Friday, April 10, 2015

Second half of conference play begins Friday

The second half of conference play begins for most Mountain West teams Friday with the opening of four big weekend series.

Many eyes will be focused on a huge showdown between San Diego State and San Jose State in a battle of first- and third-place teams.  The Aztecs hold a slim, 1-game lead in the Mountain West standings over Fresno State, but the Bulldogs hold that tiebreaker.  The Spartans, meanwhile, are 2 1/2 games back of San Diego State and 1 1/2 behind Fresno State.

While the winner of the SDSU-SJSU series will be in strong position to contend for the conference title, the series loser will face a very tough road to the title.  Over its last 16 conference games spanning two seasons, the Aztecs are 1-2 versus Fresno State, but 13-0 versus everyone else.  But with pitcher Erica Romero almost certainly being asked to shut down one of the nation's top offenses for all three games this weekend, that streak is in jeopardy.

The Spartans last month won two of three in Fresno to put themselves in prime position to challenge for the MW title.  A week later, San Jose State lost two of three at home to a Colorado State team that entered winless in conference play.  SJSU can't afford to slip up again. The Spartans are 14-19 in the all-time series with the Aztecs, who won two of three in San Jose last year.

Fresno State will be in Logan in a battle of teams coming off 3-game midweek sweeps in Mountain West play.  The Bulldogs have long dominated their series with Utah State and carry a 14-year (!) winning streak into the series with the Aggies.  If Fresno State should sweep, the Bulldogs would be guaranteed at least a portion of first place in the league standings in every scenario except a San Diego State sweep of San Jose State.  The Bulldogs can also match their entire 2014 season win total (31) this weekend.

New Mexico, which was tied for second place at the beginning of the week and just a game out of first, now finds itself four games behind.  The Rams host a Colorado State team that has been very up and down this season.  CSU entered conference play with wins in 11 of its previous 12 games, but is all but out of the league title race at 2-7.

Nevada and Boise State meet in a battle of struggling teams.  The Pack scored 16 runs against San Diego State this week in a 3-game series, despite being swept.  Boise State scored an impressive 25 runs at UNLV this week, but lost all three games.  Offense hasn't been the problem.  Pitching has been the sore spot for both the Broncos and Wolf Pack.  With one more loss, Boise State will tie the program-record for most losses in a season (32).  BSU's current 16-game losing streak is the longest in Boise State history.