Fresno State has won the Mountain West softball championship outright with a 15-7 (five innings) run-rule victory over UNLV in Las Vegas Friday night. The Bulldogs are headed to their 31st NCAA softball tournament in 34 years and will learn Sunday where and against whom they will play.
The Bulldogs earned their NCAA bid while their game with the Rebels was still going on, thanks to New Mexico's 14-0 (five innings) pounding of San Jose State, eliminating the Spartans from the race for the crown. Fresno State's 19 league wins are the most ever by a team in Mountain West play, and the Bulldogs can win their 20th MW game and 40th overall this season tomorrow.
Fresno State will take a 10-game winning streak into Saturday's regular-season finale at UNLV.
Fresno State 15, UNLV 7 (5 innings) - The Bulldogs were nearly unstoppable on offense, pounding out 16 hits, scoring in every inning, and run-ruling the Rebels for a second straight game in Las Vegas. After hitting her first career home run Thursday night, Bria Kennedy followed it up with her second home run Friday when she had a three RBI night. Kennedy's blast came in the top of the fifth and provided the final 8-run margin, enabling the run-rule to be invoked. Kierra Willis and Alyssa Villalpando both hit doubles among their three hits apiece. Brenna Moss hit a 2-run triple and finished with three RBI, while freshman Chase LeeHong had a pair of hits and three RBI as well. Michelle Solomon and Paige Gumz each had two hits, with Solomon adding two RBI and a double. Malia Rivers had a hit and RBI, and Whitney Smith walked twice and scored both times as every player in the lineup had a strong offensive showing. On a rare night when Jill Compton gave up two home runs, including a first inning grand slam to Alyssa Cordova on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the first inning, the Bulldogs' offense came to the rescue. Both teams had defensive issues on another cool, windy night in Las Vegas. Hannah Harris picked up the win in relief, allowing no earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. When UNLV loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth with Fresno State up by eight runs, head coach Trisha Ford called on seldom-used junior pitcher Taylor Langdon to get the game's final out. Langdon induced heavy-hitting All-MW Rebels senior Sam Juarez to ground out to third, where Villalpando made a nice play and threw to first for the game's final out. The Bulldogs came rushing from the first base dugout to the circle where they celebrated their first outright conference championship in six years. Fresno State is headed to the NCAA tournament for the 31st time in 34 seasons. Janine Petmecky took the loss, allowing nine hits and eight runs in two innings. The Bulldogs will enter the NCAA tourney as one of the hottest teams in the nation, running their winning streak to 10 in a row and earning a win for the 15th time in their last 16 games.
New Mexico 14, San Jose State 0 (5 innings) - This one was all Lobos from the outset as New Mexico hit four home runs and got an outstanding pitching performance from Lauren Soles, who completely shut down the Spartans. Soles allowed six hits in New Mexico's first shutout of the season, and it came in a spot where San Jose State had to win to have any shot at the Mountain West regular-season championship. UNM struck for 12 hits against four different SJSU pitchers, with starter Katelyn Linford getting the loss. The hitting star of the night was Lisa Rodrigues, who finished with a staggering seven RBI in just two plate appearances. Leading 5-0 in the third, Rodrigues came to the plate and delivered the hit that all but put it away -- a grand slam over the left field fence that gave New Mexico a commanding 9-run lead. It was a grand slam that could be felt in Fresno and Las Vegas where the Bulldogs and their fans were anxiously scoreboard watching in the hopes of a New Mexico win. Rodrigues wasn't done yet though. In the fourth, following a Karissa Haleman triple and a walk, Rodrigues launched a 3-run homer to center. It was a solo homer by Jasmine Casados in the first that got things started for UNM before Michala Erickson crushed one out to straightaway center on the first pitch of her at-bat in the second. Erickson's shot made it 4-0. Casados finished with three hits and three RBI, Erickson with two hits and two RBI, Haleman with two hits, and freshman Chelsea Johnson with a double and RBI. Predicted to finish last in the conference this season, New Mexico is now guaranteed a winning record in Mountain West play and can become a 30-win team for the first time since 2004 with a victory on Saturday in the series finale. SJSU, which controlled its own destiny in the league race less than two weeks ago, will finish third in the MW this season and is now a full three games behind champion Fresno State.
Nevada 3, Colorado State 2 (8 innings) - With two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the eighth, Molly McWilliams doubled and Nikki Orozco singled her home with the game-winning run for the Wolf Pack in Reno. Orozco had two hits and two RBI to lead Nevada, which got a complete-game 7-hitter from Megan Dortch.
Utah State 10, Boise State 9 - A 10-run top of the third inning provided the Aggies with a big lead and they held on for the win in Boise. Alleyah Armendariz picked up her second win of the season against 16 losses, while the Broncos lost their 41st game of the year. There were three home runs in the game and all came from Boise State, including two by Hailey Torrez. Six of USU's 11 hits were doubles.