Saturday, March 14, 2015

SATURDAY: Missed opportunities in Top 25 games for MW teams

Three Mountain West teams play Top 25 opponents today.  Fresno State takes on its fifth ranked opponent in the last week in 16th-ranked Minnesota (20-4).  That game takes place at Margie Wright Diamond at 6 pm Saturday night.  San Jose State and Utah State will both meet 15th-ranked Baylor (16-6) in San Diego Saturday afternoon.  For the Spartans, it's their fourth ranked opponent in the last nine days.  For the Aggies, it's their second ranked foe this season and comes one month to the day that they lost to then-12th ranked UCLA.

No. 15 Baylor 3, San Jose State 1 - This one was similar in many ways to the game Fresno State played against Baylor just six days ago.  San Jose State had 11 hits, just as the Bulldogs did versus the Bears, but with the same painful storyline:  a big clutch hit proved elusive.  Just like Fresno State on Sunday, the Spartans stranded 12 base runners.  In the second inning, SJSU left the bases loaded, but the biggest opportunity came in the fourth.  The Spartans were able to grab a 1-0 lead in that inning, but blew a much bigger chance.  Emma Entzminger, Nicole Schultz and Michelle Cox all hit singles (two of the infield variety) to begin that crucial bottom of the fourth.  After an error on a fielder's choice scored the game's first run and gave the Spartans a lead, SJSU had the bases loaded with no outs and their top power threats on deck.  Looking to break the game wide open, the Spartans unfortunately saw Baylor strike out Jessie Hufstetler on a swinging third strike before Sharon-Renae Estrada hit into an inning-ending double play as Schultz tried to score from third base.  SJSU pitcher Allison Lang scattered eight hits and got out of several late jams to keep the Spartans in it.  Baylor left the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, and SJSU threatened again in the bottom of the frame.  Bears pitcher Heather Stearns got a pop up and strike out to end the game as SJSU left runners at second and third.  Baylor improved to 17-6 overall with the win.

No. 16 Minnesota 3, Fresno State 1 - This one was similar to most Bulldog losses this season:  a case of missed opportunities and blown chances.  Facing reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Sara Groenewegen, who entered with a 1.05 ERA and 12-2 record, Fresno State had more than a few chances to not only score, but break open a tight game.  The Bulldogs left the bases loaded in both the third and fifth innings, and several times had the tying and go-ahead runs on base and often in scoring position.  Brenna Moss, the Mountain West's leading hitter entering the game, continued her hot streak, going 3-for-4 against Groenewegen. In the second, Moss and Malia Rivers both singled and Michelle Solomon walked to load the bases.  Cleanup batter Kierra Willis struck out to end that inning.  An inning later, Fresno State tied it 1-1 as Paige Gumz doubled and scored on a triple by Bria Kennedy.  With Kennedy on third base with one out, freshman Katie Castellon (replacing hot-hitting third baseman Alyssa Villalpando, who's been out of the lineup for the last two days) bunted into a double play on what appeared to be a botched suicide squeeze that would've given the Bulldogs the lead.  The next inning, the Bulldogs blew another golden opportunity.  With the bases loaded and just one out following a hit-by-pitch, walk and Moss single, Willis struck out again.  Gumz then popped up to end the threat.  In the seventh, Moss doubled to the wall in left with one out, but the game was over just three pitches later after quick groundouts.  Jill Compton threw another impressive game with seven strikeouts and no walks, albeit in a losing effort.  Minnesota improved to 21-4 overall with the victory.

No. 15 Baylor 6, Utah State 5 - The Bears chose to start sophomore transfer pitcher Brooke Seneshen, who'd thrown just 25 innings this season, and the Aggies almost made the Bears pay.  Baylor struggled defensively from the outset, committing a pair of errors in the first inning that gave the Aggies a quick 1-0 lead.  In the bottom of the first, the Bears pushed five runs across on four hits, but USU pitcher Noelle Johnson managed to avoid further damage as Baylor left the bases loaded.  Utah State scored a pair of runs on three singles to cut the margin to 5-3 an inning later, and USU wasn't done yet.  The Aggies scored a pair in the top of the third, including one on an RBI single by Johnson, to tie it up at 5-5.  Baylor went back on top in the bottom of the frame with a run on four hits and again left the bases loaded.  The Bears stranded eight base runners in the first four innings of the game alone.  There was no scoring from that point on in the game, but USU threatened in the sixth but blew a big chance.  After Nicole Arata was hit by a pitch, Sarah Chow doubled.  Arata tried to score the tying run but was thrown out at the plate.  Instead of two runners in scoring position with just one out, there were now two outs and a runner at second.  Utah State would find out just how crushing that attempt to score was when the next batter, Jolene Koons, reached on an error as Chow advanced to third.  Hailey Froton struck out with the tying run at third base to end that frame and the Aggies didn't have another base runner in the game.  Baylor improved to 18-6.

Elsewhere:  New Mexico began the day with a 7-5 loss to Furman, despite outhitting the Paladins 11 to five, but the Lobos bounced back for a split by defeating College of Charleston 7-4 ... Colorado State picked up an 8-1 win over Bryant University and later an 8-0 win in five innings over Buffalo in one one of those "only in softball" type outings.  The Rams were out-hit seven to six in the rout ... Boise State suffered a pair of tough-luck losses. There was a 2-1 loss to Charleston Southern when the Bucs hit a 2-run homer in the sixth to erase a deficit.  And then, one strike away from a win, the Broncos gave up a solo home run in the 7th to DePaul, and the Blue Demons went on for a 6-5 win in eight innings.  DePaul, which hadn't won a game in exactly three weeks, snapped its own long losing streak ... Nevada picked up two home victories: a 5-4 win over St. Mary's, which scored three in the seventh and brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate; and a 6-2 win over Portland State ... Long Beach State (13-18 overall) erupted for 13 runs in the top of the fifth for a 16-3 run-rule rout over Utah State ... In late-night action, San Diego State picked up a 10-4 win late Saturday over Santa Clara, and San Jose State came back from its loss to Baylor with a 3-0 victory over Harvard.