Friday, April 29, 2016

No. 20 Fresno State can't be stopped in 11-5 road win over Spartans

Our earlier preview of this weekend's series between No. 20 Fresno State and San Jose State proved to be eerily accurate.  In it, we wrote of the Bulldogs:  "Simply put, they can come back against you, but no one has been able to come back against them."  We pointed to the Bulldogs' impressive habit of being able to come from behind for numerous wins this season, while simultaneously being unbeaten (20-0) when carrying a lead into the fourth inning.

And that's exactly what happened Friday in San Jose.  The Bulldogs spotted the Spartans a 3-run lead, but little did San Jose State know:  Fresno State had the Spartans right where it wanted them.  The Bulldogs came roaring back, scoring 10 of the game's final 11 runs for an 11-5 thumping at SJSU Field.

The Bulldogs kept their nation-leading 17-game winning streak intact and continued the best conference start ever for a Mountain West team by improving to 16-0.  Fresno State stretched its lead in the conference standings to five full games over the second-place Spartans with eight left to play.  It's the largest lead ever for one team in the MW softball standings, and the Bulldogs pushed their winning streak in conference play to 26 games, spanning two seasons.

No. 20 Fresno State 11, San Jose St. 5 - In San Jose, the Bulldogs got a complete-game win from pitcher Jill Compton, and scored three runs in the fourth inning and five more in the fifth to power past the host Spartans.  Sporting a league-leading .391 team batting average in conference play, Fresno State had 10 hits Friday and threatened in every inning except the first.  In the second the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead as Alyssa Villalpando walked, Lindsey Willmon singled, and Dominique Jackson hit an RBI single to score Villalpando.  SJSU responded with a 2-out, RBI double by Emma Entzminger in the bottom of the second following a hit-by-pitch.  An inning later, the Spartans took a 4-1 lead on a 3-run homer by freshman Madison Aurin, following a single and another hit-by-pitch.  The Bulldogs were staring at a 3-run road deficit for the first time in 38 days, but they answered back quickly.  Paige Gumz doubled off the wall in left-center, and Willmon followed with her 10th home run of the season, tying Jackson for the team lead.  Trailing 4-3 entering the fifth, Fresno State scored five runs to go on top for good, and a costly Spartans error played a big role.  Pitcher Colette Riggs, on a 2-out comebacker off the bat of Willmon with two runners on base, threw wildly to first base, allowing Kierra Willis, who walked, to score.  Riggs had just entered the previous inning in place of Spartans starting pitcher Katelyn Linford, who was fresh off of MW Pitcher of the Week honors this week but unable to make it out of the fourth inning against the red-hot Bulldogs.  Fresno State took advantage and the floodgates opened.  Riggs hit freshman pinch-hitter Morgan Howe to force in a run, and SJSU coach Peter Turner turned to the Spartans' third pitcher of the game, Emily Rogers.  Immediately, Rogers hit the Bulldogs' Whitney Smith to force in another run and Fresno State's lead was 6-4.  With San Jose State reeling, Bria Kennedy hit a medium-deep RBI single to score two more runs as the Bulldogs plated five in the inning.  In the bottom of the fifth, SJSU cut the margin to three on a solo home run by Alyssa Martinez, but it would be the last run the Spartans would score against Compton, who improved to 12-0 in conference play and 21-4 overall.  Compton scattered eight hits in the game, with only Jessica Madrid (three) having a multi-hit game for SJSU.  Fresno State added a run in the sixth as Willis singled and the Spartans committed a second error.  In the seventh, Villalpando (the Mountain West leader in RBI) delivered the knockout blow with a 2-out, 2-run single for the game's final, 6-run margin.  Fresno State can reduce its magic number for winning the conference title and automatic NCAA bid to one with a victory Saturday in the series.  The Bulldogs now own an 85-12 record in the all-time series with the Spartans, including a 39-8 mark in games played in San Jose.  Willis reached base in each of her final four at-bats for Fresno State, scoring runs in three consecutive innings (the fifth, sixth and seventh).  She had a pair of hits and three runs scored.  Willmon and Villalpando both finished with two hits and two RBI, while Kennedy had two RBI.  The 6-run margin of defeat is the largest for San Jose State at home this season.  In fact, the last time the Spartans were defeated by more runs at home:  More than two years ago, when Ford's 2014 Fresno State team did it with an 8-1 Bulldog victory.  Compton's win today was the 84th of her career, moving her into a tie for seventh place all-time in Fresno State history alongside 3-time All-American Carie Dever.

San Diego St. 5, Utah State 4 - In San Diego, the host Aztecs scored four runs in a wild fifth inning to come from a 3-1 deficit for the win over the Aggies.  Utah State took the lead in the top of the fifth by scoring three runs, with two of them coming on a home run off the bat of Kylie Rose Dickson.  The lead would be short-lived as San Diego State got a 3-run home run from Molly Sturdivant in the bottom of the inning to go back in front.  Erica Romero earned the win, tossing the first six innings.  Alex Formby picked up the save by pitching the seventh inning, when Utah State brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate.  Noelle Johnson took the loss for the Aggies.

New Mexico 6, Boise State 3 - Chelsea Johnson tied a Mountain West record with three home runs in a conference game, leading the Lobos to the road win in Boise.  All six New Mexico runs scored on homers as Johnson hit a solo shot in the second, and she and Jade Gray each hit solo shots in the sixth.  Those two home runs in the sixth inning brought UNM to a 3-all tie.  In the top of the seventh, Johnson -- with two outs -- made Boise State regret pitching to her again.  The Lobos catcher launched her third home run of the day -- a 3-run shot to right-center -- to snap the tie and send UNM on to victory.  Nicole Wilson went the distance for Boise State, allowing all four home runs.  The Broncos hit one, with Kayla Clausen's 2-run blast giving BSU the lead in the fifth.  Tess McPherson earned the win, and Krissy Fortner the save.  Johnson's three home runs tied the record for HRs in a Mountain West game with three other players.  The most recent time was also in Boise, just a year ago against this same Broncos team, when San Diego State's Lorena Bauer did it.