Friday, April 3, 2015

FRIDAY: Aztecs & Rams shut out Bulldogs, Spartans

A pair of shutouts highlighted Mountain West play Friday as eight of the nine softball teams in the conference were in action.

San Diego St. 3, Fresno State 0 - A night after being shut out at home, the Aztecs turned the tables and shut out the Bulldogs to even their series at 1-1.  Erica Romero, who gave up 13 hits Thursday, held Fresno State to just three Friday as the Bulldogs limped into the game missing one of the key ingredients to their success this season.  Cleanup hitter Kierra Willis, the Bulldogs' leader in RBI, home runs, slugging percentage, triples and walks, was not in the lineup for the first time after exiting Thursday's game with what appeared to be a very serious knee injury.  Her replacement in the lineup was freshman Wendy Cardinali, hitless in 10 at-bats this season.  SDSU scored in the first inning on a 2-out RBI double by Jenavee Peres against Bulldog starter Hannah Harris to score Sydnee Cable, who singled.  The Aztecs extended the lead in the fourth when second baseman Malia Rivers committed her fifth error in the last four games, and the unearned run made it 2-0.  Fresno State got a 1-out double from Bria Kennedy in the fifth to bring up the potential tying run, but Romero was able to get two quick outs to end the threat.  Whitney Smith, who went 2-for-2 batting in the number nine spot in the order, led off the sixth for the Bulldogs with a single, but was quickly erased when Brenna Moss hit into a fielder's choice on the first pitch she saw.  Moss, hitting .500 overall for the year as recently as two weeks ago, is 1-for-7 in this series and now batting .296 in conference play (8-for-27).  Fresno State did not have a hit (0-for-4) with a runner on base in the game.  SDSU pushed a third run across in the bottom of the sixth on a run-scoring single by Kayla Bufardeci.  She, Peres and Bauer all had two hits as the Aztecs had eight in the game.  The top five batters in the lineup for each team told the story of this game:  While the Aztecs went 7-for-15, the first five batters for Fresno State went hitless (0-for-15).  Romero won her nation-leading 22nd game and has been the pitcher of record in the Aztecs' last 17 games in a row.  San Diego State pushed the preseason conference favorite Bulldogs two games back in the standings, making Saturday's rubber game of the series practically a must-win for the Bulldogs even though the league season isn't even half over.

Colorado State 1, San Jose State 0 - For the second straight day, the Rams shut down the Mountain West's top hitting team in stunning fashion.  And today's game was probably more impressive than Thursday's.  Freshman Trinity Harrington, the reigning conference Pitcher of the Week, tossed the complete-game shutout and allowed five hits, running her scoreless innings streak to 14.  The Spartans, for the second straight game, looked apprehensive at the plate, rather than the aggressive team they'd been for most of the season.  Over its last five Mountain West games, San Jose State has scored just six earned runs combined, an oddity for a team that dominates almost every offensive statistical category in the league.  Much of today's lack of offense could be pinned on Harrington, who had the Spartans off-balance all game.  CSU took its 1-0 lead in the fifth when Taylor Hutton singled with one out, and Haley David delivered a clutch, 2-out single.  The Rams helped themselves with some impressive defense along the way too.  San Jose State did manage a big scoring threat in the bottom of the seventh after Harrington got two quick outs.  Anissa Pinedo singled when the Spartans were down to their final out, and pinch-hitter Erin Rodriguez followed with a single of her own to put the tying run in scoring position and the potential winning run on base.  Harrington got Nicole Schultz to fly out on one pitch to end it.  After being swept at home in a 3-game series by Fresno State to begin conference play, the Rams have won two straight and clinched the series victory in San Jose.  For the Spartans, it's been a disappointing weekend after taking two of three in Fresno a week ago.  The Rams go for the series sweep, while SJSU hopes to salvage one game of the 3-game set on Saturday at noon.

New Mexico 6, Nevada 5 - In Albuquerque, the Lobos' habit of winning close games continued with a Friday victory over the Wolf Pack.  New Mexico's last three games have all been 1-run victories, and five of its six wins in conference play have either been by one run or in extra innings.  This one had a bit of a different feel though, as it was New Mexico that jumped to the early lead and had to hold off the Wolf Pack.  The Lobos were up big early as Karissa Haleman launched a 2-out, 3-run home run to get things started in the first inning.  It was a 5-0 game following a Jasmine Casados homer, and UNM starting pitcher Lauren Soles was cruising into the sixth with a shutout intact.  That's when Nevada went to work.  The Pack scored four in the top of the inning on four hits, with the biggest blow coming off the bat of Karley Hopkins.  Her bases-loaded double, against reliever Krissy Fortner, cleared the bases and made it a 5-4 game.  UNM got a run back in the bottom of the frame, and Nevada threatened to tie it in the seventh.  Fortner walked a pair, uncorked a wild pitch to advance both runners, and Nevada got back within a run on a sacrifice fly.  With the tying run at third base, Fortner got Ashley Butera to pop up to end the game and secure New Mexico's third straight series win.  The Lobos will enter Saturday alone in second place in the conference standings after being predicted to finish last in the preseason.  UNM knows, however, that its biggest tests lie ahead, as the Lobos' six league wins have come over teams that are a combined 7-14 in the Mountain West and 39-66 overall.  Nevada, despite playing just five conference games thus far, is already 4 1/2 games out of first place in the league and has yet to play any of the presumed title contenders.  The Pack must avoid being swept in Saturday's noon series finale in order to have any realistic shot at contending for the crown themselves.

UNLV 14, Utah State 12 - It was a wild one in Logan that could only be described as a slugfest.  Utah State started freshman pitcher Paige Mills, who made her first collegiate start and it didn't go all that well.  Mills, who'd thrown just one inning all year and entered with an ERA of 28.00, lasted 1 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs.  She was staked to a commanding 5-1 lead in the first as Utah State sent eight to the plate against UNLV freshman pitcher Janine Petmecky.  Hailey Froton tripled and scored in the first as part of a special day where she hit for the cycle.  She tripled in the first, homered in the second, added a single later, and then doubled in the seventh as the Aggies tried to rally.  Both teams had 16 hits in this one, but it was freshman reliever Sydney Mundell of the Rebels who made the difference.  While every pitcher who stepped on the field was getting rocked, Mundell earned the win as UNLV surged from behind.  She gave up nine hits, but held the Aggies to just three runs over the final 4 2/3 innings when Utah State was unable to hold onto a 4-run lead twice.  A 7-run top of the fifth powered the Rebels in front.  The seven runs came on six hits, highlighted by an Emily Haslinger 3-run home run.  The first four batters in UNLV's lineup combined for 11 hits as Haslinger, Garie Blando and Samantha Juarez all had three hits each.  Froton finished with five RBI to lead USU.  The Rebels had lost 10 of their previous 11 games entering Friday's play.  The series, tied at 1-1, concludes with a noon Saturday game.