Friday, March 17, 2017

4 HRs power Fresno State to key MW road win over Aztecs

Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State pounded four home runs, including two by sophomore Vanessa Hernandez, to open defense of its conference championships with an impressive road win at San Diego State.

In a matchup between the teams predicted to finish first and second in the Mountain West by the league's coaches this year, the Bulldogs used their high-powered offense and overcame a shaky start to snap several long San Diego State streaks.

The Aztecs had won nine straight conference openers and 28 consecutive games when scoring seven or more runs.  Also, SDSU had been undefeated this season when scoring in the first inning.  Each of those streaks came to a halt against the Bulldogs, who continued their dominance against Mountain West opponents.  Fresno State has won 33 of its past 34 MW games spanning three seasons.

Friday's game was won by the Bulldogs 10-7, as coach Linda Garza's squad overcame three big defensive miscues that led to four unearned runs.  Fresno State got behind 3-0 in the first inning as pitcher Kamalani Dung committed consecutive throwing errors to start the game.

On comebackers to the circle, Dung twice threw in the dirt to first base as the ball skipped past first baseman Savannah McHellon and rolled down the right field line.  Instead of two outs and no one on base, Fresno State already trailed 1-0 and SDSU had a runner in scoring position.  Following an out, Molly Sturdivant launched a 2-run homer to put the Bulldogs in a 3-0 hole just minutes into the game.

From that point on, Dung settled into a groove, however.  She didn't allow her second hit of the game until the fifth inning, and by that time, Fresno State had already scored eight unanswered runs to take control.

Sophomore Morgan Howe hit a 2-run home run against SDSU starter -- and eventual losing pitcher -- Erica Romero, and Kierra Willis tied the game 3-3 with an RBI triple.  Lindsey Willmon launched a 3-run home run to right-center that extended Fresno State's lead, and Hernandez blasted two deep bombs over the fence in left.

Hernandez hit a no-doubter deep to left in the fifth, well over the outfield bleachers.  In the top of the seventh, she added key insurance runs for Dung with a 2-run shot, also to left.  That came with two outs in the frame against reliever Alex Formby, and it would be enough.  Dung gave up a run in the seventh as Fresno State overcame three errors, leading to four unearned runs in the game.  Conversely, all 10 Bulldogs runs were earned.

Freshman Miranda Rohleder had three hits in her first three at-bats in a Mountain West game.

Elsewhere, Colorado State and Boise State split a pair in Boise with the Broncos winning the opener 10-3, and the Rams the nightcap (9-4).  Utah State run-ruled UNLV 10-2 in five in Logan, and San Jose State shut out Nevada 2-0 in Stockton.