Friday, April 15, 2016

Stunning 8-run comeback lifts Fresno State to 20th straight MW win



We've said all season that it's very hard to hold off the offense of No. 23-ranked Fresno State.  And the Bulldogs proved it once again with a rally for the ages.  In the end, it was the 20th straight Mountain West win for the defending conference champions who remained unbeaten in league play and expanded their lead to three full games in the standings.

No. 23 Fresno State 12, Utah State 11 (9 innings) - In Fresno, the Bulldogs put together two of their worst defensive innings of the season to fall behind by eight runs early, before roaring back from that 8-run deficit to stun the Aggies in a wild thriller.  After taking a 2-run lead in the bottom of the first, Fresno State had defensive issues galore on a night with strong, swirling winds encapsulating Margie Wright Diamond.  Three errors in the second and third innings (and a couple of mental mistakes that could've been called errors) put the Bulldogs in a big hole as Utah State scored four in the second and six more in the third to go in front 10-2.  It was the largest deficit a Trisha Ford team had faced in Mountain West play in four years as Bulldog coach.  The Aggies took advantage of the miscues and had four singles in the second, and a 3-run home run from Victoria Saucedo that forced starting pitcher Jill Compton from the game.  Ford called on freshman Kamalani Dung to replace Compton in the circle and it was a move that changed the complexion of the game.  Dung allowed two hits in that inning and was charged with a run, but from that point forward, she delivered a sterling relief effort to improve to 6-0 on the year and 3-0 in conference.  Dung allowed only one additional earned run over the final seven innings and baffled the Aggies all night long, finishing with a career-high 13 strikeouts.  It was the most strikeouts in a game by a Mountain West pitcher this season.  And Dung got stronger as the 3 1/2-hour marathon of a game went along,  striking out the side in the ninth inning and striking out the final five batters she faced.  Paige Gumz delivered the game-wining RBI single, lacing a ball to deep right-center and bringing home Malia Rivers with the game-winning run.  Freshman Dominique Jackson had a game to remember, knocking a pair of home runs out of the park -- her eighth and ninth of the season -- in back to back innings.  And when she wasn't hitting home runs, Utah State was afraid to face her, issuing three walks as she reached base in all five plate appearances.  Fresno State scored nine straight runs after being down 10-2, and finally took the lead at 11-10 in the sixth.  Freshman Morgan Howe delivered a clutch, pinch-hit, 2-run single to tie it, and Bria Kennedy gave the Bulldogs the lead with an RBI single of her own.  Utah State would not quit though, as the Aggies -- down to their last strike in the seventh -- rallied to tie it.  With two outs, Jazmin Clarke singled and Kirstyn Namba hit a double to left that appeared to get caught up in those swirling winds as Kierra Willis backtracked, to knot it at 11-11.  In the bottom of the ninth, Aggies pitcher April Brown hit Kennedy to start the inning, and Rivers reached on a fielder's choice when Brown threw late to second base.  Kennedy was thrown out trying to score, and, with two outs, Gumz knocked in her game-winner, sending the crowd of 1,217 home happy.  Fresno State moved to 10-0 in Mountain West play, its best start in conference play this century.  The Bulldogs, who entered conference play this weekend on pace to break the all-time team batting average record in MW games, reached double-digits in hits for the 10th straight game, finishing with 14.  Utah State fell to 5-5 in conference play with the heartbreaking loss.

San Diego State 9, San Jose State 6 - In San Jose, a 5-run top of the third inning proved to be a difference maker as the Aztecs rallied for a road win over the Spartans.  San Jose State jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on four hits and looked to be cruising.  Spartans pitcher Collette Riggs had a 3-run lead and a no-hitter going with two outs in the third when things changed suddenly.  San Diego State scored five runs -- all with two outs -- on four hits that inning.  Leia Ruiz got it started with a single, and a walk and hit-by-pitch followed.  Sydnee Cable then hit a 2-run single, Jaylene Ignacio doubled home a run, and Frankie Orlando knocked in a pair with a 2-run single.  Jenavee Peres smacked a 2-run home run to make it a 5-run cushion at 9-4 later.  The Aztecs would use three pitchers in the game, with middle reliever Ashley Ercolano grabbing the win.  Alex Formby pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.  San Diego State kept its postseason hopes alive, moving to 5-8 in the league and 23-18 overall.  San Jose State, meanwhile, fell three games behind league-leading Fresno State in the loss column at 7-3 in the conference.  The Spartans are 18-20 overall.

New Mexico 14-7, Colorado St. 3-6 - In Fort Collins, the Lobos put together an 8-run top of the sixth to run-rule the Rams in game one of a doubleheader, and then held off the Rams late for a 7-6 win in the nightcap.  The eight runs in the sixth inning of game one matched New Mexico's run total for its entire home series last weekend against Fresno State.  Chelsea Johnson went 4-for-4 with two home runs and finished with six RBI.  Jade Gray had two hits, including a home run of her own.  Rams starter Holly Reinke allowed 10 earned runs and 11 hits to take the loss.  Lisa Rodrigues allowed two hits and no runs over the final four innings to earn the win.  Despite the lopsided final score, hits were relatively even:  UNM had 10 to eight for the Rams, who led 3-2 heading to the third.  With as much as a foot or more of snow expected this weekend, the games were moved up to a morning start.  The series finale will take place -- weather permitting -- Saturday.

Nevada 6, UNLV 0 - In Las Vegas, the Wolf Pack shut out their in-state rivals, sending reeling UNLV to its ninth loss in 10 games.  Freshman pitcher Brooke Bolinger gave up five hits and struck out six in the complete-game effort.  Janine Petmecky took the loss.  Kwynn Warner had four hits, including two doubles, and one RBI to lead Nevada.