Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bulldogs blast Spartans, move to brink of a MW championship


The numbers are just staggering at this point.  18 straight wins overall.  27 straight conference wins.  A 17-0 conference record.  And a perfect month in which it finished 15-0 during April.

No. 20 Fresno State, with perhaps the most prolific offense in Mountain West history, continues to roll.  The Bulldogs blasted San Jose State pitching for the second day in a row in San Jose to capture the series with a 13-7 win.  More importantly, Fresno State moved to the brink of the Mountain West regular-season championship and the automatic NCAA bid that goes along with it.

Coach Trisha Ford's Bulldogs reduced their magic number to one, and can claim the Mountain West title and accompanying NCAA bid Sunday by completing the series sweep.  It would be the team's sixth straight sweep this season and ninth straight over the last two years.

Fresno State extended the nation's current longest winning streak to 18 in a row, and also won its 27th straight Mountain West game spanning two seasons.  The Bulldogs also extended the best start in conference history, moving their record to 17-0 in league play and pushing San Jose State to the brink of elimination in the race for the title.  Fresno State owns a 6-game lead over SJSU with seven games left to play.  The 6-game lead is the largest margin ever held by a team in the 17 years of the Mountain West softball regular-season race.

Freshman Dominique Jackson delivered the biggest blow of the game with a grand slam in the top of the second inning as the Bulldogs stormed in front early and never looked back.

Fresno State has now scored 101 runs in eight conference road games this season, and is averaging nearly 13 runs per game in MW games away from Margie Wright Diamond.

Senior pitcher Taylor Langdon pitched 6 innings of relief, scattering seven hits, to pick up the first conference win of her career.  Langdon, who pitched a complete-game shutout last week at Pacific, is now 3-1 on the season.  And it's the second year in a row she's been successful after being called upon late in the year.  Langdon got the final out as Fresno State secured the Mountain West title last season in a road win at UNLV.

The Bulldogs can rack up their second straight MW championship with a win Sunday.

No. 20 Fresno State 13, San Jose St. 7 - In San Jose, the Bulldogs pounded the ball for the second day in a row, to clinch the series win against the Spartans and win their nation-leading 18th straight game.   It was the 27th straight Mountain West win for the streaking Bulldogs, who can wrap up the conference crown with a victory Sunday.  Fresno State's magic number for winning a second straight MW title is one.  Saturday, the Bulldogs pounded out 11 hits, including seven for extra-bases, against three Spartans pitchers.  Reigning MW Pitcher of the Week Katelyn Linford started for the second game in a row for San Jose State and exited early again, taking the loss by allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits in 1 1/3 innings.  The Bulldogs went up 2-0 in the first as Alyssa Villalpando hit an RBI single, and a Spartans error scored Bria Kennedy, who walked.  In the bottom of the first, San Jose State took a brief 3-2 lead on three solo home runs against Bulldog freshman starting pitcher Kamalani Dung, who went just one-third of an inning.  Brittany Abacherli, Alyssa Martinez and Jessie Hufstetler all went deep with solo shots, and that was enough for coach Trisha Ford to call upon senior pitcher Taylor Langdon in relief.  Langdon, who had never won a MW game in her 4-year career, did what's she's always done in a Bulldog uniform: provide a needed, steady presence in the circle.  Langdon shut down the Spartans to get Fresno State out of the inning, and the Bulldogs' bats responded as they've done all season.  In the top of the second, Fresno State took the lead for good with a 6-run uprising.  Whitney Smith and Malia Rivers singled, and Kierra Willis tied the game with a 1-out double.  With two outs and a new Spartans pitcher (Colette Riggs) in the circle, a walk to Willmon put the Bulldogs up 4-3 before Dominique Jackson delivered the hit of the game.  The highly-touted freshman, who's already been featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com, smacked her team-leading 11th home run of the season -- a grand slam -- that pushed the Bulldog margin to five runs as the numerous Fresno State fans in attendance in San Jose erupted.  An inning later, Whitney Smith went deep with her first home run of the season and third of her Bulldog career to start the inning, and Kennedy and Willis followed with doubles.  Willis' double off the wall scored Rivers, and continued a second-straight strong game.  After scoring three runs and reaching base in four of five plate appearances Friday, Willis reached base three times Saturday on a walk and two doubles, scoring three more runs and adding three RBI.  In the sixth, Kennedy belted a 2-out, 2-run triple, and the Bulldogs had 13 runs on the board.  Kennedy, Willis, Wilmon and Smith all had a pair of hits and Jackson finished with four RBI.  San Jose State has now lost four of its past five home games.  Abacherli's three hits and three RBI paced the Spartans.  Jill Compton came on in the seventh after two SJSU batters moved into scoring position with one out, and got the Bulldogs out of the jam quickly.  Fresno State now leads the all-time series with SJSU 86-12.  The two home runs hit by the Bulldogs moved them within three of tying the school record for most homers in a season -- 51, set in 2010.

New Mexico 7, Boise State 6 - In Boise, the Lobos jumped to a 5-run lead and held on for the win over the Broncos to clinch the series.  Michala Erickson homered and Mariah Rimmer had two hits, while Lauren Soles earned the victory.  Paige Reimann took the loss for BSU, which out-hit UNM 11 to eight.  For the second straight day, New Mexico was able to secure the win late when Boise State had the potential tying run on base in the seventh inning.  New Mexico has won five straight Mountain West road games.

Utah State 3, San Diego St. 0 - Alleyah Armendariz pitched a 6-hitter and Utah State scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings for the victory in San Diego.  The Aggies had 10 hits in the game and moved their record to 11-9 in conference play with the victory.  San Diego State, now 25-20 overall and 7-10 in MW play, saw its hopes for an at-large bid to a ninth straight NCAA tournament take a serious hit with the home loss.  SDSU,  the preseason second-place pick by MW coaches, fell to sixth place in the league, 10 games behind conference leader Fresno State in the standings.

Weather issues - A doubleheader between UNLV and Oklahoma State in Las Vegas was canceled by poor weather Saturday, as was a second attempt to get a game (or two) played in Fort Collins between Colorado State and Nevada.