The opening day of conference play in Mountain West softball was one with some standout performances and impressive results.
In the opening game of the only conference series this weekend to match teams with winning overall records, preseason Mountain West favorite Fresno State came up with an impressive road victory. The Bulldogs combined a power-hitting offense with a stellar pitching performance and run-ruled Colorado State in Fort Collins 9-0 in five innings.
Elsewhere, San Jose State run-ruled reeling Boise State 9-1 in six innings in San Jose, and Utah State rode the arm of Noelle Johnson to a 4-0 win over New Mexico in Logan, Utah. In the final game of the day, defending conference champion San Diego State used three UNLV errors to its advantage in a 5-1 victory in San Diego.
Fresno State 9, Colorado State 0 (5 innings) - Jill Compton tossed a 3-hit shutout in Fort Collins as the Bulldogs became the first team to hold the Rams scoreless in their last 60 games. Colorado State entered the day unbeaten at home this season and having won 11 of its past 12 games overall, but was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs early in this one. The first four Fresno State batters of the game reached against Rams starter Molly Randle as Brenna Moss walked, Malia Rivers singled, Michelle Solomon reached on an error and Kierra Willis walked. Paige Gumz delivered a sacrifice fly and Bria Kennedy singled, setting up perhaps the game's pivotal moment. With two outs in the first, freshman Chase LeeHong blasted her first collegiate home run -- a 3-run shot -- in her first-ever at-bat in a conference game. That put the Bulldogs up 6-0 as they sent 11 batters to the plate in the opening frame. In the fourth, Rivers and Solomon singled to lead off the inning, and Willis launched another 3-run home run to make it 9-0. That was more than enough for Compton, who allowed just three singles and didn't allow a base runner after the third inning. Compton struck out four and didn't walk a batter. LeeHong and Willis both finished with three RBI, while Rivers, Solomon and Kennedy had two hits apiece. Fresno State became the first team to run-rule the Rams in Fort Collins in nearly two years and just the second in the last four seasons. The only other team to do it (San Diego State in a 12-4 win in six innings in 2013) went on to win the Mountain West regular-season championship. Randle, who took the loss, entered the day with the lowest ERA in the conference at 2.11, while Compton was third.
San Jose State 9, Boise State 1 (6 innings) - Playing at home in San Jose, the Spartans got a combined 3-hitter from Allison Lang and Katelyn Linford to run-rule the Broncos. Struggling Boise State lost for the eighth consecutive time. San Jose State got a 4-hit, 2-RBI day from Jessie Hufstetler, who had two singles and two doubles to lead the way offensively. The Spartans had five doubles on the afternoon as Alyssa Martinez hit two and finished with three RBI. The Broncos took a 1-0 lead in the first but could do little after that, despite the fact the game featured a staggering 12 walks -- six by both teams. SJSU scored three in the bottom of the first and added four more in the third. All seven of those runs were charged to starter (and losing pitcher) Mackenzie McGill, who fell to 3-5 on the year. Reliever Rachel Rodriguez entered in the third with the bases loaded and immediately gave up a single to Taylor Purdy. That hit, combined with a Broncos outfield error, cleared the bases and put San Jose State up 7-1. The Spartans added two more in the sixth to invoke the run rule.
Utah State 4, New Mexico 0 - Noelle Johnson allowed only one hit and the Lobos, predicted to finish last in the Mountain West in the preseason coaches poll, couldn't muster much of an offense. In the third, Utah State scored the only three runs it would need. With one out, Sarah Chow singled and later scored on an RBI double by Jolene Koons. Hailey Froton then tripled and Alleyah Armendariz doubled to complete the scoring in that frame. Armendariz, Koons and Chow finished with two hits each and Armendariz had a pair of RBI in the win. It snapped an 8-game conference losing streak dating back to last season for the Aggies. Utah State had not won a Mountain West game since beating New Mexico on April 25, 2014. Krissy Fortner, who had not seen a lot of time in the circle this season but was second in the conference in ERA entering the game, allowed all eight hits in the complete-game loss. After Brandi Heimburg singled for UNM to lead off the fourth inning, Johnson did not allow a hit the rest of the way, retiring the final 12 Lobo batters in a row.
San Diego State 5, UNLV 1 - San Diego State was out-hit six to five, but three UNLV errors were the difference in this one as the Aztecs won their conference opener at home in San Diego. All 11 hits in the game were singles. Morgan Ettinger started and was the tough-luck loser for the Rebels, who lost their fifth in a row. Erica Romero started for the 22nd time in 30 SDSU games this season and grabbed the victory to snap a 2-game losing streak. The Rebels committed an error in each inning in which the Aztecs scored. In the first, Jenavee Peres hit a sacrifice fly after UNLV starting pitcher Morgan Ettinger hit a batter and gave up a single to Lorena Bauer. After the Rebels tied it in the fourth, the Aztecs took the lead for good with a run in the fifth when Kayla Jordan singled and the ball was misplayed in the outfield by UNLV's Samantha Juarez. Three runs came across for San Diego State in the sixth -- again aided by an error. After two quick outs, a walk to Hayley Miles and a single by Kayla Bufardeci put two Aztecs runners on base. A ground ball to Garie Blando was misplayed, extending the inning. Instead of a 2-1 game heading to the 7th, this one was all but over as three runs would come across in the sixth -- all with two outs -- for a 4-run margin. Jordan, who had three of SDSU's five hits, singled against reliever Sydney Munell for the final two runs of the sixth. Romero gave up a leadoff single in the seventh before retiring the final three batters she faced to pick up the win.