Sunday, March 6, 2016

SDSU falls twice Saturday at home; Bulldogs lose late to No. 22 Baylor

A day after both Fresno State and San Diego State posted key wins, both the Bulldogs and Aztecs took it on the chin.

No. 21/22 Fresno State was five outs away from its third win over a Top 25 team this season, before No. 22/24 Baylor rallied for a 5-4 victory at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton.  Then, it appeared the Bulldogs let that tough loss affect them in a listless 4-0 loss to Wisconsin of the Big Ten in a game that immediately followed.

The Aztecs' losses were even more surprising because they came on SDSU's home field against a pair of teams they were expected to beat, and the Aztecs had trouble both at the plate and on defense.  San Diego State suffered a 6-4 loss to Illinois-Chicago of the Horizon League and then could do little in a 3-1 setback to St. Joseph's of the Atlantic-10.  Softball fans will remember St. Joe's as the team that was unable to complete its 2015 season when its softball team was suspended by the university. (Read that story from the ABC-TV affiliate in Philadelphia).

In the Bulldogs' loss to Baylor, Whitney Smith singled to lead off the fifth, and scored on a Bria Kennedy hit to the right side as Fresno State pulled within a run at 2-1.  In the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs took the lead after Paige Gumz and Alyssa Villalpando singled to lead off the frame, and freshman Morgan Howe and junior Malia Rivers came through in clutch spots with infield hits and RBI.  A base running mistake proved costly in that frame though, as Rivers was thrown out trying to advance to second base.  Instead of having runners at the corners, a 3-2 Bulldog lead, and two outs in the sixth with the heart of the batting order up, the inning was over.

It would prove costly, as Baylor rallied in the bottom of the inning with one out.  Back to back doubles, following a one-out walk, put the Bears in front 4-3.  A costly decision in the outfield to dive for a ball proved to be the difference.  It resulted in a triple and scored the eventual game-winning run, putting BU up 5-3.  Fresno State freshman Dominique Jackson hit her league-leading sixth home run to pull the Bulldogs within a run in the seventh, but it wouldn't be enough.  Kierra Willis narrowly missed tying the game in the seventh with what looked like a home run of her own, but the ball was caught just in front of the fence.
Against Wisconsin, Fresno State could do little against Wisconsin left-handed transfer Kirsten Stevens, the 2015 Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year while at Mercer.  The Bulldogs had just four hits and also suffered from some blown calls.  In the fourth, Kierra Willis was called out at first on a play where Flo Softball cameras caught the Wisconsin first baseman dropping the ball on the throw.  And the game ended with a Bulldog runner on base when pinch-hitter Claire Stucker appeared to foul off a pitch that was ruled a swinging third strike.  Coach Trisha Ford argued both calls immediately when they happened, to no avail.  Bulldog senior pitcher Hannah Harris lost her third consecutive start, despite allowing just three hits.

In San Diego State's loss to Illinois-Chicago, the Aztecs committed a season-high five errors, giving SDSU a total of nine errors in two games after committing four in its previous outing.  The Flames weren't much better, committing four of their own in the contest, including two on a play that would have ended the game with a 6-2 UIC victory.  The final would be 6-4 in favor of Illinois-Chicago following the late miscues that allowed two runs.  San Diego State did not have an extra-base hit in the contest.  Freshman Julie McDonald saw her record even at 1-1 with her first loss for the Aztecs.

Against St. Joseph's, the Aztecs' offense was missing again in a 3-1 defeat.  The Hawks, who trailed 1-0 early, tied it in the fourth with a 2-out rally.  Designated player Hannah Dionne smacked a 2-out double to make it a 1-all game.  An inning later, St. Joe's took the lead for good on a 2-run home run by Brandi Harkness off eventual losing pitcher Erica Romero.  It was the third round-tripper of the year by Harkness.

San Diego State, a powerful offense a year ago, was held to a total of just one extra-base hit on the day in the two games combined.

In other games, Utah State lost twice, falling to UC Riverside and, in a surprise, to Santa Clara.  UNLV won a home game over Drake at the UNLV Classic.  Northwestern learned it was a mistake to try and send your No. 4 starter to face San Jose State in a 7-3 Spartans win.  New Mexico opened its home season with a pair of wins against struggling Northern Colorado.  Boise State split a pair at the Husky Classic, falling to Bradley before defeating Seattle University.  And Colorado State split two home contests, defeating Neb-Omaha, and losing to Idaho State.