Sunday, May 1, 2016

No. 20 Fresno State earns MW title, NCAA bid with 19th straight win

The 20th-ranked Fresno State softball team continued to dominate Sunday, and in doing so, won a second straight Mountain West championship and NCAA Tournament bid.  The Bulldogs finished off a 3-game road sweep of San Jose State with a 6-4 win to capture another conference championship.

When NCAA bids are announced on Selection Sunday two weeks from today, Fresno State will see its name show up for the 32nd time in 35 years.  The staggering numbers for the Bulldogs just keep coming:

  • - Fresno State owns the nation's longest winning streak, having won 19 in a row.
  • - The Bulldogs became the first Mountain West team to ever sweep 9 straight series.
  • - They're the first Mountain West team ever to begin a conference season 18-0.
  • - They own the largest lead in the MW softball standings in history -- 7 full games.
  • - They've captured the conference crown the earliest of any MW team in history.
  • - They've won a record 28 straight conference games, spanning two seasons.
  • - They're the first team to sweep a 3-game MW road series at San Jose State.

And today they added another to that growing list:

- They hit three home runs to tie the school's single-season record of 51, set six years ago.

Senior pitcher Jill Compton got stronger and stronger down the stretch Sunday, limiting San Jose State to just one hit and no runs over the final four innings.  Compton improved to 13-0 in Mountain West play and 22-4 overall by tossing a complete-game 5-hitter over a dangerous Spartans team.

It was an epic battle and great game in the 99th all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Spartans on the softball field, where Fresno State has long dominated the series.  The 'Dogs own an 87-12 advantage now in the series that dates to the earliest days of these two programs.

In the end, it was a battle between two players who have both won NFCA National Player of the Week honors this season in college softball as Fresno State's Compton faced heavy-hitting Jessie Hufstetler of San Jose State with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Hufstetler represented the tying run.

And, as has been the case all season, it went Compton's way.  The senior right-hander got Hufstetler to swing and miss for strike three, sending the Bulldogs to a jubilant infield celebration on their rival's home field.  And, again, there was plenty of red in the stands as the well-traveled Bulldog faithful made the trek to San Jose, at times making it seem like a home game for Fresno State.

Kierra Willis hit a home run and scored three times, giving her an astonishing nine runs scored in the 3-game series.  Lindsey Willmon also went deep to bring the Bulldogs back from a 2-run deficit with a blast to to left.  It pushed Willmon into a tie with Dominique Jackson for the team home run lead at 11.  And it was freshman Vanessa Hernandez launching her second round-tripper of the season that gave Fresno State a lead it wouldn't relinquish.  The Hernandez blast tied the school's single-season home run record at 51.

It was the Bulldogs' 43rd home run hit away from home this season, another Fresno State record.

No. 20 Fresno State 6, San Jose State 4 - The Bulldogs wrapped up the Mountain West championship and accompanying automatic NCAA bid by completing a 3-game road sweep of the Spartans in San Jose.  A number of streaks and records were extended or shattered as Fresno State approaches the longest winning streak in the storied history of the Bulldog softball program.  Fresno State clinched a national-record 32nd trip to the NCAA Tournament in the last 35 seasons, and did it by running the nation's longest current winning streak to 19 games.  The Bulldogs continued the best start to a Mountain West season in history by moving to 18-0 and clinching the league crown a full two weeks before the end of the regular season.  The win was an ongoing 28th in a row in MW play for the Bulldogs, and they snapped San Jose State's streak of 29 straight series without being swept.  SJSU had never been swept in a 3-game Mountain West series, and hadn't been swept in a league series in more than five years.  Fresno State pitcher Jill Compton held San Jose State to its lowest hit total in a MW game this season by tossing a complete-game 5-hitter.  Over the final four innings, Compton did not allow a run and gave up just one hit.  The Bulldogs hit three home runs -- from Kierra Willis, Lindsey Willmon and Vanessa Hernandez.  Willis scored an amazing nine runs in the series (three in each game), Willmon moved into a tie for the team lead in home runs at 11, and Hernandez smacked the team's 51st of the season, tying the Fresno State single-season record.  Fresno State scored the game's final four runs as Willmon's 2-run shot tied it in the fourth.  An out later, Hernandez launched her deep blast that proved to be the eventual game-winner.  And later, the league's RBI leader, Alyssa Villalpando, just missed a homer herself, doubling to deep center and driving in her 50th run of the season.  The Bulldogs had 10 hits against Spartans pitcher Katelyn Linford, the reigning MW Pitcher of the Week, and registered a double-digit hit total for the ninth time in nine league road games this season.  Linford lost twice in the series and started all three games.  Compton saw her record improve to 13-0 in Mountain West play and 22-4 overall.  Fresno State has a 7-game lead in the MW standings over second-place San Jose State with six to play.

San Diego State 8, Utah State 6 - The Aztecs won the series at home in San Diego two games to one by rallying to score the game's final six runs.  Molly Sturdivant snapped a 6-all tie in the bottom of the sixth with a 2-run single after hitting a solo home run earlier in the game.  Alex Formby picked up the win in relief, while Alleyah Armendariz took the loss.  Utah State fell to 11-10 in conference play, good for fourth place, and 25-23 overall.  SDSU saw its record improve to 8-10 in the league and 26-20 overall.

Boise State 7, New Mexico 5 - The Broncos salvaged game three of the series, coming from behind for the win over the Lobos in Boise.  Teauna Hughes snapped a 5-all tie with a solo home run in the sixth, and freshman Morgan Lamb also went deep for Boise State, which saw a 5-game losing streak come to an end.  New Mexico was held to just four hits by the Broncos pitching staff, with one of those hits being a 2-run homer by Chelsea Johnson (her 11th of the season).

Oklahoma State 4-11, UNLV 1-6 - The Cowgirls swept the Rebels in Las Vegas in a non-conference doubleheader.

Colorado State-Nevada canceled - It was a complete wipeout weather-wise in Fort Collins this weekend as the entire 3-game series was canceled and will not be made up.