Saturday, April 11, 2015

SATURDAY: Mayhem at the top of the standings after SJSU rout

There were just three Mountain West softball games Saturday after Boise State's home game with Nevada was postponed and changed to a Sunday doubleheader.  Two of the three games produced shocking results.

San Jose State handed San Diego State its first run-rule loss ever at  home in Mountain West play, and Utah State defeated Fresno State for the first time in 14 years.  Elsewhere, New Mexico beat Colorado State, and UNLV was swept in a non-conference doubleheader at Cal.

San Jose State 10, San Diego State 1 (6 innings) - In San Diego, the Spartans' offense throttled Aztec pitching for the second night in a row.  San Jose State pounded out 15 hits, including 11 against starter and losing pitcher Erica Romero.  The sophomore, who's thrown more innings than any other pitcher in the country this season, has now allowed 23 hits in 9 1/3 innings of work in the series.  The Aztecs have lost four of their last five games at home, and must win Sunday to avoid being swept.  Even more importantly, with San Diego State having already suffered series losses to both Fresno State and now San Jose State, the Aztecs likely need to win to remain in the chase for a fourth straight conference crown.  Less than two weeks after suffering their worst conference loss in 14 years (an 8-1 defeat at home to Fresno State), San Diego State was handed its first home run-rule loss as a Mountain West member.  The Spartans turned a 1-1 game into a rout with a 5-run fifth that chased Romero.  In the sixth, Kathy Van Wyk turned to Taylor Stewart in the circle.  After Stewart retired SJSU in order in one of inning of work Friday night, the Spartans had no problem against her Saturday.  San Jose State got four hits, including a 3-run home run by Alyssa Martinez, in the sixth to go in front 9-1.  A San Diego State error allowed a 10th run to score.  For much of the game, San Jose State was hitting the ball well, but was unable to come up with a clutch hit.  Through four innings, it was a 1-1 game and SJSU had stranded seven base runners.  That changed in the fifth when the Spartans scored five runs on four hits to snap the tie.  Among the big hits of the frame: A 2-run double by Taylor Purdy and a double by Emma Entzminger that came just before a 2-run homer by Nicole Schultz.  That was Schultz' second home run of the season.  Six Spartans had multi-hit games and they now move into that odd space in the league standings where they trail by a half-game because they've played one fewer series than both San Diego State and Fresno State, yet they lead by 0.013 percentage points.

Utah State 4, Fresno State 3 - The Bulldogs had twice as many hits as Utah State, but it was the hometown Aggies who made their hits count in Logan.  Utah State had just five hits in the game, but three were home runs -- two solo shots from Paxton Provost and an important 2-run homer from pitcher Noelle Johnson, who helped her own cause. The Bulldogs had twice as many hits -- 10 in all -- but have stranded 20 base runners in the series after leaving 10 aboard for the second straight day.  Fresno State hitters came up to bat 17 times with runners on base, and continually whiffed.  It was eerily reminiscent of a Bulldog loss last year at Nevada that ultimately ended up being the difference between Fresno State winning the Mountain West title and being left out of the NCAA tournament entirely.  The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when freshman Chase LeeHong doubled home Bria Kennedy, who singled with two outs.  The lead would be short-lived.  Pitcher Hannah Harris, who'd given up just one generously-labeled "hit" to that point, gave up a home run to Provost with one out in the bottom of the fourth to tie it.  Alleyah Armendariz followed with a double, and Johnson's 2-run homer was next, immediately chasing Harris.  Taylor Langdon entered in relief for the Bulldogs and retired all five hitters she faced.  In the sixth, Fresno State tied it as Alyssa Villalpando singled and Kennedy doubled to begin the inning.  With one out, Whitney Smith's perfectly-placed bunt scored a run, and Brenna Moss followed with an RBI single.  With two runners in scoring position, number two and three hitters Malia Rivers and Michelle Solomon (who combined to go 0-for-7) grounded out and struck out as Johnson escaped the jam.  Despite Langdon's perfect outing in relief to that point (and one that required just 15 pitches to retire all five batters), Bulldog head coach Trisha Ford turned to Jill Compton.  The second batter Compton faced -- Provost -- went deep with her second home run of the game and it was the game-winner.  Compton took the loss, allowing just that one hit.  Fresno State left runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.  When the Bulldogs left the bases loaded in the fourth, it was the sixth time they've done that in their past three games.  Utah State's win snapped Fresno State's 14-year, 23-game winning streak in a lopsided series long dominated by the Bulldogs.  The Aggies had not defeated Fresno State since the 2001 season.  This loss is potentially devastating to the Bulldogs' MW title chances and also puts a dent in the team's NCAA at-large chances if it should come to that.  Utah State came in with an RPI of 199.  The only players with three hits in the game were both Bulldogs -- Moss and Kennedy.  Fresno State faces a must-win rubber match Sunday at noon Mountain time.

New Mexico 4, Colorado State 3 - In Albuquerque, the Lobos rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to snap a 5-game losing streak and tie their series with the Rams at one each.  Mia Hignojos hit a sharp single to left with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to score the game-winner.  New Mexico had struggled all game long with runners on base.  Out-hitting Colorado State 11 to two, the Lobos still trailed 3-1 entering the final frame.  CSU's three runs all scored on New Mexico mistakes.  Wild pitches by Lauren Soles scored each of the first two Rams runs, and CSU went up 3-1 with the help of a Lobos error.  In a game that featured a lot of sloppiness, the teams combined for six errors.  Soles walked three and hit three batters only days after hitting four batters in a loss at Fresno State.  She did, however, allow just two hits to earn the win.  The rubber match will be played Sunday at noon Mountain time.