Friday, April 18, 2014

Johnson leads Utah State past Aztecs in shutout

The race for the Mountain West regular-season title and the NCAA automatic bid got even tighter Friday.  At the end of the day, two-thirds of the conference had either seven or eight wins in league play, creating a logjam at the top.  Utah State pulled off one of the biggest wins in its recent softball history, stunning 2-time defending Mountain West champ San Diego State on the road.

Utah State 1, San Diego State 0 - In San Diego, Aggies pitcher Noelle Johnson tossed perhaps the best game of her collegiate career thus far as Utah State shocked the Aztecs.  Johnson allowed only two hits -- both singles -- and the predicted last-place team in the preseason knocked off the coaches' pick to win the conference.  The sophomore right-hander didn't allow a hit through the first four innings and got some fine defensive help in the seventh.  After Kayla Jordan led off the bottom of the seventh with a single for SDSU, Johnson induced reigning MW Player of the Year Patrice Jackson to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.  The game ended when Aztecs cleanup batter Sydnee Cable (.373 average) grounded out.  Andi Smith (3-3) started and took the loss for SDSU, which has now dropped three of five after starting Mountain West play 5-1.  Victoria Saucedo had two hits, including a double, and scored the game's lone run in the fourth.  She doubled to lead off the inning and came home on a Hailey Froton RBI single.

Colorado State 8, Nevada 3 - In Fort Collins, the Rams scored the game's first five runs, then added three in the bottom of the sixth after Nevada had cut the margin to two.  Colorado State got a good pitching performance from Molly Randle, who took a 2-hitter into the sixth inning.  Amanda Weis broke up the shutout with a 3-run home run for the Pack.  The Rams won their ninth straight at home, while the Wolf Pack's road troubles continued.  It was Nevada's 10th straight loss away from Hixson Park in Reno.

San Jose State 11, Boise State 5 - In Boise, the Spartans rebounded from Friday's one-run loss to rout the host Broncos.  San Jose State's win snapped Boise State's 4-game conference winning streak.  The top three hitters in the Spartans' lineup -- Devin Caldwell, Michelle Cox and Jessica Garcia -- had two hits apiece, and Caldwell and Garcia finished with two RBI.  A 6-run top of the sixth inning was the biggest frame of the day for SJSU.  Two Broncos errors and three walks in the sixth helped San Jose State's cause.

UNLV 10, New Mexico 2 (5 innings) - In Albuquerque, the host Lobos suffered their 13th run-rule loss of the season, falling to the Rebels.  Emily Haslinger was the hitting star for UNLV, blasting three home runs to tie the school's single-game record.  She hit a grand slam to break it open early in the first inning, added a solo shot to lead off the third, and hit a 2-run homer in the fourth.  Looking for a fourth consecutive home run while at bat in the fifth inning, Haslinger hit into a fielder's choice.  Morgan Ettinger scattered 10 hits in the complete-game win as UNM continually stranded base runners.  New Mexico left the bases loaded in three of the game's five innings.