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.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jackson's big night powers SDSU over Fresno State

The Mountain West softball standings remained jumbled after three Friday games, but San Diego State separated itself a bit from the pack in the day's final contest.

In what turned out to be a matchup with first place on the line, the Aztecs used the bat of Patrice Jackson to beat Fresno State 5-3 to move a full game ahead of Colorado State in the Mountain West standings.  After CSU fell at Boise State earlier in the day on another Broncos comeback win, the Bulldogs and Aztecs knew the winner of their night game would sit alone atop the conference.

It turned out to be the Aztecs, who got a huge game out of Jackson en route to just the 10th win all-time for SDSU over the Bulldogs in 64 games.  A Fresno State victory would have pushed the Bulldogs two games above San Diego State in the win column and a half-game in front of everyone in the conference.  Instead, the Bulldogs now find themselves three games behind the Aztecs in the loss column and in a must-win situation the rest of the way.

Colorado State fell out of a first-place tie with the Aztecs in a heartbreaking road loss where Kacie McCarthy took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Boise State.  The Broncos continued to do what they do best -- win late.   It was the third win in their final at-bat at home in the past week.  Boise State's victory sets up a big final two days of this series as neither the Broncos or Rams can afford to fall deeper in the conference standings.

Nevada, which entered the day tied for third place and just a half-game out of first, suffered a 13-2 loss at home to rival UNLV.  The Rebels, meanwhile, evened their conference record at 5-5 and remained in the hunt for the Mountain West title.  UNLV can pull ahead of Nevada in the MW standings with a win over the Pack Saturday. 

San Diego State 5, Fresno State 3

The tone for this one was set in the first inning as San Diego State coasted to an early lead and then had to hold on as the Bulldogs tried to rally late.

Tiffany Corder singled with one out in the bottom of the first inning before Patrice Jackson launched a homer to left that gave the Aztecs a very quick 2-0 lead.  It also proved to be a preview of things to come because Jackson wasn't nearly done for the night.

In the end, San Diego State's team didn't beat the Bulldogs as much as Jackson did it herself.

Jackson proved to be a one-woman wrecking crew all night long.  Her 2-out RBI double in the third, following a hit batter, extended the Aztecs' lead to 3-0.  And two innings later, she was at it again.

This time, the junior outfielder homered to straightaway center field, giving her a Mountain West-best 15 home runs on the season and two for the day.  It was also the 21st home run allowed by Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton this season.

The Bulldogs out-hit the Aztecs in the game nine to five, but could never stop Jackson, who accounted for virtually all of San Diego State's offense.  She finished 3-for-3 with all five RBI and three of the Aztecs' four extra-base hits (two home runs and a double).  Jackson hit the game-winning home run last weekend in SDSU's lone win in a series at Boise State.

Fresno State's Vonnie Martin went 3-for-4 and reached base in all four plate appearances, including once on an error.  The Bulldogs scored on a 2-run homer to left in the sixth inning by sophomore Michelle Solomon, and then added a late rally in the seventh to make it interesting.

Trailing 5-2 with two outs in the seventh, sophomore Brenna Moss hit the first home run of her career to make it a 5-3 game.  After Diane Runge reached on an error, Martin singled for the third time in the game, bringing to bat Solomon, who had just homered an inning earlier.

Representing the potential go-ahead run this time, Solomon struck out against Arbino, who recorded eight Ks in the game.  Fresno State hurt itself again with seven stranded base runners in the game. Perhaps no inning better illustrated the Bulldogs' woes this season than the second. Stesha Brazil tripled to lead off the frame, but remained at third base following a strikeout, lineout and a 2-out groundout on a bunt attempt.

While San Diego State (7-3, 29-16) moved a game in front of Colorado State in the regular-season conference race, Fresno State picked up its 21st loss of the season against 26 wins.  With seven games remaining, the Bulldogs are three losses from tying the school record for most defeats in a season (24, set in 1993).  That same year, Fresno State set a school record for worst record ever in conference play (14-10, .583 winning percentage).  Tonight, the Bulldogs fell to 7-6 in the Mountain West (.538).

San Diego State is now 14-4 at home this year, including 4-0 in conference play.  Fresno State is 11-18 away from home, including 2-5 in Mountain West road games.

Boise State 3, Colorado State 2 (9 innings)

The Broncos won a thrilling pitcher's duel on a Rams error in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving them three walk-off wins in less than a week.

Tied 2-2 in the ninth, Rose Saenz led off the bottom of the frame with a single against CSU senior Kacie McCarthy, who pitched a strong game but took the loss.  A walk to Brittany McCray followed the hit by Saenz and the Broncos had two runners aboard.

On Jordan Kreiger's sacrifice attempt, a throwing error by Colorado State first baseman Alysa Greckel allowed Saenz to race home with the winning run.  It sealed a tough loss for McCarthy, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and was one out away from a win in the eighth.

After a scoreless first seven innings, CSU took a 2-0 lead in the eighth with a pair of 2-out runs.  Chelsea Biglow gave the Rams a 1-0 lead on an RBI single, and McCray's passed ball allowed a second run to come home.  But Boise State responded in the bottom of the eighth with another late rally.

Tara Glover singled and Holly Bourke followed with a double to begin the eighth inning for the Broncos.  After McCarthy got Devon Bridges to foul out, a groundout by Mackenzie Whyte scored Glover to make it a 2-1 game.  With two outs, Ashley Palmer tied it with an infield single that tipped off McCarthy's glove.

Colorado State finished with seven hits to five for Boise State.  Broncos starter Rebecca Patton struck out 10 and kept CSU off the board for the first seven innings. She gave up two runs (one earned) in the eighth before being replaced by eventual winning pitcher Kenzie Cole, who retired the Rams in order in the ninth.

Kendal Butterfield of Colorado State was the only player in the contest with multiple hits. She had two.

UNLV 13, Nevada 2

In a Governor's Series game played in Reno, this one was all Rebels as UNLV pounded its rival to the north.

Amanda Oliveto grabbed the victory, throwing a complete-game 5-hitter.  She was backed by an explosive offense that pounded out 16 hits and scored a season-high 13 runs.  The 13 runs also tied for the most the Wolf Pack had given up in a game this season.

UNLV got all the offense it would need in the top of the first when it scored three runs.  By the time the game reached the fifth inning, the Rebels were up 8-0.  Nevada was able to stave off a run-rule defeat by scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth, but UNLV scored five in the top of the seventh to win going away.

All nine Rebels in the batting order had hits, eight of the nine scored at least a run, and seven different players had RBI in an all-around effort.  Emily Haslinger and Tayler Aleman each hit home runs, and Haslinger added a double while Aleman scored a game-high three times.

Pauline Monreal hit a pair of doubles and finished with four RBI, while Stefany Valentino and Jamie DePippo both had a pair of hits.  The Rebels had eight hits apeice off Nevada starter Megan Dortch (who went four innings) and reliever Ariel Craig (who tossed the final three frames).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fresno State-San Diego State series highlights weekend

The race for the Mountain West regular-season softball championship and the accompanying automatic NCAA tournament bid heats up this weekend in a big way.

In fact, no weekend this season may be more important than this one as teams near the top jockey for position.  The top five teams in the Mountain West standings are separated by just two games, and one series stands out as the one to watch this weekend.

Fresno State travels to San Diego State in the week's highlight series.  The Bulldogs have been to a national-best 30 of the past 31 NCAA tournaments, while the Aztecs have been to five in a row and eight overall.  Despite a final RPI of 60 a year ago, Fresno State was not included in the Field of 64 for the first time ever in 2012.  That snapped a 30-year streak where the Bulldogs were the nation's only team to advance to every NCAA tournament.

For coach Trisha Ford's squad, this is a make-or-break weekend.  Fresno State must win this week's series at San Diego State in order to have a shot at the MW title and the accompanying NCAA bid.  This is the Bulldogs' final conference road series before returning home to host last-place New Mexico next week.  A sweep by Fresno State, albeit unlikely given its 2-4 MW road record and SDSU's 3-0 conference home mark, would put the Bulldogs in a strong position with one series left.

Coach Kathy Van Wyk's Aztecs, meanwhile, can basically eliminate Fresno State from the league title chase this weekend with a series win or sweep.  San Diego State has historically struggled against the Bulldogs, winning just nine times in the 63-game history between the two schools.  In a series that began in 1981, Fresno State leads it 54-9 and has won the last three meetings, including victories in San Diego in both 2011 and 2012.

The Aztecs enter the weekend having lost four of their past seven games.  With an RPI of 45 this week, San Diego State is in bubble territory when it comes to NCAA at-large bid possibilities.  Despite a demanding schedule, the Aztecs have a lack of quality wins and are 0-9 vs. the RPI top 40, creating some concern.  Against common opponents this season, SDSU and Fresno State have fairly similar records (11-8 for the Aztecs, 13-11 for the Bulldogs).

Having a say in the race for the Mountain West title is Nevada, which was picked to finish last in the conference during a preseason poll of MW coaches (and fifth by us here at the blog).  The Wolf Pack picked up a 3-game road sweep of New Mexico last weekend and have already concluded their season series with Colorado State, Fresno State and San Diego State.  That's a huge plus that can't be ignored.

Nevada hosts in-state rival UNLV at Christina M. Hixson Park this weekend in the final home games for seniors Chelsea Barilli, Megan Fincher, Alex Hayes and Lauren Lastrapes.  The Pack have won five straight conference games following a 2-5 start to surge into a tie for third place with Fresno State.  The Rebels ventured outside the Mountain West last weekend and were swept in a non-conference doubleheader at Cal State Fullerton.

A sweep by Nevada would set up an intriguing series on the season's final weekend at Boise State, where the Broncos are always tough.  A sweep by the Rebels -- or even a series win -- would potentially move UNLV back into the title hunt since it still has a series remaining with San Diego State.

Yet another important series takes place in the state of Idaho this weekend when Colorado State comes calling on Boise State.  The Broncos handed San Diego State a series loss last weekend and narrowly missed a 3-game sweep of the Aztecs.  After being swept itself at Fresno State a week earlier, Boise State jumped back into the Mountain West title discussion and now sits only three games back of first place.

Already holding the tiebreaker over San Diego State if it should come to that, the Broncos could help their case even more with a series win -- or sweep -- of Colorado State.  The Rams took two of three from Fresno State last week, coming from behind in both wins.  CSU scored a pair of seventh inning runs in a 4-3 walk-off win, and also came from a 3-run deficit to win another.

With a 3-6 record in conference play, Boise State is in an almost must-win situation and can not afford to lose this series.  Conversely, Colorado State needs to keep pace itself and still has to face San Diego State next week before traveling to Albuquerque on the season's final weekend.

The bottom line:  This weekend will go a very long way in determining the Mountain West regular-season title winner.

Fresno State (7-5, 26-20) at San Diego St. (6-3, 28-16)
Friday, 6 pm PDT; Saturday, 1 pm PDT; Sunday, 1 pm PDT

UNLV (4-5, 18-25) at Nevada (7-5, 28-19)
Friday, 3 pm PDT; Saturday, 1 pm PDT; Sunday, noon PDT

Colorado State (6-3, 20-20) at Boise State (3-6, 19-23-1)
Friday, 3 pm MDT; Saturday, 3 pm MDT; Sunday, 1 pm MDT

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Mexico sweeps a pair from UTEP

A big day from Mariah Rimmer and two complete-game pitching performances led New Mexico to a doubleheader sweep of UTEP Wednesday in Albuquerque.  The Lobos won the opener 6-5 with a walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh.  A pair of singles, including one by Rimmer to complete a 4-for-4 game, came with one out in the seventh.  A passed ball advanced both runners into scoring position, and UNM won it on an error by Miners freshman pitcher Danielle Pearson.  Kaela DeBroeck was the first-game winner, scattering eight hits.  Rimmer scored three runs in game one, had a pair of RBI, hit a homer and double, and also added a stolen base.  Naomi Tellez had three hits in the opener, while Cassandra Kalapsa and Kaity Ingram each had triples.  In the nightcap, Rimmer added a hit, walked and scored a run.  Lobos freshman left-hander Lauren Soles got the win in a 4-2 victory in game two.  New Mexico is now 21-29 overall after the non-conference doubleheader, while UTEP fell to 12-30.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Title chase grows even closer after Sunday action

To say the race for the Mountain West softball championship is close is an understatement.  After Sunday's action, four teams are within a half-game of first place.  And only three games separate first and sixth place in the conference.

Fresno State and Boise State pulled out wins today over Colorado State and San Diego State, respectively, after the Rams and Aztecs entered Sunday tied for first place.  Combined with Nevada's win at New Mexico, what it means is this:  San Diego State and Colorado State remain tied for first at 6-3.  Fresno State and Nevada sit just a half-game back (one up in the win column and two down in the loss column) at 7-5.

It sets the stage for an exhilarating final three weeks of the season.  Fresno State must still play San Diego State.  The Aztecs must play both the Bulldogs and Colorado State.  And Nevada still has to travel on the season's final weekend to Boise State, where the Broncos just took down conference favorite San Diego State twice in two days.  Even Boise State, which entered the weekend in last place, will have a say in things because the Broncos host Colorado State beginning Friday.

Stay tuned for what should be a wild ride the rest of the way.

Sunday's games:

Fresno State 5, Colorado State 0

Freshman pitcher Jill Compton was on top of her game from the start, tossing a complete-game 2-hitter in a shutout win over the Rams in Colorado Springs.  It was the first time CSU had been shut out in a Mountain West game played in the state of Colorado in more than four years.  BYU last accomplished it on April 2, 2009.  Compton didn't walk a batter and struck out nine, giving her 20 strikeouts in two games against the Rams this weekend.  It was the freshman's fourth complete-game shutout of the season.  Fresno State played an error-free game behind her and got plenty of hits.  The 'Dogs had 12 in all, including 10 against reigning Mountain West Pitcher of the Year Kacie McCarthy, who came on in relief of starter Kailey Snyder, who lasted just two-thirds of an inning.  The Bulldogs scored twice in the first as Vonnie Martin and Stesha Brazil both had hits on what would turn out to be good days for each.  Brazil went 4-for-4 with an RBI, while Martin was one of three Bulldogs with two hits.  Michelle Solomon, who hit a 2-run double in the seventh for some key insurance runs, had a pair of hits, 3 RBI and a stolen base.  Diane Runge had two hits and a stolen base as well.  Fresno State, which lost two of three in Colorado this weekend, leads the overall series between the schools 27-7.

Boise State 5, San Diego State 3

The late-game magic continued for Boise State, which took the series from the Aztecs with another wild finish.  In the bottom of the seventh inning with the score tied 3-3, San Diego State's Rebecca Arbino got two quick outs and it looked like the teams were headed to extra innings for the second game in a row.  But sophomore Jordan Kreiger got a single in a key, 10-pitch at-bat that kept the inning going for Tara Glover.  The all-conference pick of a year ago blasted the first pitch of the at-bat over the right field fence, giving Boise State its second walk-off win over the Aztecs in as many days.  It was the second homer of the day for the Broncos after Mackenzie Whyte's 2-run shot in the third.  Whyte's home run put Boise State up 3-0, but San Diego State would rally on a solo homer by Patrice Jackson in the fourth and an RBI single by Kayla Jordan in the fifth.  Tiffany Corder's sacrifice fly, also in the fifth, tied the game at three, and set up Boise State's late-game heroics.  Whyte, with two hits, was the only player in the game for either team with more than one.  Kenzie Cole, the third Broncos pitcher in the game, allowed one hit over the final 2 2/3 to grab the win.  Arbino took the loss and San Diego State's last two series losses in Mountain West play have been to Boise State.

Nevada 10, New Mexico 1 (6 innings) 

The Wolf Pack completed their 3-game road sweep of the faltering Lobos with a run-rule decision in Albuquerque.  Megan Dortch got the win and little went right for New Mexico late in this one.  The Lobos were up 1-0 in the fourth before Nevada put the first of two 5-run innings on the board.  Megan Sweet hit a big, 2-out, bases-loaded double to clear the bases and put the Pack up 3-1.  Erin Jones followed with a 2-run homer to make it a 5-run inning as all five runs scored with two outs.  In the top of the sixth, Nevada added five more runs on just three hits as New Mexico hurt its cause with bases-loaded walks.  UNM used three different pitchers in the top of the sixth inning alone.  Starter Kaela DeBroeck took the loss, allowing nine hits and seven earned runs in 5+ innings.  Dortch allowed only three hits, striking out six and walking four to grab the win.  The victory kept Nevada tied with Fresno State at 7-5 in the Mountain West, just a half-game behind co-leaders San Diego State and Colorado State.  New Mexico dropped to last place in the conference at 3-9.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hits, errors and late-game drama highlight Saturday

All seven Mountain West teams were in action in crucial games Saturday that were full of late drama, clutch hits and game-changing errors.  Colorado State swept a doubleheader from Fresno State for the first time since 1997 to move into a first-place tie in the conference standings with San Diego State, which split with Boise State.  Nevada moved into a tie for third place following a second straight win at New Mexico.

Boise State 5, San Diego State 3 -- Sarah Barnes hit a pair of home runs, including a clutch, 3-run blast with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Broncos picked up a walk-off win over the Aztecs in Boise.  Barnes hit homers in both the sixth and seventh innings when Boise State had to rally from a 3-1 deficit.  SDSU third baseman Leia Ruiz's error to begin the seventh proved to be crucial, allowing Boise State's Holly Bourke to reach base against Rebecca Arbino.  Kathy Van Wyk then turned to freshman lefty Danielle O'Toole to try and preserve the win, but the error proved to be too much to overcome.  After a pair of strikeouts and a Mackenzie Whyte single, Barnes' blast left the yard in the first Mountain West game played at Dona Larsen Park.  O'Toole took the loss, while Rebecca Patton got the win, giving up seven hits.  Boise State had four errors of its own in the game, leading to two unearned runs.

San Diego State 3, Boise State 2 -- The Aztecs were out-hit in the game but came up with three big home runs that accounted for all of their runs in a nail-biter.  Lorena Bauer hit solo homers in the fourth and sixth innings, and Patrice Jackson blasted the game-winning solo shot in the eighth off eventual losing pitcher Kenzie Cole.  San Diego State had to withstand a Boise State late rally again though before escaping.  Down to their last strike in the bottom of the seventh, the Broncos got an RBI single from Mackenzie Whyte to tie the game 2-2.  Boise State ended up leaving the potential game-winning run at third base in the seventh and it would prove costly when Jackson homered to lead off the eighth.  Arbino came on relief of O'Toole in the eighth and earned the save, but had to sweat it out.  With two outs, Brittany McCray doubled and the Broncos had runners at the corners following shortstop Monica Downey's 20th error of the season -- worst in the Mountain West.  Arbino was able to work out of the jam, inducing Tara Glover to foul out to end it with the tying run 60 feet away.  San Diego State finished the day 6-2 in conference play, while Boise State dropped to 2-6.

Colorado State 3, Fresno State 2 -- Cassy Mosser hit a 2-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Rams rallied for a win over the Bulldogs in Colorado Springs.  Fresno State, which didn't trail in the game until Mosser's seventh inning heroics, had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh on a 2-out RBI single by Kapri Angotti.  But CSU responded in the bottom of the frame with the help of Bulldog shortstop Maria Sio's critical error.  Sio's recent defensive difficulties continued with her 18th error of the year and eighth in 10 conference games.  The game had been a tight pitcher's duel between Fresno State freshman Jill Compton and CSU senior Kacie McCarthy, the reigning MW Pitcher of the Year.  McCarthy allowed only three hits, while Compton allowed just five and set a career-high with 11 strikeouts.

Colorado State 7, Fresno State 4 -- After blowing a late lead in the seventh inning of game one of the doubleheader, the Bulldogs couldn't hold a 3-run lead in the nightcap and were swept.  Colorado State, which trailed 3-0 at one point in this one, rallied for a 6-run fourth inning by using the long ball.  In the fourth, the Rams got back to back leadoff home runs from Chelsea Biglow and Alysa Greckel to knot the score at 3-all.  With one out, Haley David delivered the biggest hit of the game with a grand slam off eventual losing pitcher Hannah Harris.  In Colorado Springs at an elevation of 6,400+ feet, CSU hit four round-trippers on the day, while Fresno State had none.  Michelle Solomon had two RBI for the Bulldogs, who have now won just 10 times in 27 games away from home this season.  Colorado State trails in the all-time series between the schools 26-7, but has won the last three.  The 3-game winning streak is CSU's longest in the series, and Saturday marked the first time in 16 years CSU had swept a doubleheader from the Bulldogs.  It was just the Rams' second doubleheader sweep of Fresno State in history.  Holly Greinke got the win, scattering seven hits. 

Nevada 6, New Mexico 4 -- Three Wolf Pack players all had two hits in Nevada's second straight win in Albuquerque over the Lobos.  Lauren Lastrapes, Karley Hopkins and Erin Jones all had a pair of hits as Nevada put up two 3-run innings.  The Pack scored three in the third, aided by an illegal pitch call against UNM freshman Lauren Soles, who's been hindered a lot this season on illegal pitch calls.  In the sixth, Megan Fincher delivered a key, 2-run double to left after the Lobos had trimmed the Nevada lead to just a run in the previous inning.  Karlyn Jones went the distance for the win, scattering nine UNM hits.  Senior second baseman Kaity Ingram led the way for the Lobos with a 4-for-4 game.  The Wolf Pack pulled into a tie with Fresno State for third in the conference.  Both Nevada and Fresno State are 6-5, a game and a half behind both Colorado State and San Diego State.

Cal State Fullerton 3-5, UNLV 0-4 -- It wasn't a great day for UNLV, which was swept in non-conference doubleheader action in Fullerton.  The Rebels were no-hit in Saturday's first game by Cal State Fullerton and then couldn't hold a 4-3 lead in the 11th inning of the nightcap. In game two, the Titans rallied for a run in the 11th to tie it and then had four singles in the 12th to win it.  Amanda Oliveto took the loss in both games to fall to 15-13 on the season.  The Rebels are 18-25 overall, while Cal State Fullerton is 21-25.  The teams combined for 28 hits in the nightcap.  Tayler Aleman hit a 3-run home run in the third inning of game two, and Heather Harrison gave the Rebels a short-lived lead in the 11th inning with a solo shot.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

3 critical series on tap as season winds down

After this weekend, three Mountain West teams -- Fresno State, Nevada and New Mexico -- will have only two series remaining in conference play.

The Bulldogs, Wolf Pack and Lobos will have just six games left in the race for the Mountain West title after Sunday, meaning this is a weekend all three need to make a big move.

For New Mexico, time is already running out.  The Lobos are 3-6 in conference play and currently five games behind San Diego State in the loss column.  For Nevada, there is still some hope.  The Wolf Pack (4-5) have already completed series against SDSU, Fresno State and Colorado State, and don't have a single remaining series against a Mountain West team with a winning record.

The Nevada-New Mexico series winner in Albuquerque this weekend will remain in the title chase, particularly if it's the Wolf Pack.  The loser will be all but eliminated from the race for the conference crown.  A sweep by either team would be devastating to the loser.

A very interesting series will take place high in the Rocky Mountains this weekend
between Fresno State (6-3) and Colorado State (4-2), who are in a virtual second-place tie in the Mountain West.  The Bulldogs are only a half-game behind San Diego State, while CSU is one game back.  Because of heavy snow in Fort Collins, the series has been moved to the softball field of Division II school UC-Colorado Springs and changed from a 3-day series to just two days, including a Saturday doubleheader.

With a campus elevation of 6,425 feet above sea level, nearly 1,500 feet higher than Fort Collins, this will be the highest elevation in which a Mountain West softball series has ever been played.  In other words, pitchers beware.  And prepare for home runs.

The winner of the Fresno State-Colorado State series will remain in control of its own destiny in the race for the Mountain West title.  The loser likely will not.  Both teams have yet to face San Diego State (the Bulldogs play the Aztecs next week, and the Rams play them the following week).

A Fresno State series win would set up a potential showdown for the Mountain West title next weekend versus San Diego State.  The Bulldogs will complete the conference season before everyone else -- on the weekend of May 3-5 at home versus New Mexico.  Colorado State, meanwhile, still has three remaining series after this weekend, including two on the road at New Mexico and Boise State.

A big series takes place this weekend in the state of Idaho where Boise State (1-5) will host its first-ever Mountain West game at Dona Larsen Park.  Boise State has only played six games in its new facility this season, going 4-2 in non-conference play.  This weekend, first-place San Diego State (5-1) comes calling.

The Broncos were swept last weekend in Fresno, but have historically been tough to beat in Boise.  Last season's series between the Aztecs and Broncos in San Diego was a nail-biter, with Boise State needing to sweep SDSU to win the Mountain West title.  After winning the first two games of the series, the Broncos lost the finale and fell a game short of San Diego State in the conference standings.

Boise State is practically in a must-win situation this weekend in order to have a chance at winning the Mountain West crown.  San Diego State also knows it must win the series to keep pace with the winner of this week's Fresno State-Colorado State matchup.  SDSU has to face the Bulldogs and Rams over the next two weeks, while the Broncos can move right back into the title chase by facing SDSU this weekend and CSU next week.

UNLV will play a non-conference doubleheader Saturday at Cal State Fullerton, with first pitch at 1 pm PDT.  The Rebels return to Mountain West action next week against in-state rival Nevada in Reno.

San Diego State (5-1, 27-14) at Boise State (1-5, 17-22-1)
Friday, 3 pm MDT (Gametracker)
Saturday, 3 pm MDT
Sunday, 3 pm MDT

Fresno State (6-3, 25-18) at Colorado State (4-2, 18-19) in Colorado Springs
Saturday, 1 pm MDT (Gametracker)
Saturday, 3 pm MDT
Sunday, 1 pm MDT

Nevada (4-5, 25-19) at New Mexico (3-6, 19-26)
Friday, 6 pm MDT (Gametracker)
Saturday, 6 pm MDT
Sunday, 1 pm MDT

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Aztecs edge cross-town rival Toreros 4-1

In Tuesday's only non-conference game featuring a Mountain West softball team, San Diego State defeated cross-town rival San Diego 4-1.

Rebecca Arbino bounced back from a weekend upset loss to UC Riverside and threw a complete-game 5-hitter.  Pitcher Grace Hernandez entered in the sixth inning for USD and took the loss, allowing three runs over the final two innings as San Diego State snapped a late 1-1 tie.

The Aztecs got three triples as part of their 8-hit attack.  Tiffany Corder, Kaitlin Connors and Kayla Jordan all had triples, and Jordan was the only San Diego State player with two hits.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fresno State completes sweep of Boise State

Six of the seven Mountain West teams were in action Sunday.  Fresno State moved closer to the top of the conference standings by completing the weekend's only 3-game sweep, over Boise StateNevada won a 12-inning marathon to pick up a series victory over Colorado State, and UNLV edged New Mexico to win that series in Las Vegas.

Fresno State 3, Boise State 1

Bulldog freshman pitchers Jill Compton and Hannah Harris continued to impress at home, holding Boise State without an earned run again Sunday as Fresno State swept the 3-game series.

Compton got the start and allowed four hits in four innings, with one unearned run, to pick up her 11th win.  Harris came on in relief to begin the fifth, and allowed no runs and four hits to earn the save.

For the weekend, the duo threw 20 2/3 innings without allowing Boise State an earned run.  And while Fresno State has struggled this season on the road, it's been virtually unbeatable at home.  Harris, in particular, has been on fire at home this season, throwing 26 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run at Bulldog Diamond.  An opponent last scored an earned run against her in Fresno on February 20.

Boise State's Rebecca Patton had a strong game as well in the circle, allowing no earned runs herself.  She ran into trouble in the bottom of the first, though, when the Bulldogs scored all the runs they would need with the help of a throwing error from Devon Bridges.

Vonnie Martin continued her big series, getting a 2-out, 2-run hit in the first inning for the second straight game.  This time, Martin belted a double down the line in left, giving her five RBI in the series.  She scored when freshman catcher Paige Gumz continued her monster series with a 2-out, RBI double of her own.

Gumz went 3-for-3 for the second straight day and finished 7-for-9 in the series, reaching base in seven consecutive at-bats.  Gumz had six hits and a walk over the past two days.

Boise State's lone run scored on an error by Fresno State shortstop Maria Sio, whose defensive difficulties this season continued.  Sio has committed errors in all six Bulldog home games in Mountain West play and her 17 miscues this season are tied for the most in the conference.

The Broncos tried to rally in the seventh inning, but were shut down by Harris, who escaped a bases-loaded, 1-out jam.  The freshman got a strikeout and a groundout to end the game as Boise State left the tying run in scoring position.  Bridges and Holly Bourke had two hits for BSU, which stranded 11.

Fresno State improved to 6-3 in Mountain West play, moving within a half-game of idle San Diego State in the race for first place.  Boise State remained in the conference cellar at 1-5.

Nevada 5, Colorado State 4 (12 innings)

The Rams and Wolf Pack went to extra innings for the second straight day in Reno, and Megan Fincher's solo home run with two outs in the 12th won it for Nevada.

Colorado State was sailing along early, leading 3-0 behind a solid pitching performance from Holly Reinke through four innings.  The Rams scored three times in the fourth with the help of a Karley Hopkins error.  Kendal Butterfield's infield single, combined with Hopkins' error, scored a pair of runs.  CSU added a third run in the inning on a sacrifice fly.

Reinke not only had a 3-run lead, but had a no-hitter intact until the fifth. She hit the first batter of that inning, and second baseman Cassy Mosser's error meant two Nevada runners were on base.  Both would score on the Wolf Pack's first hit of the game -- a 1-out triple by pinch hitter Caylin Campbell.

A groundout by Hopkins then tied the game 3-3, and Megan Sweet gave Nevada its first lead of the game with a solo home run, still in the fifth.

With Nevada pitcher Megan Dortch trying to hold the lead in the seventh, Colorado State rallied to tie it.  After Alysa Greckel singled to start the inning, CSU tied it on a wild play.  Haley David pinch-ran for Greckel and was thrown out trying to score on a double by Danielle Wikre.  However, a throwing error by Pack catcher Ashley Butera allowed Wikre to round the bases and tie it.

Both teams had scoring chances in extra innings and left the potential go-ahead run at third base in the ninth.  Nevada also left two on base in the 10th, while Colorado State left two runners aboard in the 11th.

With two outs in the 12th, Fincher homered down the left field line against Kacie McCarthy, who came on in relief to throw the final 7+ innings.  Nevada had eight hits against McCarthy, and Fincher had been 0-for-5 until her late-game heroics.  Sweet, Sara Parsons and Jasmine Jenkins had two hits each for the Pack.  Butterfield's three hits led the Rams, who out-hit Nevada 13 to 10.

Dortch went all 12 innings, scattering those 13 hits, striking out 12, and escaping multiple jams.  Colorado State stranded 16 runners.  The Rams, who entered the weekend alone in first place in the Mountain West, fell into a second-place tie with Fresno State.  Those two face off next week in Fort Collins.  Nevada moved to 4-5 with its first series win as a Mountain West member.

UNLV 1, New Mexico 0

In a game with good pitching and very little offense, the Rebels scored a first inning run and that was it.

Stefany Valentino led off the game with a double for UNLV, and scored on an RBI single by Tayler Van Acker against eventual losing pitcher Kaela DeBroeck.

Rebels junior Amanda Oliveto earned her 15th win with a complete-game 4-hitter and eight strikeouts.  She didn't allow a hit after the third inning and retired the final 10 batters of the game.  DeBroeck gave up just five hits, and only two after the first inning.

Valentino had three of UNLV's five hits.  No New Mexico player had multiple hits in the game.

The Rebels moved to 4-5 in the Mountain West by winning their second straight home series.  New Mexico dropped to 3-6 in the conference.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nevada, Fresno State, New Mexico post wins

All seven Mountain West teams were in action Saturday.  San Diego State was shocked in non-conference play, while Nevada handed Colorado State its first loss in the Mountain West this season.  Fresno State clinched a series win over Boise State and moved within a game of first place, while New Mexico shut out UNLV in Las Vegas.

Nevada 4, Colorado State 3 (8 innings)

Karley Hopkins, who homered earlier, hit an RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to propel Nevada over Colorado State in Reno Saturday.

For the second consecutive weekend, the Wolf Pack handed a Mountain West team its first conference loss.  Last week, Nevada beat a previously 5-0 San Diego State squad, and today it was Colorado State that saw its 4-0 start come to an end.

For the Rams, it snapped a 10-game conference winning streak dating to last season.  Nevada is now 3-5 in Mountain West play, while CSU fell a half game behind the Aztecs at 4-1.

This one had a lot of late-game drama as Nevada took its first lead (3-2) in the bottom of the sixth on a Caylin Campbell pinch-hit, RBI single.  But Colorado State refused to go quietly in the seventh.

Kendal Butterfield hit a solo homer off eventual winning Nevada pitcher Karlyn Jones with one out in the seventh to tie the game at 3-3.  Once the teams got to extra innings, CSU mounted a rally in the top of the inning on a 2-out double by Alysa Greckel, but Jones was able to get out of a 2-on, 2-out jam.

In the bottom of the eighth, Butterfield's crucial miscue kept the inning alive for Nevada.  With two outs and no one on base, Butterfield was charged with an error on a fly ball off the bat of Megan Fincher.  After Chelsea Barilli hit a bunt single to give the Pack runners at first and second, Hopkins delivered the game-winning hit on a single up the middle.

Jones scattered nine hits while striking out four and walking two to grab the win, her first in Mountain West play after losing three straight.  Reigning MW Pitcher of the Year Kacie McCarthy, who entered in relief for CSU, took the loss.  McCarthy gave up seven hits and three runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings.

Hopkins and Lauren Lastrapes had two hits each for Nevada.  Ashlie Ortega and Chelsea Biglow had two hits apiece to lead the Rams.

Fresno State 7, Boise State 4

Freshman pitcher Hannah Harris was dominant in 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball as Fresno State beat Boise State for a second straight day to clinch the series win at Bulldog Diamond.

The Bulldogs scored in each of the first five innings and had a comfortable 7-0 lead with one out in the seventh when Harris was pulled and replaced with reliever Taylor Langdon.  It was a move that backfired and nearly affected the outcome of the game.

After Harris had extended the Bulldog pitching staff's streak to 27 straight innings without allowing an earned run at home, Boise State teed off on Langdon for four runs and four hits in just 1/3 of an inning.  Holly Bourke smacked a 3-run homer to right to make it a 7-4 game, and it was followed by a Fresno State error that gave the Broncos an additional base runner.

Harris re-entered the game and needed just one pitch to end it when she induced a groundout.  She went 6 2/3, gave up just four hits, and allowed a Boise State runner to move into scoring position in just the fourth inning.

For the first 6 1/3 innings, Fresno State played some of its best ball of the season. Vonnie Martin hit a 2-out, 2-run single in the first to get things started.  Brenna Moss used her speed to steal second base and score all the way from first on an errant throw by Broncos catcher Makenna Weir in the second. And Maria Sio laid down a nice bunt single with two outs in the third to score Paige Gumz, who walked.

Michelle Solomon had a productive at-bat in the fourth with an RBI groundout to the right side of the infield to scored Moss, who tripled.  And Kapri Angotti delivered a clutch 2-out, 2-run single in the fifth as the Bulldogs gave perhaps their best all-around effort of the season until the hiccup in the seventh.

Stesha Brazil had two hits, while Moss went 3-for-4 and now has 23 steals on the year.  Gumz continued her strong freshman campaign with a 3-for-3 game plus a walk, reaching base in all four plate appearances.  For the Broncos, Bourke had two hits and moved into the No. 1 spot on the career hits leaderboard at Boise State.  Her seventh inning home run was the 175th hit of her career. Devon Bridges also had two hits for the Broncos.

Fresno State is 5-3 in Mountain West play, while Boise State fell to 1-4.

New Mexico 10, UNLV 0 (5 innings)

New Mexico turned the tables on the Rebels in Las Vegas Saturday, shutting out UNLV a day after the Lobos were shut out themselves.

Kari Gutierrez had the biggest hit of the game -- a grand slam that was part of a 6-run
fourth inning for UNM.  The Lobos pounded out 11 hits and all 10 runs were earned against UNLV freshman pitcher Francesca Foti, who got the loss.

Mariah Rimmer had three hits, including a double, and Jordan Sjostrand had a pair of hits for New Mexico's first road win in conference action.  UNM, which had lost 15 of its past 16 road games in Mountain West play, had been shut out in three straight road contests prior to Saturday.

Kaela DeBroeck earned the complete-game win, giving up five hits, striking out one and walking none.  It was New Mexico's first run-rule win away from Albuquerque this season.  Both teams are now 3-5 in conference play.

UC Riverside 6, San Diego State 5

San Diego State suffered its worst loss of the season in a surprising setback to the Highlanders of the Big West Conference.

The Aztecs blew a 3-run lead with senior ace Rebecca Arbino in the circle.  Arbino, who came on in relief of starter Danielle O'Toole in the third inning, allowed five runs (four earned) in 3 2/3 innings.  It was only the second time in non-conference play this season that Arbino lost to a team that did not reach the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

UC Riverside entered the week 216th in the latest RPI, while San Diego State was 38th.

After Patrice Jackson belted a 3-run homer in the fifth to go up 5-2, UCR countered with a pair of runs in both the fifth and sixth to win it.  Ashley Ercolano hit a 2-run homer in the fifth to pull the Highlanders within a run, and Natalie Sanchez hit a solo shot off Arbino in the sixth to tie it.  Ariel Shore's game-winning RBI came in the sixth as well.  Shore finished with two hits.

Tiffany Corder and Kristin May had two hits apiece for San Diego State (26-14).  UC Riverside improved to 16-24.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Rams, Bulldogs, Rebels all post shutout wins

Colorado State senior pitcher Kacie McCarthy, the reigning Mountain West Pitcher of the Year, tossed a one-hitter Friday in the Rams' 10-0 (5 innings) rout of Nevada in Reno.

Nevada struggled in the circle and on defense as the Rams went up early and sailed to the easy win.  The victory kept Colorado State as the only unbeaten team in Mountain West play.  The Rams, who are just 18-17 overall, sit atop the conference standings at 4-0.

Nevada, which committed three costly errors in the game's first 2 2/3 innings, dropped to 2-5 in the conference and 23-19 overall.

McCarthy struck out four, but did walk five in the game.  Nevada used three pitchers in the game's first 2 2/3 innings.  Starter Megan Dortch ran into immediate trouble in the first when CSU pushed three runs across.  Dortch walked three, hit two batters, and gave up five runs (four earned) on four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Nevada freshman shortstop Megan Sweet committed a pair of errors and the Pack had three early miscues that led to six unearned runs.  That was the ballgame.  Reliever Bailey Brewer gave up five runs (all unearned) on four hits.  She and third pitcher Ariel Craig combined to walk another six in the game as wildness and errors were Nevada's undoing.

Colorado State got a big day offensively from Ashlie Ortega (3-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI), Emily Pohl (a double, two walks and two RBI), Alysa Greckel (a pair of hits and two RBI), and Cassy Mosser (two hits and a pair of runs scored).

Fresno State 5, Boise State 0

Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton tossed a 3-hit shutout to lead the Bulldogs past the Broncos in a series opener at Bulldog Diamond Friday.

Compton, who has struggled lately and won just one of her past six starts entering this series, dominated Boise State in this one.  After starting slow and allowing two hits in the top of the first inning, Compton allowed just one hit (a single) over the final six innings.

The freshman picked up her 10th win of the season with her 14th complete game and third shutout.  Fresno State became the first team to shut out Boise State as a Mountain West member.  The Broncos hadn't been shut out in a regular-season conference game since April 2, 2010.  Fresno State was the last team to do it, shutting out Boise State when both were WAC members in another 5-0 game.

The Broncos were their own worst enemy in this one, committing four costly errors that led to four unearned runs.  With Fresno State struggling to score of late, the Bulldogs happily took everything they were given by a Boise State team that fell apart early in this one.

Fresno State scored two in the second and added three more in the third against starter Rebecca Patton.  In the third inning, the Bulldogs took advantage of a pair of Boise State errors, including one by Patton herself on a wild throw down the line.  While Fresno State had three hits in the frame, runs scored on a wild pitch by Patton and a fielder's choice where Stesha Brazil slid under the tag.

Vonnie Martin, who doubled, and Brenna Moss both had two hits and an RBI to lead the Bulldogs' 8-hit attack.  Freshman Paige Gumz, who hit an RBI double, has hit safely in 11 of the last 12 games.

Fresno State improved to 13-3 at home, moved within a game and a half of first place, and has not allowed an earned run in three straight Mountain West home games.  Bulldog pitchers also have not allowed an earned run in four of their past five home contests.

UNLV 8, New Mexico 0 (6 innings)

UNLV junior pitcher Amanda Oliveto allowed only four hits as the Rebels knocked off the Lobos in Las Vegas in six innings.

New Mexico has now lost 15 of its past 16 Mountain West road games as its struggles continued.  UNLV, meanwhile, has won three of its last four conference games -- all at home -- after starting league play 0-3.

Oliveto, who's had problems with wildness in an otherwise impressive season, walked just one and struck out two.  New Mexico freshman Lauren Soles continued to have difficulty with illegal pitch calls, which have gone against her in several games this year.

Both UNLV runs in the first inning came when Soles was called for illegal pitches.  Stefany Valentino, who singled, and Tayler Van Acker, who reached on an error, scored back to back runs on illegal pitch calls that went against the freshman left-hander.

Valentino and Van Acker's two hits apiece led the Rebels, while Emily Haslinger hit a solo homer and Pauline Monreal added a double and three RBI.  Oliveto improved to 14-11 on the year and entered the game with an 8.72 ERA in Mountain West play.

Weekend preview: Rams try to stay unbeaten

There are three more Mountain West series on tap this weekend and Colorado State looks to remain the last unbeaten team in conference play at Nevada.

The Rams, while unbeaten in MW play at 3-0, are the only team yet to play two series and the only team yet to play a road game.  That all changes today against a Wolf Pack squad that is 8-3 at home this year, including a win over San Diego State Sunday.  That victory knocked SDSU from the ranks of the unbeaten in conference play.

Speaking of the Aztecs (5-1), they step out of conference for a single Saturday game at UC Riverside.

Fresno State (3-3) hosts Boise State (1-2) this weekend in a series that will be highlighted by an off-the-field event following Saturday's 6 pm local time game.  The Bulldogs are hosting an event for the non-profit organization Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

Locks of Love uses donated human hair to create a high-quality hair prosthetic for children who have usually lost their hair to a medical condition. Helping to restore the self-esteem and confidence of affected children, the organization relies on donations of those who have at least 10 inches of hair to remove.

In this case, multiple Fresno State softball players are joining in the public event that will involve cutting their hair on the field immediately following Saturday's game.  Fans can also donate by inquiring at the game, and Boise State head coach Erin Thorpe is also likely to participate in the donation, according to the Boise State official web site.

UNLV is at home for a second consecutive weekend and will host New Mexico.  Both teams are 2-4 and won series last week after being swept the previous weekend.

Colorado State (3-0) at Nevada (2-4)
Friday, 3 pm PDT
Saturday, 1 pm PDT
Sunday, noon PDT

Outlook:  The Wolf Pack must win the series to maintain any hope of winning the Mountain West title.  Nevada and Boise State are the only two MW teams yet to win a conference series. Colorado State, meanwhile, is in the unique position of sitting atop the conference, but being guaranteed a losing non-league record at the end of the season.  Like every team in the Mountain West not named San Diego State, CSU must win the regular-season title if it wants an NCAA bid.  Nevada had the unfortunate task of opening MW play against the teams predicted to finish first, second and third on the first three weekends of action.  CSU, meanwhile, can make a serious run at the title by winning at least twice in Reno.  The Rams get both Fresno State and San Diego State in Fort Collins over the next three weeks.  That's a decided advantage.

Boise State (1-2) at Fresno State (3-3)
Friday, 6 pm PDT
Saturday, 6 pm PDT
Sunday, noon PDT

Outlook:  The Broncos conclude a 12-game road trip here and have gone 4-4-1 over their last nine games.  Fresno State has struggled like never before, winning just 10 of 25 games away from home this year.  Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they're at home where they are 12-3 this season, with all three losses coming either by one run or in extra innings.  These two teams narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament's field of 64 last year, both finishing the season ranked in the RPI top 60.  This year has been a far different story:  Fresno State has its worst RPI (112) since its inception as a measuring tool by the NCAA, and Boise State is last in the Mountain West (130).

New Mexico (2-4) at UNLV (2-4)
Friday, 6 pm PDT
Saturday, 1 pm PDT
Sunday, 1 pm PDT

Outlook:  Both teams have struggled this year. New Mexico is last in the conference in hitting (.243) and third from the bottom in pitching (4.03 team ERA).  UNLV is next to last in both (.264 BA, 4.08 ERA).  The Rebels get the advantage playing at home here though.  UNLV has won four of its past five home games, with all four wins coming against teams with winning records.  The Rebs took two of three from Fresno State last week and that followed earlier home wins over Texas Tech and nationally-ranked Tulsa.  New Mexico is just 3-9 in true road games this season and its struggles on the road in conference play are well-documented.  UNM has lost 14 of its past 15 Mountain West road games, dating to the 2011 season.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

7th inning drama: Aztecs win, Bulldogs lose

There were just two games involving Mountain West teams Wednesday as Fresno State and San Diego State were in action on the road.  Both games were decided in the seventh inning, with the Aztecs picking up another quality win and the Bulldogs another surprising loss.

San Diego State 2, Cal State Fullerton 1

The Aztecs, who have had a lot of good fortune this season, took advantage of a game-changing error with two outs in the seventh inning and defeated the Titans in Fullerton.

Just moments after Cal State Fullerton had pulled into a 1-1 tie on a 2-out, RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth inning, San Diego State scored what turned out to be the game-winning run.

In the top of the seventh of a tied game, the Titans quickly retired the first two Aztecs.  Leia Ruiz then hit a 2-out single, which was followed by a Monica Downey single up the middle.  On the play, Cal State Fullerton center fielder Ashley Carter misplayed the ball for a 2-base error that allowed Downey to advance all the way to third, while Ruiz sailed around the bases to score the game-winner.

Rebecca Arbino tossed a complete-game 4-hitter for San Diego State, which bounced back from a Sunday loss at Nevada when the Aztecs saw their 13-game winning streak come to an end.

Downey was involved in both scoring plays for SDSU.  Her RBI single in the fifth scored the game's first run after Kristin May had doubled with one out in the frame.  Downey had two of the Aztecs' eight hits.

For San Diego State (26-13), it was another quality win in a season of many big and important victories.  Despite Cal State Fullerton's losing overall record of 16-23, the Titans currently have a strong RPI of 55 thanks to a very demanding non-conference schedule.  SDSU was 38th in the RPI entering the week.

Cal State Bakersfield 5, Fresno State 4

The Bulldogs' road struggles continued as the Roadrunners rallied for a pair of seventh inning runs to knock off Fresno State for the first time in school history.

In a series that began in 1986, Cal State Bakersfield had never before won a game against Fresno State in the sport of softball until Wednesday.

It was more of the same for the Bulldogs, whose pattern of stranding base runners has been one of the storylines of the season in the Mountain West.  Coach Trisha Ford's squad stranded runners in scoring position in every inning but the first.  Fresno State left runners at second base in both the second and third innings, left the bases loaded in the fourth, left a runner at third in the fifth, left runners at first and second in the sixth, and left runners at second and third in the seventh.

Despite all of that, when Diane Runge doubled to lead off the seventh and Michelle Solomon followed with a 2-run home run to give Fresno State its first lead of the game at 4-3, it looked like the Bulldogs would prevail.  Freshman pitcher Hannah Harris, who entered in relief of struggling freshman Jill Compton in the fifth, had pitched two complete innings without allowing a hit to that point.

But Harris didn't record an out in the bottom of the seventh as the Roadrunners got a single, RBI triple and walk-off RBI single to end it.  Harris took the loss, allowing just three hits in the game.  Compton, who started the season very strong, is winless in her last four starts and has won just one of her last six starts in the circle.

Solomon and Stesha Brazil each hit home runs for the second straight game and Solomon now has six RBI over the last two contests.  Brazil, Kapri Angotti and Vonnie Martin all had two hits as the Bulldogs had nine as a team.  Leadoff hitter Brenna Moss, who missed the entire UNLV series last weekend, was back in the lineup today and was the only Bulldog batter to not reach base in the game.

Fresno State, which has never come close to a losing season in its softball history, is just four games over .500 at 22-18 overall.  Already with the worst RPI in school history at No. 112 entering the week, the Bulldogs didn't help themselves with this loss to a Cal State Bakersfield team that entered the day just 10-23 overall and with an RPI of 193.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wolf Pack, Bulldogs, Broncos refuse to be swept

It was a strange day all around Mountain West softball Sunday.  A big streak came to an end, and every team that won Friday and Saturday ended up on the losing side today.

San Diego State saw its school-record tying win streak come to a halt, and both UNLV and New Mexico also failed to record sweeps.  Nevada, Fresno State and Boise State all won Sunday after losing the first two games of their series.

Nevada 4, San Diego State 2 -- In Reno, the Wolf Pack scored three times in the bottom of the sixth and snapped SDSU's 13-game winning streak.  Nevada's win also knocked the Aztecs down a notch in the MW standings as Colorado State (3-0) is the last unbeaten.  Megan Dortch picked up the win, while Rebecca Arbino took the loss.  Each team finished with six hits in the game.

Fresno State 6, UNLV 4 -- In Las Vegas, Amanda Oliveto was staked to a 4-run lead, but Fresno State used the long ball to score six unanswered runs and win in dramatic fashion.  In the top of the third, Michelle Solomon blasted her second grand slam of the season to pull the Bulldogs into a 4-4 tie and the game stayed that way until seventh.  Stesha Brazil hit her eighth homer of the year -- a 2-run shot to left -- with two outs in the seventh for the game-winning runs.  Freshman Hannah Harris (7-4) got the win with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless, 2-hit relief.  Freshman Paige Gumz extended her hitting streak to 10 games.

Boise State 13, New Mexico 0 (5 innings) -- In Albuquerque, the Broncos put a pair of consecutive, 1-run losses in the series behind them and rolled to a run-rule win over the Lobos.  Rebecca Patton got the victory for Boise State, its first Mountain West win of the season.  Freshman Lauren Soles had a tough afternoon and took the loss.

Texas A&M 10, Colorado State 2 (5 innings) -- In College Station, the Rams were run-ruled for the second time in three days against the Aggies.  Freshman pitcher Holly Reinke got the start and took the loss, giving up eight earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.  Colorado State saw its record fall to .500 (17-17) overall, but the Rams became the only unbeaten team in Mountain West play when San Diego State lost to Nevada.  The Rams travel to Reno next weekend to meet the Wolf Pack.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Aztecs tie school record with 13th straight win

San Diego State continued to pull away from the pack in the Mountain West, this time literally pulling away from the Pack.

The Nevada Wolf Pack were no match for the Aztecs in Reno Saturday as SDSU moved to a 5-0 record in conference play.  San Diego State and Colorado State (3-0) are the only teams in the Mountain West with a winning record after five games.

Fresno State continued a season-long pattern of stranding base runners in a surprising 8-2 loss at UNLV in a game where Amanda Oliveto did not pitch.  Francesca Foti (2-7) picked up the victory for the Rebels, who won for only the second time all year in a game where Oliveto didn't play.

Colorado State was upended late in a loss at Texas A&M, and Boise State met New Mexico later in the evening.

San Diego State 8, Nevada 1

The Aztecs matched a school record with their 13th consecutive win, pounding the Wolf Pack in Reno.  Freshman Danielle O'Toole picked up her 10th win of the season and sent Nevada ace Karlyn Jones to a surprising fourth consecutive loss.

Nevada, which has struggled mightily on the offensive end of late, managed only four hits in the contest.  The lone Wolf Pack run came on a solo homer by Megan Fincher, her team-leading ninth blast of the season.

San Diego State got on the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning on a solo home run by Lorena Bauer, also her ninth of the season.  On a day when three players in the game hit their ninth homers of the season, Patrice Jackson later joined the group in that category.  Kristin May also went deep on the afternoon for her first home run of the season as she finished with two RBI.

The Aztecs scored in three of the game's final four innings to win going away.   Bauer finished with three hits to lead San Diego State, and May, Jackson and Kayla Jordan all had two hits apiece.  The Aztecs haven't lost since a March 10 game in Fresno to Oregon State.

During its 13-game winning streak, San Diego State has outscored opponents an impressive 81 to 21.  A 3-game sweep of Nevada on Sunday would give the Aztecs 14 consecutive wins for the first time in school history.

The Wolf Pack, along with virtually every other team in the conference, will be trying to stop SDSU from running away with the Mountain West regular-season championship and the NCAA Tournament's automatic bid that goes along with it.  Nevada already finds itself four games out of first place with just 13 games to play, and on the wrong end of the tiebreaker scenario if it should come to that.

San Diego State moved to 25-12 overall, while the Wolf Pack are 22-18.

UNLV 8, Fresno State 2

Freshman pitcher Francesca Foti, who entered the day 1-7 overall and with a 6.14 ERA, struggled all game long, but it wouldn't matter as Fresno State couldn't come up with a clutch hit.  The Bulldogs out-hit UNLV 13 to 11, but Foti managed to earn her second complete-game win as a collegian by getting out of jam after jam.  Fresno State, which has almost turned lack of clutch hitting into an art form this season, had base runners in all seven innings and routinely shot itself in the foot.

The Bulldogs stranded 11 in the game, had runners in scoring position in six different innings, hit into three double plays and lost to UNLV for a fourth straight time.  In the 60-game series history dominated by Fresno State, the Rebels had never won three in a row, let alone four.

How bad did things get for the Bulldogs?  In the just second and third innings combined, Fresno State had seven hits, including a home run, and scored just once -- on the home run, which happened to be an inside the park shot by speedy Diane Runge.  The Bulldogs had three hits in the second inning and four more hits in the third, yet left the bases loaded both times.

Senior Mackenzie Mendonca, who had no career hits in two seasons with the Bulldogs, got the starting nod at designated player by first-year Bulldog coach Trisha Ford.  Mendonca came to bat three times with runners in scoring position, including once with the bases loaded, and went 0-for-3.  She was the only Bulldog to go hitless in the game, and Fresno State again played without leadoff hitter Brenna Moss, the conference triples and stolen bases leader.

Meanwhile, Fresno State freshman pitcher Jill Compton struggled from the outset.  UNLV freshman Emily Haslinger gave the Rebels the only runs they would need in the bottom of the first inning with a bases-loaded, 2-out triple that made it 3-0.  Haslinger, who had six RBI all season entering play Saturday, got three more in that one swing of the bat.

Emilie Valdez had three of UNLV's 11 hits in the game and Tayler Aleman hit a home run.  Maria Sio had three hits to lead the Bulldogs.  The Rebels, who gave up 33 runs in their last two Mountain West games prior to this series, have now allowed only three in this series versus Fresno State.  UNLV, which didn't post a conference series sweep last year, will go for the 3-game sweep of the struggling Bulldogs Sunday.

Texas A&M 3, Colorado State 1

In the lone non-conference game involving a Mountain West softball team Saturday, Colorado State came close against the nationally-ranked Aggies, but fell in a tough one in College Station.

Kacie McCarthy had only allowed two hits through six innings, and the Rams and A&M were tied 1-1 entering the bottom of the seventh.

With one out, the Aggies got an infield single for just their third hit of the contest.  Second baseman Jenna Stark then stepped up and crushed a walk-off, 2-run home run to left that ended it.  Colorado State had five hits in the game to A&M's four, but it wasn't to be.

After falling behind early, Cassy Mosser's 2-out double in the third inning scored Ashlie Ortega, who singled.  It would be CSU's only run of the day.  Danielle Wikre had a double in the sixth, and the Rams got a pair of hits in the seventh, but left the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in each of the final two innings.

Colorado State's performance was a vast improvement over Friday's game when A&M rolled to a 10-0 win in five innings. The teams will close out their 3-game series Sunday.  The Rams (17-16) will look to avoid falling back to .500 on the season, while A&M (30-7) goes for the sweep and its 31st win.