Friday, April 12, 2013

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.