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.