Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bulldogs win, clinch huge series road victory over San Diego St.

Fresno State rode its high-powered offense to a second consecutive road victory at San Diego State Saturday, clinching the Mountain West-opening series against the Aztecs with a 7-6 win.

The Bulldogs pounded out 15 hits against SDSU freshman phenom Marissa Moreno, the Aztecs' leader in ERA, wins and strikeouts this season.  Kierra Willis, Katie Castellon and Morgan Howe all had three hits apiece in an entertaining, back-and-forth game between the rivals.

Fresno State, with a victory Sunday, can become the first team ever to sweep a Mountain West road series from San Diego State since the league implemented the 3-game series format.

For the second day in a row, the Aztecs took the lead but were unable to hold it.  In the third inning of a scoreless pitcher's duel between Moreno and Fresno State starter Savannah McHellon, the Bulldogs blinked first.  Molly Sturdivant doubled home Katie Byrd, who was hit by a pitch, and SDSU went in front 1-0.

The Bulldogs tied it in the fourth when Howe singled and Willis hit an RBI double.  An inning later, Fresno State would go in front by a 3-1 score.  Castellon doubled to lead off the fifth, and Malia Rivers followed with an infield single.  With two outs, Howe -- who is batting nearly .700 this season with runners in scoring position -- gave Fresno State the lead with a 2-run single.

SDSU responded quickly in the bottom of the inning, however.  Byrd doubled, Jenavee Peres walked, and the Aztecs scored a run on a double steal when Peres hung in long enough on an extended tag out play on the base paths.  Sydnee Cable and Taylor Stewart got hits, and Bulldog coach Linda Garza summoned Kamalani Dung from the bullpen.  A 2-run triple by Shelby Thompson followed, and SDSU went back in front 4-3, with those runs charge to McHellon.

But Fresno State wouldn't be denied.  Trailing by a run with two outs in the top of the sixth, the Bulldogs went to work.  Willis singled, and Castellon smacked an RBI triple to knot the game at 4-4.  Freshman Miranda Rohleder followed with a run-scoring single and the Bulldogs were back in front.

Dung retired San Diego State in order in the sixth, and Fresno State added two big insurance runs in the top of the seventh for the second straight day.  Lindsey Willmon and McHellon both singled to begin the frame, and Willis added a third straight hit to load the bases with no outs.  That was enough for Kathy Van Wyk to go to pitcher Julie McDonald.  A bases-loaded walk to Vanessa Hernandez, who had two home runs Friday, gave the Bulldogs a 2-run lead.  The margin reached three runs when McDonald plunked Castellon with a full-count pitch.

The Aztecs made it close in the seventh as Peres tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, and Zaria Meshack hit an infield RBI single.  With the bases loaded, Dung induced Kiera Wright to fly out to center, where Hernandez made a nice grab to end the threat and the game.

Fresno State won its 34th Mountain West game in its last 35 tries spanning three seasons.

Elsewhere, Boise State scored eight unearned runs due to five Colorado State errors in an 8-5 win, San Jose State shut out light-hitting Nevada for the second day in a row in Stockton, and Utah State used a 6-run inning to top UNLV 6-2.