Saturday, April 9, 2016

Bulldogs run Mountain West winning streak to a record 18 in a row


Coach Trisha Ford's Fresno State Bulldog softball team just keeps on winning.

Saturday in Albuquerque, the No. 23 ranked Bulldogs pounded out 12 hits and rallied for five runs over the final two innings on their way to a 6-2 win over host New Mexico.

The win was the 18th straight in Mountain West play for the Bulldogs, spanning two seasons.  Fresno State improved to 8-0 in conference play and 26-9-1 overall, and moved a full two games ahead of second-place San Jose State in the standings.  The Spartans fell at Utah State Saturday.

In the top of the second inning, Fresno State took a 1-0 lead when Paige Gumz doubled and scored on a single from Morgan Howe.  But New Mexico scored twice in the third to take a 2-1 lead.  Bulldog starter and freshman pitcher Kamalani Dung walked the first two batters of the frame and both came around to score.  On an afternoon where Dung would earn the win and allow just two hits -- both singles -- she walked five, thanks to a strike zone that seemed the size of a postage stamp for both teams at times.

Those walks gave UNM hope.  Following those two walks to lead off the third, Cheyenne Smith was awarded a bunt single on a play where no Bulldog was covering first base. Michala Erickson then singled sharply up the middle to tie the game 1-1, and Mariah Rimmer gave the Lobos the lead with a groundout that plated a second run.

For Fresno State, there were a few missed opportunities along the way.  Already up 1-0 in the top of the third, the Bulldogs loaded the bases with one out on singles by Whitney Smith and Bria Kennedy, along with a New Mexico error.  Kierra Willis then bounced into an unconventional 5-2 double play to ruin the threat.

In the fifth, the Bulldogs had runners at second and third base with just one out, but failed to score again.  Smith doubled (one of three Fresno State doubles in the game) and moved to third on a wild pitch, while Kennedy walked and stole second base.  UNM freshman starter Colette Robert worked out of trouble again by getting a shallow fly out and groundout to end another Bulldog rally.

In the sixth, Fresno State took the lead for good on a 2-out rally that began with Lindsey Willmon's double to left center.  Howe hit an RBI single that landed just inside the line in right, plating Willmon with the game-tying run.  Ford then called on freshman Dominique Jackson to pinch hit, and Jackson delivered the game-defining blow.  On the first pitch she saw from Robert, Jackson blasted a deep, 2-run shot to straightaway center and her seventh home run of the season hit off the stadium's flag pole.

Fresno State would add two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh.  Katie Castellon and Willis both singled, and Castellon would score on a wild pitch.  Willmon's third hit of the game -- a 2-out single on an 0-2 pitch -- plated a sixth Bulldog run.

Jill Compton earned her second save of the season by pitching the final two innings and allowing one infield single.  UNM was held to three hits in the contest, while Fresno State reached double figures in hits for an eighth straight conference game.

Dung improved to 5-0 and 2-0 in Mountain West play.  Robert fell to 8-7 on the year.

Utah State 8, San Jose St. 6 - In Logan, the Aggies had 14 hits on their way to a win over the Spartans.  April Brown earned the win in relief, allowing two hits and no earned runs over the final 3 2/3 innings.  Sarina Jaramillo had three hits, including a home run, and four RBI for USU.

Colorado St. 3, San Diego St. 1 - In San Diego, the Rams picked up a surprising series win over the Aztecs by winning the final two games.  Ashley Ercolano got the start for San Diego State and took the loss, going 2 2/3 innings. Holly Reinke went the distance for CSU, scattering 10 hits as SDSU out-hit the Rams 10 to 8, but couldn't come up with a clutch hit.  Kristina Akiona hit a home run and had two RBI to lead Colorado State.  The Aztecs, picked to finish second in the MW in the preseason, fell a stunning eight games behind league-leading Fresno State in the loss column in the Mountain West standings.  With 11 conference games still to play, San Diego State already has two more league losses than it did all of last season.

UNLV 8, Boise State 2 - In Boise, the Rebels snapped a 7-game losing streak by defeating the host Broncos.