Friday, May 13, 2016

'Dogs keep rolling ... No. 17 Fresno State has won 32 straight MW games

Trisha Ford's No. 17 Fresno State Bulldogs just keep on winning.

The Bulldogs, so stellar all season on defense, committed an uncharacteristic three errors in the first three innings of a Friday the 13th evening, leading to a pair of unearned UNLV runs.  From that point on though, it was all Fresno State though as the Bulldogs rode their high-powered offense and scored six unanswered runs for the 6-2 win.

In the process, Fresno State ran the nation's longest winning streak to 23 straight games -- the longest streak in school history.  And the Bulldogs continued to shatter an already long-broken Mountain West record by winning their 32nd straight conference game, spanning two seasons.

Fresno State can tie the program record for longest conference winning streak on Saturday in the Bulldogs' season finale.  The Fresno State teams of 1999 and 2000 combined to win 33 straight conference games when the school was a member of the WAC.  That streak lasted from February 2, 1999, to April 22, 2000.

And maybe more importantly, Fresno State can become the first team ever to finish unbeaten in Mountain West softball play.  And that's a feat that could be the X Factor in the Bulldogs landing one of 16 national seeds and a regional host spot at Margie Wright Diamond when the 64-team NCAA bracket is revealed in less than 48 hours.

No. 17 Fresno State 6, UNLV 2 - Senior pitcher Taylor Langdon made her first start ever in Mountain West play, and delivered a stellar outing.  It was her second consecutive start this season where she tossed a complete-game and did not allow an earned run.  Three weeks ago, she pitched a complete-game shutout in a road non-conference game at Pacific.  Friday, it was a complete-game 4-hitter, where even the four hits were almost entirely of the weak, infield hit variety.  And Langdon kept her composure when the Bulldogs had a few uncharacteristic defensive miscues in the early going.  After spotting UNLV an unearned run in the first and third innings, Fresno State responded as it has all season when it's been down.  The Bulldogs got a 3-run bottom of the third -- on four hits -- to take the lead for good.  Kierra Willis, the conference leader in on-base percentage, had another strong game.  Alyssa Villalpando, the MW leader in RBI, added a league-leading 56th, and difference-maker Lindsey Willmon added a 2-run single.  In the third, Whitney Smith led off with a solid single to left, and Bria Kennedy was hit by a pitch to give the Bulldogs two runners on base to begin the frame.  After an out, Willis roped a triple to the corner in right, scoring both runners and tying the game 2-all.  Villalpando followed with what would turn out to be the game-winning hit -- a well-struck single to right-center.  An inning later, Vanessa Hernandez led off with a single, and Smith reached on UNLV's lone error of the game.  Kennedy drove home Hernandez with a deep sacrifice fly just in front of the 220-foot sign in center.  In the fifth, the 'Dogs added two more as Willis and Villalpando got things going again with singles to lead off the frame.  After a Paige Gumz sacrifice advanced both runners, Willmon drove them home, giving her 46 RBI on the year.  And while the Bulldogs were lighting up the scoreboard, Langdon was mowing down the Rebels once the 'Dogs started hitting.  Langdon retired the final 10 batters she faced, as UNLV did not have a base runner after the fourth inning.  She struck out four and saw her record move to 2-0 in Mountain West play this season.  Langdon tossed six innings of relief in a road win at San Jose State two weekends ago.  Janine Petmecky allowed nine hits in six innings of work to take the loss for the Rebels.  Fresno State is one win away from becoming the first Mountain West team ever to go unbeaten in conference play.

Elsewhere ... Utah State came from a 4-run deficit to nip Nevada 7-6 to even the series at a game apiece.  The win ensures the Aggies' first overall winning record in 20 years ... San Jose State wrapped up sole possession of second place in the Mountain West with a 9-0 win over New Mexico.  The Spartans moved to 26-24 overall and have now gone from fourth to third to second place in the final league standings over the past three seasons.  UNM, predicted to finish fourth this season, is in seventh place in the standings heading into the final day of action ... San Diego State allowed a late lead to get away, but came back for a 7-6 win over Boise State in eight innings on Ashley Ercolano's RBI single.