and secure the Mountain West's automatic NCAA berth with one win.  A sweep by UNLV will not only deny San Diego State the MW title and automatic NCAA berth, but it could also keep the Aztecs out of the NCAA Tournament entirely.  With an RPI of 48, SDSU is clearly in bubble territory.  Friday's game will be nationally televised by CBS Sports Network.

Nevada (8-7, 29-21) at Boise State (7-8, 23-25-1)
Today, 3 pm MDT; Friday, 3 pm MDT; Saturday, 1 pm MDT
Outlook:  The Wolf Pack still have an outside shot at tying for the Mountain West title but must sweep the series.  After being selected to finish last in the preseason poll of conference coaches, that would be quite an accomplishment for the Pack.  Boise State has not lost a conference series at home this season and is the only team in the MW to win series against both Colorado State and San Diego State.  Conversely, the Broncos were the only team to lose a conference series to last-place New Mexico.

Colorado State (8-7, 22-24) at New Mexico (3-12, 21-32)
Today, 6 pm MDT; Friday, 6 pm MDT; Saturday, 1 pm MDT
Outlook:  The Rams still have a slim chance at tying for the Mountain West title and claiming the conference's automatic NCAA berth, but it will require a lot of help from other teams.  CSU is 5-10 in its last 15 games, has lost three of its past four MW series, and is 2-4 on the road in conference play.  The Rams must sweep the Lobos to finish with a winning overall record, and that in itself is a bit of a disappointment for a team that entered the year with very high expectations.  New Mexico, which began the year 0-7 in February non-conference play, is now 0-7 in its last seven Mountain West games as well.

Fresno State (30-22) at Long Beach State (35-20)
Saturday, 1 pm PDT (doubleheader)
Outlook:  The Bulldogs improved as the season went along, and this weekend will tell us just how much.  When these teams met in San Diego more than two months ago, it was all 49ers.  Long Beach State's Erin Jones-Wesley no-hit the Bulldogs in an 8-0, 6-inning, run-rule affair that proved to be the low point of Fresno State's season.  Coach Trisha Ford's squad could treat this as an NCAA Tournament-type game since there is nothing to lose at this point in the season.  Long Beach State is one of the country's hottest teams and has a chance at an NCAA at-large bid, while the Bulldogs have just a slim shot at reaching the NCAA field.  The 49ers have won five straight, including two wins in Honolulu against nationally-ranked Hawaii. Long Beach State scored 25 runs in a doubleheader road sweep against the Wahine.  Fresno State is two steals away from tying the all-time Mountain West record in stolen bases (87) for a single season.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Aztecs sweep Rams; Compton again powers 'Dogs

San Diego State rebounded from a loss to Colorado State Saturday and swept a doubleheader from the Rams Sunday to move alone into first place in the Mountain West.  Fresno State got a third straight shutout and a career-high in strikeouts from freshman Jill Compton to sweep its series with New Mexico.  And UNLV shut out Boise State on a day both the Rebels and the Broncos were eliminated from the conference championship picture.

San Diego St. 12-4, Colorado St. 4-0

The Aztecs had a big offensive game in the opener and then got a strong pitching performance in the nightcap to beat the Rams twice.

San Diego State had five home runs in Sunday's first game, and Kristin May had a pair of them to finish with five RBI in a 12-4 (six innings) win.  In the nightcap, senior Rebecca Arbino rebounded from two straight losses in conference play to throw a complete-game 2-hitter in a 4-0 win.

Patrice Jackson hit her MW-leading 16th homer of the season in game one, while Kayla Jordan and Katie Mathis also went deep.  San Diego State out-hit CSU 11 to seven.  Jackson and Jordan finished with three RBI each, and Jordan had three hits.

San Diego State freshman Danielle O'Toole got the win, scattering seven hits.  Colorado State's Shae Rodriguez was the hitting star for the Rams with a home run, two hits, and all four RBI against O'Toole.  The Aztecs made the most of their hits, stranding just one runner in the game.

Kacie McCarthy took the loss in both games, ending her 4-year career with consecutive home losses.  In the process, CSU's Mountain West title hopes took a huge hit.  The Rams (8-7) must now sweep a 3-game series in Albuquerque next week in order to tie Fresno State (11-7), which has already completed its conference season. Nevada also has a chance to reach 11-7 with a sweep next week, and San Diego State needs two wins against UNLV to claim the MW title.

Arbino allowed two hits and struck out four in the nightcap.  Jackson, Mathis and Kamerin May all had doubles as the Aztecs had seven hits in game two.  Each team left four runners aboard.

Fresno State 4, New Mexico 0

Freshman Jill Compton's standout pitching continued with a 2-hit shutout and a career-high 12 strikeouts.  It was her third consecutive complete-game shutout in Mountain West play as the Bulldogs swept visiting New Mexico.

Compton, who fired a 1-hit shutout on Friday, tossed her second complete-game shutout of the weekend and has now thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings in Mountain West action.  Of Compton's last six wins in conference play, an astonishing five have been shutouts.  It was the freshman's seventh shutout of the season as the Lobos had trouble mustering any offense.

In 14 innings against New Mexico this weekend, Compton allowed just three hits, none for extra bases.  Fresno State's Vonnie Martin remained hot, extending her Mountain West-leading hitting streak to 13 games. Martin got Sunday's scoring started with a first inning RBI, later adding a single and a walk and finishing with a .625 average for the series.

The Bulldogs used their speed to massive success again, setting a school single-game record with eight stolen bases in the contest and finishing with 17 in the series.  Fresno State now has 85 stolen bases for the season, two shy of tying the all-time Mountain West record in a season.

Brenna Moss stole her school-record 32nd of the year, while Diane Runge added two, and Michelle Solomon, Maria Sio and Kapri Angotti had one each.  Solomon, Sio and Stesha Brazil had two hits apiece as Fresno State pounded out 10 hits against three Lobos pitchers.

New Mexico's Kaela DeBroeck took the loss.  Fresno State moved into sole possession of second place in the Mountain West and finished 11-7 in conference play.  The Bulldogs can win the MW championship outright if UNLV sweeps San Diego State next week, and if Nevada and Colorado State do not sweep their respective series.

It was Fresno State's 30th win of the season, marking the 32nd consecutive year the Bulldogs have won 30 or more games in the sport of softball.  The Lobos, meanwhile, are guaranteed to finish in last place in the Mountain West again after falling to 3-12.

UNLV 5, Boise State 0

The Rebels got a complete-game shutout from junior pitcher Amanda Oliveto to defeat the Broncos in Las Vegas.

Both teams remained alive in the Mountain West title race until Fresno State's win over New Mexico went final.  With the Bulldogs improving to 11-7 and completing their conference season, both Boise State and UNLV were eliminated from title contention.

The Broncos and Rebels are both 7-8 with one conference series remaining.  Each can play spoiler next weekend though.  A sweep by UNLV in San Diego will prevent the Aztecs from winning the Mountain West crown.  Likewise, Boise State can ensure that Nevada doesn't tie for the league championship by beating the Wolf Pack at least once in Boise.

Oliveto scattered four hits to grab the win after Boise State took the first two games of this series.

UNLV scored all of the runs it would need in the third inning with the help of a crucial Broncos error.  An infield pop up behind the circle caused some miscommunication as a pair of Broncos collided, and second baseman Jordan Kreiger was charged with an error.  With two outs, the Rebels made Boise State pay.

Senior Heather Harrison, in her final home game, launched a grand slam following the error to put UNLV up 4-0 and that was all Oliveto would need.  Senior Tayler Aleman later added the 33rd home run of her career -- a solo shot.

Katie Uriarte and Tayler Van Acker had two hits for the Rebels.  Boise State got two from Holly Bourke.  Kenzie Cole took the complete-game loss, despite allowing just one earned run.  Olvieto struck out four and walked three.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Log jam at the top with Rams, Aztecs & Bulldogs

The race for the Mountain West title keeps getting closer.  In fact, it really couldn't be any closer than it is.  We're tied, with three teams all within a fraction of each other.

Colorado State beat San Diego State, Fresno State knocked off New Mexico, and Boise State edged UNLV to keep the race extremely tight.  At the top of the Mountain West standings, the Rams and the Aztecs are all knotted up at 8-5.  Fresno State then joined those two atop the conference, moving into a virtual first-place tie and trailing only by percentage points.

Colorado State 3, San Diego St. 0

Kacie McCarthy allowed four hits in a complete-game effort as Colorado State beat San Diego State in Fort Collins in game one of an important 3-game series.

The Aztecs, who had a 2-game lead over the rest of the Mountain West less than week ago, now find themselves tied with CSU for first place at 8-5 in conference play.  San Diego State suffered its second straight shutout loss after losing a 4-0 game to Fresno State and Jill Compton in its last outing.

The Aztecs had several chances to score in the game, but stranded eight, leaving the bases loaded in the third and stranding runners at second and third base in the fifth inning.  McCarthy retired the side in order only twice in the game.

The Rams took a 2-0 lead in the second when Danielle Wikre hit a 2-run home run off eventual losing pitcher Rebecca Arbino, who lost for a second game in a row.  Alysa Greckel singled to lead off the second before Wikre's homer.

CSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth on Chelsea Biglow's 2-out RBI double.  It scored Ashlie Ortega, who singled with one out in the frame.  While McCarthy allowed four hits, she walked three, including Mountain West home run leader Patrice Jackson twice.

Arbino allowed six hits, struck out two and walked three.  Katie Mathis of San Diego State was the only player in the game with multiple hits.  Mathis had two.

Fresno State 2, New Mexico 1

With a chance to move into a virtual tie for first place in the Mountain West, Fresno State came through at home and knocked off the visiting Lobos.

The Bulldogs improved to 17-3 at home and won for the ninth time in their last 10 games on a record-setting night.

Fresno State stole four bases, with Brenna Moss and Kapri Angotti stealing two each.  Their double steal in the third inning may have been the play of the game as well.  Not only did it break the school's all-time stolen base mark in a single season at 77 (old mark of 75, set in 1980), but it moved both runners into scoring position.

Angotti had singled to lead off the inning, and Moss walked.  With one out, the pair stole second and third base and were in scoring position when Vonnie Martin stepped to the plate looking to extend the Mountain West's longest current hitting streak.  And she did.

Martin delivered what turned out to be the game-winning, 2-run single, scoring both Angotti and Moss.  The single pushed Martin's hitting streak to 12 games and gave Fresno State a 2-0 lead.

New Mexico scored its only run in the sixth when Naomi Tellez hit an RBI single to score Marian Rimmer, who singled with two outs in the frame.  It snapped a streak of 32 1/3 innings in which Fresno State freshman pitcher Hannah Harris had not allowed an earned run at home.  Harris scattered six hits to earn the victory.

Moss also broke the school's single-season individual stolen bases record Saturday with her 28th and 29th of the year.  Martin went 2-for-3 with both RBI to lead the way for the Bulldogs.  Fresno State again wasted numerous scoring chances, getting three hits in the fifth inning but leaving the bases loaded and failing to score.  The 'Dogs stranded runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings.

Coach Trisha Ford's squad can put serious pressure on Colorado State and San Diego State with a Sunday win, which would be Fresno State's 11th in conference play.  The Bulldogs (10-7) are currently two games ahead of both the Rams and Aztecs in the win column, but trail both by two games in the loss column.  UNM fell to 3-11 in MW play.

Lauren Soles allowed seven hits and both earned runs to get the loss for New Mexico, which lost for the 13th straight time to the Bulldogs.

Boise State 9, UNLV 7

In a wild deja vu type game, Boise State stormed to a big lead, lost it, and then rallied for a win over the Rebels in Las Vegas.

It was a carbon copy of Friday's game early as the Broncos roughed up UNLV freshman starting pitcher Francesca Foti in the first inning.  Just like a day earlier, Boise State pushed five runs across in the first, but this time Foti didn't make it out of the inning.

The freshman was replaced with junior Amanda Oliveto, who entered with only one out in the first inning and the Rebels already down 5-0.  Making matters worse, Boise State had the bases loaded and there was only one out.

Oliveto escaped that jam, and UNLV -- just like it did on Friday -- rallied with six unanswered runs to take the lead.  The problem for Boise State was on defense, where the Broncos committed three errors and allowed two passed balls.

The Rebels' 6-run uprising came on five unearned runs thanks to the Broncos' miscues.  UNLV took its first lead on Katie Uriarte's infield RBI single in the fourth.  It came following a Devon Bridges error.

The big hit for Boise State came in the sixth.  With two outs, freshman Makenna Weir capped her big 6-RBI day with a grand slam off Oliveto.  Weir's other hit was a 2-run double as she went 2-for-3 in the game.  Lela Work picked up her second win of the weekend.

Both teams finished with nine hits.  Tara Glover joined Weir with two hits for the Broncos.  UNLV had three players with two hits apiece -- Uriarte, Pauline Monreal and Tayler Van Acker.  Boise State moved to 7-7 in conference play, while UNLV was virtually eliminated from the Mountain West title picture by falling to 6-8.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fresno State's Compton 1-hits Lobos in shutout

Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton threw a shutout for a fourth consecutive weekend and became the first Mountain West pitcher to earn a sixth win in conference play.  Compton allowed just one hit in an impressive complete-game effort as the Bulldogs beat New Mexico 3-0 Friday.

Elsewhere, Boise State roared to a big early lead, saw it disappear, and then came back for a 15-6 win at UNLV.

Fresno State 3, New Mexico 0

Fresno State freshman Jill Compton struck out 10 and tossed a complete-game 1-hitter, shutting out New Mexico at Bulldog Diamond.  For Compton, it was the sixth complete-game shutout of her freshman season, her third 1-hitter, and the fourth time she's allowed one hit or less in a game this season.

Brenna Moss had three hits for Fresno State, including her nation-leading eighth triple.  Moss also scored two runs and stole two bases, giving her a Mountain West-best 27 steals on the year.  In all, Fresno State had five steals in the contest for a total of 73 this season -- two shy of a school record.

Kaela DeBroeck threw a complete game for UNM, but allowed 11 hits.  Fresno State blew several strong scoring chances, stranding eight and leaving several in scoring position.

Vonnie Martin had two hits for the Bulldogs, running her current hitting streak to 11 games in a row, best in the conference.  Freshman Paige Gumz had two hits, and the Bulldogs got back to back hits from pinch hitters Taylor Green and Caitlin Neal in the sixth.  For Neal, it was her first hit as a Bulldog.

Compton allowed a 1-out single to Kaity Ingram in the top of the third inning and that was it.  After retiring 13 batters in a row, Compton allowed a walk with two outs in the seventh before a groundout ended it.  Fresno State won its 12th straight against UNM and now leads the series 30-5.

Compton's shutout was her second straight, following Sunday's shutout win at San Diego State.  She's pitched 15 consecutive scoreless innings.  The Bulldogs moved into a virtual tie for second place in the conference at 9-7.  UNM fell to 3-10.

Boise State 15, UNLV 6

The Broncos pushed five runs across in the top of the first inning to take a big lead, but later had to come from behind to beat the Rebels in Las Vegas.

Lela Work picked up the win in relief for Boise State after Rebecca Patton gave up four runs and lasted just one inning.  UNLV, for the first time in Mountain West play, didn't start Amanda Oliveto in game one of a series.  Instead, freshman Francesca Foti got the start and took the loss, allowing seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Oliveto came on in the third, but didn't fare any better against a Broncos team that had 14 hits in the game.  She gave up seven earned runs on seven hits but wasn't a factor in the decision.

Work threw the final six full innings for Boise State, scattering four hits and allowing a pair of earned runs for the win.

The Broncos were all about extra-base hits in this one as only six of their 14 hits were singles.  Boise State had four home runs, including two by Devon Bridges.  Both of Bridges' hits in the game were homers and she finished with three RBI.

Mackenzie Whyte and Sarah Barnes also went deep.  Bridges and Barnes were two of five BSU players with two hits in the contest.  Joining them were Tara Glover, Rose Saenz and Jordan Kreiger.

The Broncos' win left both teams at 6-7 in the conference race and in a tie for fifth place.

Wild scenarios and NCAA chances for all

There are still numerous chances for as many as six teams to win the Mountain West title.  While remembering that there are many different scenarios, let's look at just a few of the most intriguing possibilities:

5-way tie for the title at 11-7

This occurs if...
  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • UNLV sweeps Boise State this week; and
  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from New Mexico next week; and
  • UNLV takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State next week; and
  • Nevada sweeps Boise State next week.

Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, San Diego State and UNLV would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Colorado State would claim the automatic NCAA berth based on its 8-4 record against the teams it tied for the conference title.

4-way tie for the title at 11-7

This occurs if...
  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • Boise State sweeps UNLV this week; and
  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from New Mexico next week; and
  • UNLV takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State next week; and
  • Boise State sweeps Nevada next week.

Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State and San Diego State would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Colorado State would claim the automatic NCAA berth.  Fresno State and Colorado State would both be 5-4 against the teams they tied for the conference title, but the Rams would win the automatic bid based on a 2-1 series win over the Bulldogs.

4-way tie for the title at 11-7 (scenario 2)

This occurs if...

  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • UNLV does not sweep Boise State this week; and
  • Colorado State takes 2 of 3 from New Mexico next week; and
  • UNLV takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State next week; and
  • Nevada sweeps Boise State next week.

Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada and San Diego State would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Colorado State would claim the automatic NCAA berth by virtue of having the best record against those it tied for the conference title.

4-way tie for the title at 11-7 (scenario 3)

This occurs if...
  • San Diego State takes 2 of 3 from Colorado State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • UNLV sweeps Boise State this week; and
  • Colorado State sweeps New Mexico next week; and
  • UNLV takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State next week; and
  • Nevada does not sweep Boise State next week.

Colorado State, Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Colorado State would claim the automatic NCAA berth based on its 6-3 record against the teams it tied for the conference title.

4-way tie for the title at 11-7 (scenario 4)

This occurs if...
  • San Diego State takes 2 of 3 from Colorado State this week; and
  • Fresno State does not sweep New Mexico this week; and
  • UNLV sweeps Boise State this week; and
  • Colorado State sweeps New Mexico next week; and
  • UNLV takes 2 of 3 from San Diego State next week; and
  • Nevada sweeps Boise State next week.

Colorado State, Nevada, San Diego State and UNLV would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, San Diego State would claim the automatic NCAA berth.  The Aztecs and Rams would both be 5-4 against the teams they tied for the conference title, but SDSU would earn the NCAA bid based on a 2-1 series win over Colorado State.

3-way tie for the title at 11-7 (scenario 1)

This occurs if...
  • San Diego State sweeps Colorado State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • Boise State sweeps UNLV this week; and
  • UNLV sweeps San Diego State next week; and
  • Boise State sweeps Nevada next week.

Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Fresno State would claim the automatic NCAA berth based on its 4-2 record against the teams it tied for the conference title.

3-way tie for the title at 11-7 (scenario 2)

This occurs if...
  • Colorado State sweeps San Diego State this week; and
  • Fresno State sweeps New Mexico this week; and
  • Boise State sweeps UNLV this week; and
  • New Mexico takes 2 of 3 from Colorado State next week; and
  • San Diego State does not sweep UNLV next week; and
  • Boise State sweeps Nevada next week.

Boise State, Colorado State and Fresno State would all then tie for the Mountain West title at 11-7.  Under this scenario, Fresno State would claim the automatic NCAA berth based on its 4-2 record against the teams it tied for the conference title.

These are just a few of the scenarios and there are many more, including ones where Nevada and Boise State lay claim to the NCAA automatic berth.  All Mountain West teams need to understand this though:  No team has an easier route than San Diego State.  The Aztecs win the MW regular-season title and automatic NCAA bid if they win their final two series of the season.  In that scenario, SDSU would finish no worse than 12-6 in the conference and guaranteed of a championship.

But if Colorado State wins its series against San Diego State this week, it opens up an entirely different can of worms where almost anything is possible.  Stay tuned for an exciting final two weeks.

Six MW teams still in the race for MW title

As we enter the first full weekend of May, the race for the Mountain West softball championship remains extremely tight.

Six of the seven teams remain alive in the race for not only winning the MW regular-season title, but also the automatic NCAA bid that comes along with it.  One series this weekend -- San Diego State at Colorado State -- will have everyone watching.

The Aztecs and Rams meet in Fort Collins with the series winner having the inside track to the conference title.  A sweep by either team will make it nearly impossible for anyone else to win the Mountain West.  However, a 2-1 series win by either team keeps the door open, especially if it's CSU that takes two of three.

Weather issues in the Rocky Mountains will play an issue this weekend, as snow fell in Fort Collins earlier in the week.  Today's CSU-SDSU game has already been postponed and the teams will play a doubleheader Saturday or Sunday.  Which day the doubleheader will be played remains up in the air, even at this late date.

If a full 3-game series can't be played at Colorado State this weekend, it will have a significant -- and detrimental -- impact on a conference race that is extremely tight.  The weather forecast is for sunny skies with highs around 60 today through Sunday in the Fort Collins area.

San Diego State (8-4 Mountain West) current sits a game ahead of CSU (7-5) in the conference standings.  Both Fresno State and Nevada are a game and a half out of first place, but at 8-7, the Bulldogs and Wolf Pack are three back of the Aztecs in the all-important loss column.

Fresno State hosts last-place New Mexico (3-9) in the final home series of the season at Bulldog Diamond, where Trisha Ford's squad is 15-3.  Fresno State has the best home record in the Mountain West, is 5-1 in conference play and riding a 4-game winning streak, and will need to sweep the Lobos to have a shot at the MW title.  New Mexico has won just one road game in conference play this season and is 2-16 in its last 18 Mountain West road games since 2011.

Nevada is idle this weekend before closing the season next weekend on the road at Boise State.  Like Fresno State, the Wolf Pack will be rooting for Colorado State to take two of three against SDSU.  Nevada won't be eliminated from the conference title race this weekend if the Aztecs sweep the series in Fort Collins, but the Pack will no longer be able to win the automatic NCAA bid.

UNLV (6-6) has won six of its past nine conference games following an 0-3 start and faces a key series this weekend in Las Vegas against Boise State (5-7).  Both teams have a shot at the MW title, with the Rebels' chances being the better of the two.  UNLV closes the season at San Diego State next weekend so a series win -- or sweep -- against the Broncos will keep the Rebels in the race.

San Diego St. (8-4, 30-17) at Colorado State (7-5, 21-22)
Saturday, 1 pm MDT; Sunday, 1 pm MDT
Outlook:  Both teams are still alive in the race for a conference title. San Diego State has an outside chance to clinch the Mountain West title this weekend with a sweep and help from other teams around the league.  A Colorado State series win will help the Rams' chances tremendously, while also potentially opening the door for other teams to win the title.  San Diego State's NCAA at-large chances have taken a significant hit over the past few weeks.  The Aztecs fell to a new season-low in the RPI this week (49) and are squarely on the NCAA bubble at this point.  Without a win over an RPI top 40 team this year, San Diego State's at-large chances are no better than 50-50 at the moment.  Indeed, the Aztecs' women's basketball team learned less than two months ago that an RPI in the 40s didn't mean a whole lot to an NCAA selection committee.  San Diego State doesn't want to leave its fate in the hands of the committee in softball.  The Rams, meanwhile, must win the regular-season MW title in order to have a shot at a bid.

New Mexico (3-9, 21-29) at Fresno State (8-7, 27-22)
Friday, 6 pm PDT; Saturday, 6 pm PDT; Sunday, 1 pm PDT
Outlook:  It's Senior Weekend at Bulldog Diamond.  New Mexico is out of the conference race, while Fresno State remains alive.  If the Bulldogs sweep this 3-game series, there is still a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament for the 31st time in the last 32 years.  But only with a conference title will Fresno State advance this season.  The Bulldogs have been tough at home.  Their only three losses this season have come on a seventh inning error in a 1-0 loss to Nevada, in a 1-0 loss to then-No. 5 California when Jill Compton took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and in extra innings on the season's opening weekend in February.  The Lobos, as mentioned previously, have lost 16 of their past 18 conference road games spanning three seasons.  The Bulldogs have won 11 straight games in a series they've dominated for years.  As strong as Fresno State has traditionally been at home, they've often laid an egg on Senior Day.  The Bulldogs have lost on Senior Day at Bulldog Diamond each of the last four seasons.

Boise State (5-7, 21-24-1) at UNLV (6-6, 20-26)
Friday, 6 pm PDT; Saturday, 1 pm PDT; Sunday, noon PDT
Outlook:  Only one of these teams has a shot a the Mountain West title and it's now clear:  A team will not win the conference with more than seven losses.  Boise State must sweep the series, while UNLV likely needs to do so too, especially with a road series at San Diego State looming for the Rebels next week.  The Broncos hold the key tiebreaker advantage over both SDSU and Colorado State should it become necessary, but a 1-5 road record in Mountain West play has hurt.  After failing to win a conference series at home last year, UNLV has won both it has played this season.  It's possible that a 2-1 series win by Boise State here could have an unfortunate consequence:  Combined with other results around the league, it may eliminate both the Broncos and Rebels from the title race.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fresno State snaps Aztecs' 10-game home win streak

The race for the Mountain West softball title grew closer once again Sunday as every team that lost on Saturday rebounded for a win today.

Fresno State handed San Diego State its first conference loss at home in nearly a year, Colorado State held on for a win at Boise State, and UNLV scored late to win a key series at Nevada.

Fresno State 4, San Diego State 0

For the second consecutive weekend, Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton fired a shutout on the road against a team occupying first place in the Mountain West.

After doing it last week in a 5-0 win at Colorado State, Compton picked up her sixth shutout win of the season today as the Bulldogs became the first Mountain West team to shut the Aztecs out at home in more than two years.

Fresno State's win snapped a 10-game winning streak at home for SDSU, which had also won 14 straight games this season in the San Diego metropolitan area (including one at USD and three more at the Santee Complex).  The Aztecs hadn't been shut out at home in conference play since April 15, 2011, when BYU won 1-0.

Compton retired the final seven batters in a row and needed just 18 pitches over the final 2 1/3 innings to record those outs.  She allowed five hits and was aided by a Bulldog offense that got going midway through the game against SDSU starter and losing pitcher Rebecca Arbino.

Fresno State loaded the bases on three straight 1-out hits in the fifth inning as Stesha Brazil, Paige Gumz and Whitney Smith each singled.  Kapri Angotti then gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead with an RBI single.  The lead stretched an inning later when Fresno State's first three batters of the sixth all came up with hits.

Diane Runge and Vonnie Martin singled, and Michelle Solomon followed with an RBI double down the right field line.  A fielder's choice and a throwing error later allowed Martin to score, and Gumz recorded an RBI on a groundout for the final run.

Seven of the nine Bulldog batters had hits in the game, with Martin and Solomon getting two each.  Martin hit .545 in the series for the Bulldogs.  Fresno State remained alive in the chase for the Mountain West title, but will need some help from other teams, and also will need a sweep of last-place New Mexico in Fresno next weekend.

San Diego State, meanwhile, saw its lead dwindle to just one game over Colorado State, which it faces next week in Fort Collins in a must-win series for both teams.  Fresno State is 1 1/2 back, along with Nevada, but three back in the all-important loss column.

Colorado State 5, Boise State 4

The Rams salvaged a win in the finale of the 3-game series at Boise State, but not without a wild bottom of the seventh where the Broncos almost came back again.

Boise State has been known for late comebacks at home with three walk-off wins in the past 10 days.  It almost happened again as Colorado State built a 5-0 lead and then watched the Broncos rally with a run in the sixth and three more in the seventh to make it close.

CSU's early runs came in support of starter and winning pitcher Kacie McCarthy, who allowed just three hits in 6 1/3 innings, but appeared to run out of gas in a wild seventh.

After hitting a batter, giving up a hit to Tara Glover, and walking three in the top of the seventh, McCarthy was done for the day after being very strong early.  McCarthy gave way to sophomore pitcher Molly Randle in a tough spot, but Randle delivered with a save.

Entering the game with an 0-8 career record and having thrown just 13 2/3 innings all season, Randle was asked to protect a 5-3 lead.  To make matters worse, she entered with the bases loaded, only one out, and the ever-dangerous Devon Bridges coming to bat.

Just an inning earlier, Bridges had broken the Boise State career record for home runs, with her 38th.  But Randle got Bridges to pop up to shallow center for the second out of the inning.  After walking in a run, Randle induced Ashley Palmer to hit into a force play at third, ending the game.  It was the first collegiate save for Randle.

Colorado State's 5-run lead was built thanks to some timely hitting and with the aid of some sloppy Broncos play.  In the three innings where the Rams scored, Boise State had a passed ball, an error, and a wild pitch just prior to Colorado State runs crossing the plate.  Ashlie Ortega and Shae Rodriguez had two hits each to lead the Rams, as Ortega tripled and Rodriguez doubled.

UNLV 5, Nevada 3

The Rebels came from behind to win this Governor's Series game in Reno and take the 3-game series two to one.

The defeat was a bitter one for Nevada, which could have pulled within a half-game of first place San Diego State with a victory.  It also stung a bit more since it came against the Wolf Pack's in-state rival on Senior Day at Christina M. Hixson Park.

Katie Uriarte was the star of the day for UNLV with a monster performance.  The senior designated player had four hits, including the eventual game-winner -- a 2-run triple in the top of the seventh inning that was the difference.

Uriarte also had a double and finished just a home run away from the cycle as the Rebels pounded out 15 hits.  Stefany Valentino and Emily Haslinger also had big days as both finished with three hits apiece.  Valentino hit a solo home run and Haslinger added a stolen base.

Neither starting pitcher -- Megan Dortch for Nevada and Francesca Foti for UNLV -- figured in the decision.  Foti went 5 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits, while Dortch went four innings and gave up nine.  Karlyn Jones allowed six hits and three earned runs in relief to pick up the loss.  Amanda Oliveto, who tossed the final 1 1/3 for Nevada, got the win.

Ashley Butera was the hitting star for Nevada, going 3-for-3 with three RBI and a home run.  The Wolf Pack are tied with Fresno State at 8-7 in conference play, a game and a half behind San Diego State but three games back in the loss column.

UNLV remained in the title hunt by moving its record to 6-6 in Mountain West play.  The Rebels, despite being in fifth place in the conference at the moment, actually have more control over their destiny than some teams above them.  UNLV closes the season with three games against San Diego State; but in order to make those meaningful, the Rebels must win their series next week at home against Boise State.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

San Diego State widens lead in race for MW title

San Diego State on Saturday won its second straight game over Fresno State as the Aztecs took their largest lead yet in the Mountain West standings.  Elsewhere, Nevada came from behind to even its series with UNLV, and Boise State won again over Colorado State to clinch that series win.

All of this sets up a very interesting Sunday as teams jockey for position in the race for a conference crown and automatic NCAA bid.

San Diego State 3, Fresno State 2

The Bulldogs refused to let Patrice Jackson beat them for the second day in a row, but Lorena Bauer did the trick this time.

After Jackson went 3-for-3 with two home runs, a double and all five RBI in Friday's 5-2 Aztecs win, Fresno State wanted no part of her on Saturday.  Bulldogs freshman pitcher Hannah Harris walked Jackson three times (twice intentionally) after hitting her in her first plate appearance of the day.

Jackson reached base in each the first two innings Saturday and Fresno State's move paid off.  San Diego State left the bases loaded both times, and Bauer hit into an inning-ending groundout in the second.  But in the fourth, the Bulldogs weren't so lucky.

After Harris walked Jackson intentionally in the fourth to load the bases with one out, Bauer hit a 2-run, ground rule double to snap a 1-1 tie and score what turned out to be the eventual game-winning runs.

Fresno State mounted few threats against Aztecs freshman pitcher Danielle O'Toole, who needed just 83 pitches in a complete-game 5-hitter. The Bulldogs frequently were retired on one pitch, including in the sixth inning when O'Toole retired the side on just three pitches.  The Bulldogs got an RBI single from Vonnie Martin in the first to score Brenna Moss, who singled to lead off the game, and take a 1-0 lead.

Moss had two hits, including an RBI single in the fifth, to make it 3-2. After stealing both second and third base, Moss was stranded at third when O'Toole struck out Diane Runge.  Fresno State, 11-19 away from Bulldog Diamond, saw its postseason hopes severely dimmed if not extinguished entirely.  No previous softball team at the school had lost more than 15 games away from home in a season.  At 26-22 overall, Trisha Ford's squad is now just two losses shy of tying the school record for most losses in a single season.

San Diego State, meanwhile, won for the 11th time in 65 all-time meetings against the Bulldogs.  The Aztecs moved to 8-3 in the Mountain West, taking a 2-game lead over Colorado State.  Fresno State fell to 7-7 in the conference and on the verge of setting another dubious mark.  The Bulldogs must win their final four Mountain West games to avoid setting a school mark for worst conference record in history.

O'Toole improved to 12-6, while Harris fell to 8-7.  San Diego State stranded 12 base runners in just six innings, and Kayla Jordan had three of the Aztecs' nine hits.  Tiffany Corder added an RBI.

Nevada 5, UNLV 4 (8 innings)

In a game fitting for a rivalry, Nevada tied it late and then won in extra innings over the Rebels in Reno Saturday.

UNLV was seemingly in command of this one after erasing a 2-1 deficit with three runs in the top of the sixth.  Tayler Van Acker hit an RBI single and Pauline Monreal followed with a 2-run double in the frame to give the Rebels a 4-2 lead against Nevada and pitcher Karlyn Jones.

The Pack would tie it, though, with single runs -- both with two outs -- in the sixth and seventh innings.  In the sixth, Nevada trimmed UNLV's lead to 4-3 when Karley Hopkins hit an infield single.

In the seventh, Ashley Butera delivered a key RBI single to right-center on an 0-1 pitch that tied the game.  Butera's hit scored Sara Parsons, who had just singled and advanced to second on a play where the Pack had a runner thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning.

While freshman Francesca Foti pitched the first six innings for UNLV and was in line for the win, Amanda Oliveto blew the save after entering to begin the bottom of the seventh.  Oliveto also ended up as the losing pitcher when she ran into trouble in the eighth.

Oliveto walked leadoff batter Lauren Lastrapes to begin the eighth and then gave up an infield single to Megan Fincher.  After hitting Chelsea Barilli to load the bases with nobody out, Rebels coach Lisa Dodd turned to Foti again and pulled Oliveto.  After getting a strikeout for out number one, Megan Sweet then won it for Nevada with a sacrifice fly to center to score Lastrapes.

Jones grabbed the win, allowing seven hits.  Nevada finished with 12, including four in just 1+ inning against Oliveto.  Hopkins had three hits and Fincher two for the Wolf Pack.  Van Acker's three hits led UNLV.

The Rebels fell a game under .500 in conference play at 5-6.  Nevada, meanwhile, overtook both Colorado State and Fresno State for second place in the Mountain West standings for the first time this season.  The Wolf Pack are 8-6, but three games behind San Diego State in the loss column with just four conference games remaining.

Boise State 5, Colorado State 2

The Broncos clinched their second consecutive series win at home and sent Colorado State to another crushing loss.

In a span of 24 hours, two Boise State wins pushed the Rams from a tie for first place in the Mountain West to sole possession of third place by the end of Saturday.  Boise State improved to 5-6 with its fourth win in five games, while CSU fell to 6-5 and two full games behind San Diego State.

Boise State scored all of its runs in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead.  Colorado State committed a pair of errors in the third and the Broncos' uprising was enough to get starting pitcher Holly Reinke pulled from the game after 2+ innings.

Sophomore Jordan Kreiger accomplished a rare feat with RBI in two different at-bats in the same inning.  Kreiger led off the second with a solo home run to left-center.  It came on the first pitch Reinke threw in the inning.  Later in the same inning, she walked with two outs and the bases loaded against reliever Holly Randle, forcing in the fifth and final run of the frame.

In between, there were a pair of singles in the third for the Broncos by Makenna Weir and Tara Glover.  There was a throwing error by Reinke just before she was replaced, and third baseman Chelsea Biglow was charged with an error on a fielder's choice that allowed the third run of the inning to score.

Colorado State scored both of its runs in the top of the fourth when the Rams bunched all three of their hits in the game together in one inning.  Against starter and eventual winning pitcher Lela Work, CSU got an RBI double from Biglow and a groundout by Emily Pohl that added a second run.

Work went the first four innings and reliever Kenzie Cole tossed the final three.  Cole didn't allow a hit and picked up the save.  Weir, Kreiger and Holly Bourke had two hits each for the Broncos.  Devon Bridges and Sarah Barnes both had doubles as part of Boise State's 9-hit effort.

This sets up a big final game of the series on Sunday, where the Broncos can move into a tie in the Mountain West standings with Colorado State.  Boise State is three games behind San Diego State in the loss column in the MW standings, but still has title hopes.  Already holding the tiebreaker over both San Diego State and now CSU, the Broncos will certainly be rooting for a Fresno State win over SDSU Sunday.