Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's official: 2016 Bulldogs own the record for best MW start ever (14-0)

Saturday night, No. 20 Fresno State became the first team in the 17-year history of Mountain West softball to begin league play 14-0.  The Bulldogs used a late rally to come from behind and defeat Colorado State 3-2 at Margie Wright Diamond.  Fresno State is off to not just a 14-0 conference start, but picked up a 24th straight Mountain West win and 15th consecutive victory overall this season.

No. 20 Fresno State 3, Colorado State 2 - In Fresno, the Bulldogs found another in a series of dramatic, come-from-behind wins that have defined their 'never-say-die' spirit this season.  For much of the game, this was a freshman pitcher's duel between Fresno State's unbeaten Kamalani Dung and CSU's Bridgette Hutton, the Colorado Player of the Year as a high school junior.  The Rams took a 1-0 lead in the second inning as Bridgette's sister, Haley Hutton, hit an RBI single with two outs.  Two Bulldog errors in the fourth inning allowed CSU to score without benefit of a hit and it was a 2-0 Rams lead.  It remained that way until the bottom of the sixth when the Bulldogs rallied.  Bria Kennedy led off the sixth with a single, but was still standing at third base with two outs.  On a night when the Bulldogs had a runner (who was apparently safe, according to the Mountain West Network replay) called out at the plate in the third inning, Alyssa Villalpando wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.  The conference leader in RBI, Villalpando knocked in her 46th with a 2-out single to left, and was replaced by speedy pinch runner Christina Rodriguez, who immediately stole second base.  It would prove pivotal.  Paige Gumz would single, driving in Rodriguez to knot the score at 2-2.  In the top of the seventh, a 1-out double by Jaelyn Manzanares looked like it might put CSU in a position to score the go-ahead run.  But Manzanares was erased from the base paths on a brilliant double play.  Kristina Akiona hit a deep fly to center field, where freshman Vanessa Hernandez made a great catch and throw to third, trying to catch Manzanares trying to tag up.  Villalpando took the throw and the Bulldog infield caught Manzanares in a rundown for the final out of the top of the seventh.  Hernandez would prove key in the bottom of the seventh too.  With one out, she singled up the middle before Whitney Smith laid down a perfect bunt for a single of her own.  After a groundout advanced both runners, Hernandez scored when Malia Rivers singled just out of the reach of Rams third baseman Savannah Clark.  As the ball dribbled out of Clark's outstretched glove, the winning run came home.  Dung was sensational again in the circle, eight days after striking out a career-high 13 in a win over Utah State.  The freshman right-hander allowed only four hits in the game and moved her record to 7-0 on the season and 4-0 in Mountain West action.  Fresno State won its 15th game in a row, matching the 2005 team for the longest winning streak by a Bulldog team this century.  The 14-0 start is the best ever for a MW team, surpassing the 13-0 start by the 2006 San Diego State team that went on to win a conference championship and NCAA berth.  The Bulldogs also extended their record-setting conference win streak, which now stands at 24 in a row, spanning two seasons.  Colorado State played an outstanding game defensively, robbing the Bulldogs of hits and potential extra-base hits multiple times.  The Rams fell to 4-9 in conference play and 18-21 overall.

UNLV 7, New Mexico 6 - In Albuquerque, the host Lobos were unable to hold a lead in the seventh inning for the second straight day, falling to UNLV.  The Rebels won consecutive games away from home for the first time all season, and New Mexico has now lost five straight Mountain West games on its home field.  Dating back to the 2015 season, UNM is just 3-8 in its last 11 home conference games.  Like Friday, this one was a back and forth affair as UNLV took the early lead, only to see New Mexico's Mariah Rimmer slam a 3-run home run for a 3-1 margin in favor of the Lobos.  In the fifth, the Rebels regained the lead with a pair of runs, but New Mexico answered right back with three of its own for a 6-4 Lobos advantage.  It would stay that way until the seventh when UNLV put up three runs.  The key blow was a 2-run double by Emily Haslinger.  In the bottom of the seventh, New Mexico had both the potential tying and winning runs on base with one out, but was unable to score.  Janine Petmecky (4-7) scattered nine hits in a complete-game win, while Lauren Soles (4-7) allowed 12 hits and picked up the loss, despite throwing a complete game where she needed just 82 pitches.  UNLV had been eliminated from the Mountain West race Friday, while the Lobos dropped to sixth place and now just a game over .500 overall at 20-19.

San Jose St. 12, Nevada 4 - In Reno, the Spartans overpowered the Wolf Pack for a second day in a row to clinch the series win.  San Jose State remained four games behind conference leader Fresno State with 10 games remaining, pending Saturday's late action.  Nevada, meanwhile, continues to slide, losing for the sixth time in its last 10 Mountain West games following a 4-0 start.  The Wolf Pack, despite having a sterling 30-11 overall record, are now just 4-7 this season against Top 100 teams in the RPI.  And that makes the stakes bigger for the series finale between these two teams Sunday.  Nevada is practically in a must-win situation if it wants to remain alive in the race for a conference crown and possible NCAA berth.  SJSU had no trouble with Wolf Pack pitching again, pouring it on with 17 hits, including three home runs.  And the Spartans were able to take advantage of three more Nevada miscues, as the Pack has now committed 15 errors in its past three games.  Casey Watt had three hits, including a home run, with three RBI.  Madison Aurin and Taylor Purdy also went deep as Nevada starter McKenna Isenberg allowed 14 hits in five innings to absorb the loss.  Down 8-0 in the fourth, Nevada tried to rally, scoring four runs thanks to wildness from three different SJSU pitchers.  The Pack runs scored on three singles, a pair of walks and two hit-by-pitches with the bases loaded.  Katelyn Linford, Friday's game one winner, induced Jasmine Jenkins to ground out with the bases loaded when she represented the possible tying run in the fourth.