Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fresno State wins series against San Diego State for 4th straight year


Two-time defending Mountain West champion Fresno State was the only team in the conference to win a road series on the opening weekend of league play, which ended Sunday.  In a matchup of the two teams predicted to finish at the top of the conference standings in the preseason poll of Mountain West coaches, the Bulldogs came through with a key road series win at San Diego State.

But after winning the first two games of the series in San Diego, Fresno State wanted to become the first MW team to sweep a 3-game road series against the Aztecs since the conference implemented the 3-game format.  It wasn't to be, as the Bulldogs had some defensive issues in a 6-3 setback, allowing San Diego State to salvage one of the three games at home.

Fresno State won its series with San Diego State for a fourth straight season, and now leads the all-time series with SDSU by a commanding 64-13 margin.

The Bulldogs got on the board first, scoring a first inning run as Lindsey Willmon grounded out following hits by both Malia Rivers and Morgan Howe.  As was the case for nearly the entire game, the Bulldogs wasted additional opportunities to score, leaving base runners stranded in scoring position in six of seven innings, including the first five innings in a row.

In the top of the second, Fresno State had base runners at second and third base with only one out and failed to score.  Poor defense in the bottom of the inning would change the complexion of the game.  With starting pitcher Kamalani Dung in the circle, she got a pair of potentially easy fly balls to right and left field, but both were dropped for outfield errors as SDSU put together a 3-run inning, with all three runs unearned.

Dung was pulled from the game, despite not allowing an earned run and having tossed just 1 1/3 innings.  Freshman Samantha Mejia entered in the first action in Mountain West play of her career, and SDSU teed off with six hits and three runs over the next 2 2/3 innings, including a 2-run homer to straightaway center by Molly Sturdivant.  They would be the only three earned runs San Diego State would score Sunday, and they were enough for the win.

Fresno State committed five errors in the series, leading to seven unearned runs.  All five errors came with Dung in the circle.  Savannah McHellon pitched the final two innings for the Bulldogs and held SDSU scoreless.

The game ended in wild fashion, as reigning MW Player of the Year Kierra Willis was at the plate representing the potential tying run.  With pinch runner Christina Rodriguez at second and Willmon at first, Willmon was called out on a snap throw from catcher Jenavee Peres.  Initially called safe at first base on the throw, San Diego State fans in the stands squawked at the call.  Umpires huddled near home plate, and the home plate umpire overruled the call, and instead ruled Willmon out, ending the game.  Coach Linda Garza argued, to no avail, and the reversed call went the home team's way.

Fresno State reached double-digits in hits for the third straight game against San Diego State, and the Bulldogs' 37 hits in the series were the most by a Mountain West team this weekend.

In other games Sunday, both other teams looking to complete 3-game conference sweeps came up short.  San Jose State fell 6-2 to Nevada, falling into an early hole and never escaping; and likewise, UNLV scored six first inning runs and went on for an 8-5 win in Logan over Utah State, which committed six errors.  Home teams won three of four Mountain West series this weekend, with only Fresno State picking up a road series win.