Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bulldogs, Rams, Aztecs win opening series

It was an eerily similar day to Friday as Mountain West softball action wrapped up for the week Saturday.  Colorado State run-ruled UNLV for the second day in a row, San Diego State broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning to beat New Mexico, and Fresno State had issues with errors.  The only difference:  The Bulldogs were able to come back this time and edge Nevada.

Colorado State and San Diego State moved atop the conference standings at 3-0.  Fresno State stayed a game behind at 2-1.  Nevada fell two games back at 1-2, while both UNLV and New Mexico remained winless (0-3) and in the cellar.

Fresno State 4, Nevada 3

Sophomore outfielder Michelle Solomon delivered the clutch hit Fresno State had been looking for, and the Bulldogs went on for the series-clinching win over the Wolf Pack in front of 1,138 fans at Bulldog Diamond.

Solomon hit a 2-out, 2-run single in the bottom of the second inning as Fresno State took its first lead and rallied from three runs down for the victory.  Her hit gave the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead as they came back from a 3-0 deficit in the game's early moments.  After that, it was all up to the Fresno State freshman pitchers, who denied Nevada again.

Jill Compton went the first three innings and allowed four hits, but no earned runs.  Nevada's three runs in the first came following another error by Bulldog shortstop Maria Sio, who struggled defensively in the series with errors in all three games, including a crucial one that cost Fresno State a possible win Friday.

Hannah Harris came on to pitch the final four frames for the Bulldogs and picked up the win, while running her streak to 17 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.  Harris has allowed just two earned runs in her last 25 innings. 

Karley Hopkins scored in the first on Sio's error, and Jasmine Jenkins doubled a pair home with two outs in the inning.  From that point on, Fresno State pitching shut down the Mountain West's top hitting team almost completely.  In the bottom of the first, the Bulldogs got two runs back when Whitney Smith hit a 2-out, 2-run single for one of the biggest hits of her freshman season.

In the second, Sio singled to lead things off, was sacrificed to second, and then moved to third on a bunt single by Brenna Moss, who had a pair of hits in the game.  Following a walk to load the bases and a second out, Solomon delivered what turned out to be the game-winning, 2-run single on a ball that found its way just between the shortstop and left fielder.

Nevada pitcher Karlyn Jones, who entered the weekend having won nine straight games and leading the Mountain West with 13 wins, lost her second straight to the Bulldogs.  She's now 13-6.  Nevada lost for only the third time in its last 14 games, while Fresno State won the season series between the two schools for a fifth straight year.

Colorado State 15, UNLV 7 (5 innings)

In a wild affair in Fort Collins, Colorado State run-ruled UNLV for a second day in a row and Rebels pitcher Amanda Oliveto struggled again.

Oliveto took to the circle for the eighth consecutive game for the Rebels, and Colorado State had little trouble again.  The Rebels junior pitcher entered the weekend second in the conference in wins (12) and with an impressive 2.15 ERA and three wins over Top 25-ranked foes.

After giving up 10 earned runs Friday in just two-thirds of an inning and struggling with location problems, it was more of the same Saturday.  Oliveto walked nine batters in 4 1/3 innings today, and allowed 15 runs (14 earned).

Despite the lopsided score, UNLV actually out-hit the Rams 10 to nine in the game, but Colorado State had a pair of triples and two home runs to break the game open.  Cassy Mosser and Chelsea Biglow both went deep, while Shae Rodriguez and pinch hitter Molly Randle both hit triples.

Rams ace Kacie McCarthy allowed six earned runs herself in five innings, but didn't walk a batter and struck out two.  The teams combined for five errors as UNLV's Stefany Valentino and CSU's Kendal Butterfield had two each.

San Diego State 1, New Mexico 0

The Aztecs broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth inning for the second straight day and swept the conference-opening series from the visiting Lobos.

Lauren Soles pitched well for UNM, but the Lobos stranded base runners all game long and could never come up with a clutch hit in being shut out for the second day in a row.

New Mexico stranded 10 base runners in the game and had six hits to the Aztecs' four.  Soles was throwing a 2-hitter into the sixth inning when SDSU rallied.  Lorena Bauer's clutch, 2-out single with runners at the corners was the difference in this one and helped the Aztecs sweep the series.

Rebecca Arbino earned the win in relief of freshman starter Danielle O'Toole.  New Mexico left the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in each of the first five innings in the game.

San Diego State, which was 12-12 on the season less than three weeks ago, won its 10th straight game, representing the longest winning streak in the Mountain West this season.  Today's run was the Aztecs' only earned run of the series after all nine previous runs scored against the Lobos were unearned.