Sunday, April 27, 2014

Another Compton shutout leaves Fresno State in first

With the number of remaining games dwindling and the calendar about to reach the month of May, every game in Mountain West softball took on added importance Sunday.

In the two most crucial series of the weekend, it was once again the home teams coming out on top.  Fresno State won its second straight game from UNLV to win the series with the Rebels and power the Bulldogs into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West.  Meanwhile, San Diego State came from a 2-run deficit to knock off Colorado State and win the series from the Rams.

Elsewhere, San Jose State kept its slim title hopes alive with an extra innings win at Nevada, and the Lobos of New Mexico won their first series of the season by defeating Utah State.

All of this left Fresno State alone at the top of a crowded race for the MW title and the automatic NCAA berth that goes with it.  The Bulldogs (12-6) hold a one-game lead over a trio of teams -- Colorado State (11-7), San Diego State (11-7) and Boise State (11-7), which was idle this weekend.  A game and a half off the pace is UNLV (12-9), while San Jose State (10-8) is two full games back.

Fresno State 1, UNLV 0 - Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton of the Bulldogs out-dueled Rebels senior ace Amanda Oliveto in a reversal of game one of this series when it was Fresno State that fell 1-0 in extra innings.  Compton needed just 70 pitches in a game that lasted little more than an hour as neither team had much offense.  The game's lone run came in the fourth.  Brooke Ortiz singled with one out, and moved to second when Oliveto hit Michelle Solomon (who homered Saturday) with a pitch.  Stesha Brazil singled to load the bases, and Ortiz came home when Jaexie Balilea struggled to field a tricky chopper off the bat of Vonnie Martin.  In the seventh, the Rebels mounted a bit of a threat as Pauline Monreal singled to lead off the inning.  The tying run moved to second on a sacrifice, but Compton struck out Emily Haslinger and induced a game-ending groundout by Jamie DePippo.  Haslinger, the reigning MW Player of the Week who hit four home runs in three games last week, went 0-for-9 against Bulldog pitching in the series.  UNLV entered the series ranked No. 1 in team batting average (.355) in Mountain West play, but was held to just four total runs in the series by Fresno State's Compton and Hannah Harris.  The Rebels had not scored fewer than 12 runs in a series before this weekend.  Fresno State continued its home dominance, finding a way to win for the 43rd time in its last 50 conference home games.

San Diego State 4, Colorado State 2 - The Rams sent Holly Reinke to the circle for the third consecutive game, while the Aztecs chose to go with freshman Erica Romero for the first time this weekend.  The move looked to pay off for Colorado State early when Chelsea O'Connor blasted a 2-run home run in the top of the first inning.  The score would stay that way until the Aztecs chipped away with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie it.  The bottom of the sixth was the difference, however, when the Rams' defensive troubles paved the way for the Aztecs.  Hayley Miles singled to left to begin the bottom of the sixth, but an errant throw by left fielder Kendal Butterfield allowed Miles to motor all the way to third base.  Miles scored on a passed ball almost immediately after Reinke was replaced in the circle by Larisa Petakoff, who was also called for a couple of illegal pitches.  After a walk to Frankie Orlando and one of the aforementioned illegal pitches advanced the runner, CSU first baseman Alysa Greckel's error allowed another run to score.  In the seventh, Haley Hutton singled to bring the potential tying run to the plate, but eventual winner Danielle O'Toole (who came on in the fifth) secured the win.

San Jose State 4, Nevada 2 (8 innings) - Jessie Hufstetler's 2-run homer in the top of the eighth was the difference in this one as San Jose State rallied for the victory, its second straight on the road in Reno.  Hufstetler's shot came after Nevada rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of runs.  Megan Sweet's 2-run double -- when the Pack was down to its last out -- brought Nevada back.  Katelyn Linford and Karlyn Jones went the distance for their respective teams.  Linford gave up eight hits for the win, while Jones allowed 10 hits and took the loss.  Hufstetler's three hits led all batters in the contest.

New Mexico 6, Utah State 4 - In a game that the Aggies led most of the way, it was Utah State errors that told the story.  With Aggies sophomore standout Noelle Johnson back in the circle after missing the last four games with injury, she deserved a better fate.  Five of New Mexico's six runs were unearned, including all four in the bottom of the sixth inning on a windy day in Albuquerque.  To its credit, New Mexico took advantage and had eight hits, including three in the decisive sixth.  Following a Utah State error and with two outs in the sixth, Brandi Heimburg and Willow Kalinen each hit RBI singles to make a winner out of reliever Lauren Soles.  Over the final 3 2/3 innings, Soles allowed just one hit and no runs as UNM rallied from four runs down.