Sunday, April 24, 2016

No. 20 Fresno State continues remarkable run with 25th straight MW win


There are winning streaks and then there are winning streaks.

Red-hot Fresno State, ranked 17th to 22nd in the nation depending on which poll you trust (but No. 20 in the most recent USA Today/NFCA poll), continued its impressive run Sunday.  The Bulldogs captured their 25th straight Mountain West victory spanning two seasons, completing a 3-game sweep of Colorado State with a 7-2 win.  Fresno State has now swept eight straight 3-game series dating back to the 2015 season and its 16-game overall winning streak this season is currently the longest in America.

No. 20 Fresno State 7, Colorado State 2 - The nation's longest current winning streak continues for coach Trisha Ford and company.  The Bulldogs remained unbeaten in conference play, running their record to 15-0 in the Mountain West, and claiming their 16th straight overall win this season with a thumping of the Rams.  It was conference win No. 25 in a row for Fresno State, and the Bulldogs' 16-game winning streak is the longest since 1999, when Margie Wright had the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the nation and on their way to a 12th College World Series appearance.  Senior pitcher Jill Compton moved to 11-0 in conference play this season and 20-4 overall with the complete-game win, scattering eight hits.  Lindsey Willmon delivered the game's biggest hit with a bases-loaded triple in the third that turned a 2-1 game into a 5-1 Bulldog advantage.  Willmon would deliver a second triple later in the game, and both times she would score on RBIs from freshman Dominique Jackson, who followed her in the batting order.  Willmon had three RBI and scored a pair of runs, while Jackson had two RBI.  Kierra Willis walked twice and scored both times, and Alyssa Villalpando had a hit and pair of runs scored.  The Bulldogs hung a second loss on Rams ace Holly Reinke, who entered the series with an 11-8 record and an ERA that ranked in the top five among Mountain West pitchers.  Haley Hutton, leading the MW in overall batting average, had three hits to lead CSU.  Fresno State had a host of defensive gems, including an unassisted double play by Katie Castellon to thwart a Rams rally.  Fresno State moved to 15-0 in conference play, the best start in history for a MW team.  With the Mountain West determining its automatic NCAA bid and conference champion in round-robin play, the Bulldogs can become the first team in the country to wrap up a bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament next weekend.  A sweep against second-place San Jose State would give Fresno State the Mountain West title, no matter what happens elsewhere over the final two weeks of the season.  The Bulldogs hold a 4-game lead over the Spartans in the league standings with nine to play.

San Jose St. 12, Nevada 8 - It was a wild one in Reno as San Jose State stormed to a 7-0 lead, only to see the hosts come back and tie the game.  In the end, a 5-run top of the sixth was the difference as SJSU won to sweep the 3-game road series.  It was a deflating weekend for Nevada, whose soft non-conference schedule finally seems to be catching up with the Wolf Pack.  And conversely, San Jose State's strong non-league slate played a role in enabling the sweep.  San Jose State was just 11-17 in non-conference play, while Nevada had the league's best record -- 22-5 -- prior to the start of Mountain West action.  But the two played decidely different opponents in the preseason.  San Jose State played the conference's second-most difficult slate, behind Fresno State, according to NCAA stats.  But Nevada played the league's easiest, according to NCAA stats.  The Pack currently sits just a game over .500 in conference play, now tied for third place with Utah State at 8-7.  The Spartans sit four games behind league-leading Fresno State with nine games left in the season, and the two teams meet next weekend with the conference title on the line.  SJSU had nine hits to 10 for Nevada today, but made the most of them.  Alyssa Martinez had a 3-run home run in the decisive sixth, and Brittany Abacherli was the lone Spartan with a mult-hit game, finishing with two.  Megan Sweet had two hits, including a home run, and Jennifer Purcell hit two home runs and finished with four RBI, albeit in a losing cause for the Pack.  Nevada, which entered the weekend leading the league in team ERA, has allowed 48 runs in its past four games.

Utah State 8, Boise State 7 - A back and forth game in Logan ended in the home team's favor as Utah State rallied for a run in the bottom of the seventh for the walk-off win.  Libby Pederson homered on the fourth pitch of the bottom of the seventh inning against Broncos pitcher Nicole Wilson, and that was the ball game.  Boise State was unable to hold a 3-run lead in the fifth.  Makenzie Sullivan hit a grand slam in the top of the fifth to push the Broncos in front 7-4.  Alleyah Armendariz picked up the win in relief, going two scoreless innings.  Utah State moved into a tie for third place in the conference with Nevada at 8-7.

UNLV 7, New Mexico 3 - In one of the more surprising results of the season in MW play, the Rebels completed a road sweep of reeling New Mexico, which has been swept in back-to-back home series.  Morgan Ettinger scattered 10 hits and tossed a complete game to move to 7-2 on the year.  Lisa Rodrigues suffered her first loss of the season, falling to 2-1.  The top of the sixth, when UNLV scored four times, was the difference.  Five hits -- all of which were singles -- and a Lobos error turned a 3-2 game into a 7-2 Rebels lead.  UNLV had never swept a conference road series since the Mountain West implemented the 3-game series format.  In fact, the Rebels hadn't won three consecutive conference road games of any kind since the 2010 season.