Sunday, April 17, 2016

Compton's 2-hitter lifts Fresno State to a 22nd straight MW win

There was a story this week on Fresno State's official athletic department web site where Bulldog pitcher Jill Compton said she gets more and more comfortable every time she sees opposing batters come to the plate for repeat appearances.  And then she went out and proved it this weekend.

In a rarity in college softball, Compton has repeatedly gotten stronger as opponents see her more and more.  While most batters tend to solve pitchers the more they see them, that is seldom the case when they face an elite ace like the Bulldogs senior right-hander.  Making her third straight start of the weekend, Compton was nearly unhittable Sunday as No. 23 ranked Fresno State completed a 3-game sweep of Utah State with a 2-1 victory.

USU had eight hits against Compton Friday night, and six on Saturday, but found the going much tougher this afternoon as the Bulldogs' ace settled into a groove.  The Aggies were 0-for-14 against her over the final 4 2/3 innings as she improved to 9-0 in MW play this season and leads the league with an 18-4 overall record as well.

Compton allowed only two hits in the contest, and both were of the infield variety and came in the only inning the Aggies scored -- the third.  Kylie-Rose Dickson was hit by a 3-2 pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a bunt single by Jazmin Clarke. After an out, Sarah Chow hit a comebacker that bounced off Compton for an infield hit to advance both runners.  A sacrifice fly by Noelle Johnson then gave the Aggies a 1-0 lead in the third, and they wouldn't have another hit or run the rest of the game.

Fresno State tied it in the bottom of the fourth against starter and losing pitcher April Brown, who had a strong outing and was very effective against the heart of the Bulldog batting order.  Freshman Vanessa Hernandez hit a deep, ground-rule double with two outs in the fourth, and it was followed by another double off the bat of Whitney Smith, tying the game 1-1.

While Fresno State found success against Brown at both the top and bottom of the lineup, Brown held the Bulldogs' potent 3-thru-6 hitters to an 0-for-11 day.  She escaped a few early jams, especially when Fresno State's Bria Kennedy and Malia Rivers both reached base safely back-to-back to lead off the first and third innings on three combined hits and a walk.  The Bulldogs stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Aggies weren't so lucky and Fresno State took advantage to rack up its record 22nd straight Mountain West win spanning two seasons.  The Bulldogs won their 12th straight game overall, marking their longest winning streak since the 2008 season and putting together their second double-digit win streak of the season.

Fresno State has won 10 straight conference series and, perhaps more importantly, captured 3-game sweeps in seven straight series.

Whitney Smith led off the bottom of the seventh by walking on a 3-2 pitch, and coach Trisha Ford went immediately to pinch runner Christina Rodriguez to sub for Smith.  It would be the coaching move of the game, as the speedy Rodriguez immediately put pressure on the Aggies' defense.  Kennedy laid down a beautifully-placed bunt and was barely thrown out at first, but Rodriguez kept motoring her way around second base on her way to third.  Dickson, the Aggies' second baseman, fired the ball to third, but the ball got away down the line, allowing Rodriguez to scamper home with the game-winning run.  See the play:

The Bulldogs got more good news after their game was over.  Second-place San Jose State lost at home to San Diego State, meaning Fresno State's lead in the conference standings doubled this weekend from two to four full games.  With 12 games remaining in conference play for Fresno State, the 12-0 Bulldogs sit four games ahead of both San Jose State and Nevada, which are tied at 8-4.  The Spartans and Wolf Pack face off next weekend in Reno, while the Bulldogs remain at home to host Colorado State.

Fresno State improved to 30-9-1 overall, its best record after 40 games since the 2008 season when it received an NCAA regional host spot and No. 1 regional seed.  The Bulldog softball program has now won 30 or more games for an impressive 35 straight seasons.

San Diego St. 11, San Jose St. 7 - The Aztecs handed the host Spartans their first series loss of the year, by taking game three and winning the series two games to one in San Jose.  This one was full of drama as the top hitters for both teams -- Jenavee Peres for the Aztecs and Jessie Hufstetler for the Spartans -- were hit by pitches twice each in the game.  The story early was errors as San Jose State committed three in the first inning, leading to four San Diego State runs.  The Aztecs would hold the lead the duration of the game, and pushed it to eight runs with a 5-run top of the seventh.  SJSU tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh, pushing four runs across, and had the potential game-tying run in the on-deck circle.  Each team finished with 12 hits.  Erica Romero earned the victory, while Emily Rogers took the loss.  There were five errors and five hit-by-pitches in the game.  SDSU is 6-9 in conference play, while SJSU is 8-4.  The Aztecs, with nine games remaining in conference play, sit nine games behind league-leading Fresno State in the loss column.  The Spartans fell four games behind the Bulldogs.

Nevada 14, UNLV 13 - It was a wild one in Las Vegas as the host Rebels surged to a 7-1 lead only to see Nevada fight back before the Wolf Pack had to hang on for the victory.  This one was all about errors early as Nevada committed a season-high seven, with all four infielders committing at least one and two of them committing a pair apiece.  Both teams finished with 15 hits.  Brooke Bolinger started but lasted just two innings, giving up seven runs on six hits.  The Pack's third pitcher of the game, McKenna Isenberg, bounced back from a loss Saturday and grabbed the win by allowing six hits and four runs in four innings of work.  Despite being staked to a 6-run lead, UNLV couldn't hold it, allowing a 5-run third and 6-run fifth inning.  Megan Sweet became the Pack's all-time home run leader,  hitting two and finishing with six RBI.  In the bottom of the seventh, UNLV scored twice, and the Rebels ended the game with the tying run on base.  Nevada moved into a tie for second place in the conference with San Jose State at 8-4, while the last-place Rebs dropped to 4-11.

New Mexico at Colorado State canceled - For the second day in a row, snow was an issue and the final game of the series between the Lobos and Rams in Fort Collins was canceled.