Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fresno State wins in Mountain West debut

Fresno State and Nevada both made their Mountain West softball debuts Thursday night, and things continued to be a lot like they used to be when the two were Western Athletic Conference members.  It was an exciting game with twists and turns, and the Bulldogs came out on top.

Elsewhere, San Diego State took an early lead against New Mexico and held on for the win, and Colorado State won a pitcher's duel with UNLV as conference play began for six of the seven Mountain West teams.

Fresno State 6, Nevada 4

The Bulldogs erupted for five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a 1-all tie, and then had to hold on to beat Nevada in front of 1,112 fans at Bulldog Diamond.  This one was a matchup of two of the conference's top pitchers, but it hardly turned out to be a pitcher's duel.  Nevada's Karlyn Jones, the winningest pitcher in the Mountain West who entered the game with a 13-4 record, didn't make it out of the fifth inning.  And Fresno State freshman standout Jill Compton, the reigning Mountain West Pitcher of the Week, went the distance for the win but had to survive a very shaky final inning.

It started out like a pitcher's duel and Jones was on fire early, working quickly and catching the Bulldogs off balance.  Nevada took a 1-0 lead in the second when Jasmine Jenkins doubled to right-center, and Sara Parsons scored from first base.  Fresno State tied it 1-1 in the fourth on an RBI double by freshman Paige Gumz to score Stesha Brazil.  It was the next inning that would decide this one.

In the fifth, the Bulldogs pushed five runs across on five hits, including doubles from both Diane Runge and Michelle Solomon.  Vonnie Martin singled to lead off the inning and Nevada's Lauren Lastrapes committed a crucial, 2-base error with a wild throw down the line on Maria Sio's attempted sacrifice.  With one out, Brenna Moss singled to score Martin with the go-ahead run. Runge followed with her 2-run double, and Solomon added a run-scoring double one out later.  Gumz completed the scoring with an RBI single during an inning where Jones was replaced by Bailey Brewer.  It was just the second time in 14 starts this season that Jones did not pitch a complete game.

Fresno State blew a few chances to put the game away, including in the sixth inning when it left two runners in scoring position.  In the seventh, the Bulldogs almost paid the price as the Pack rallied for three runs and had the potential tying run on base.

Chelsea Barilli tripled to lead off the seventh and scored on a single by Karley Hopkins.  Megan Sweet then singled and Parsons walked with one out to load the bases for Nevada.  Out number two of the seventh involved a spectacular running, backhanded catch by Solomon in right-center that robbed Ashley Butera of a hit.  With Nevada down to its last strike, Jenkins hit a 2-run single as part of her three RBI night to cut the margin to 6-4.  Lastrapes hit into a force play at third base to end the game with the tying run aboard and Compton and the Bulldogs escaped.

Nevada entered the game having won 10 of its last 11 games overall and as the Mountain West's only 20-game winner.  Fresno State matched the Pack with an identical 20-14 record following the Bulldogs' win, but, more importantly, Trisha Ford's squad won its conference opening game.

Solomon, in addition to her potential game-saving catch in the seventh, had a pair of hits, including a double and an RBI for the Bulldogs as eight of nine Fresno State batters had hits.  Over three games this week, the Bulldog bats have come alive to the tune of 37 hits.  Gumz finished with two hits and two RBI, Runge had two hits, and Moss had a pair of stolen bases to give her 21 on the year in 22 attempts.

San Diego State 4, New Mexico 1

Rebecca Arbino had to survive some shaky innings when New Mexico loaded the bases, but the Aztecs improved to 1-0 with a win at home in a Mountain West opener.

All four San Diego State runs in the game were unearned and all came in the third inning when Patrice Jackson delivered the big blow of the game with a 3-run home run.

In that third inning, Kayla Jordan got things started for the Aztecs with a 1-out single.  After stealing second base, UNM freshman pitcher Lauren Soles, who's had a problem at times this season with illegal pitch calls, was called for another as Jordan advanced to third base.

Another walk and a steal later, Soles committed a crucial throwing error on a comebacker off the bat of Kamerin May, allowing the game's first run.  After getting San Diego State's leading hitter, Lorena Bauer, to hit a comebacker for out number two, Jackson belted a 3-run homer to left on a full-count pitch.

And that was the game, though UNM did try to rally against Arbino.  New Mexico left two runners on base in the opening inning and left the bases loaded in both the fourth and the sixth.  In all, the Lobos stranded 10 in the game as Arbino escaped multiple jams.

Courtney Geith's RBI single in the sixth, one of six New Mexico hits, accounted for the Lobos' only run.  Jackson had a 3-for-3 day to go with her 3-run homer for the Aztecs, and Jordan had two hits.  For UNM, Geith and Jordyn Bledsoe had two hits apiece.

Colorado State 2, UNLV 0

It turned out to be the exact game everyone expected in Fort Collins.

Amanda Oliveto was in the circle for the Rebels and Kacie McCarthy for the Rams, and a pitcher's duel
broke out.  In a quick game with little offense, Colorado State prevailed by scoring both of its runs with two outs in the first inning.  Oliveto retired the first two batters she faced in the game, but then issued a walk and hit a batter.  Both would come back to haunt her and UNLV.  Following the hit by pitch, CSU got consecutive 2-out, RBI singles from Emily Pohl and Alysa Greckel.  And that was the entire ball game.

No team seriously threatened after that point as McCarthy and Oliveto worked quick and efficiently.  McCarthy picked up her 12th win to tie Oliveto in that category and tossed a 2-hitter.  Oliveto allowed just two hits after the first inning, finishing with a 4-hitter and eight strikeouts.  Pohl was the only player in the game with two hits.