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.