Andrew Pang - InsideTheSpartans

Softball: Spartans drop second in a row to Fresno State

San Jose State falls 13-7 to Fresno State in the second game of the series. The Bulldogs can clinch the Mountain West Championship over second placed SJSU on Sunday.

Following an 11-5 loss on Friday, San Jose State lost the three-game series and its second game in a row 13-7 to visiting rival Fresno State, despite five home runs by four players. San Jose State ended the first inning with a 3-2 lead, but Fresno State scored nine runs in the next two innings and led 11-6 after the third.

Following a walk and sac bunt that put Bria Kennedy on second base, a third base error by Emma Entzminger allowed Kennedy to score the Bulldogs’ first run. Alyssa Villalpando followed with an RBI single that scored Kierra Willis from second. Dominique Jackson then walked to load the bases, but Katelyn Linford struck out Vanessa Hernandez to keep the score 2-0 in favor of Fresno State. Linford (7-9) took the loss and had four earned runs and two strikeouts in 1.1 innings of action.

“We had enough offense, but we cannot allow them to get on base by not swinging the bat,” commented San Jose State head coach Peter Turner. “When we’ve had bad games this year, that’s what’s happened.”

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In the bottom of the first inning, the Spartans quickly got on the scoreboard with a leadoff home run over the left field wall by Brittany Abacherli. Next in the batting order, Alyssa Martinez blasted a ball over the center field wall to tie the game at 2-2. On a full count, Jessie Hufstetler smashed a right field home run to put San Jose State ahead 3-2. This ended the day for Fresno State pitcher Kamalani Dung, whose replcement Taylor Langdon helped get the final two outs and prevent any further scoring. Taking the win, Langdon (3-1) ended up pitching six innings, with four earned runs and three strikeouts.

Fresno State took a 4-3 lead in the second inning after singles by Whitney Smith and Malia Rivers, double by Kierra Willis, and bases-loaded, two-out walk by Paige Gumz. Colette Riggs subbed in for Linford after the Willis double and retired Villalpando for the second out, but Riggs gave up a grand slam by Jackson that gave Fresno State an 8-3 lead. San Jose State did not give up, as Abacherli hit a two-RBI home run to pull San Jose State within 8-5 in the bottom of the second.

Still, Fresno State did not back down, as Smith smashed a lead-off home run to extend the lead to 9-5. Kennedy then bounced a double off the right field wall, which sent Emily Rogers to the circle. A wild pitch by Rogers advanced Kennedy to third, and Willis doubled to send Kennedy home. Villalpando walked, and Gumz reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners. Martinez could not cleanly field a grounder by Lindsey Willmon and allowed Willis to score, and Fresno State now had an 11-5 inning mid-third. In the bottom of the third, Madison Aurin got a solo home run to left to reduce the deficit to 11-6 after three innings.

Turner said that he prefers subbing in Rogers around the fifth inning and put Rogers in because of a difficult early-inning situation.

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“I had to go to her early just to see if we could keep the game in check,” said Turner.  Rogers threw a career-high 101 pitches in five innings. She had two earned runs and three strikeouts.

In the sixth inning, Fresno State padded on the two final runs to make a San Jose State rally harder. Willmon led off with a double, and a sacrifice bunt by Smith loaded second and third bases. Kennedy scored both runners off a triple through center field that Abacherli unsuccessfully dove to catch. In the bottom of the seventh, with yesterday’s starter Jill Compton now in as closer, San Jose State loaded the bases off a single by Hufstetler, double by Aurin, and walk by Entzminger, but with two outs, Daisy Conchas struck out to end the game.

With this win, Fresno State improved to 17-0 in conference play and expanded its lead over San Jose State (11-6 MW) to six, with seven conference games remaining. Thus, Fresno State can clinch its second consecutive conference title on Sunday, by sweeping San Jose State. If San Jose State wins, the team will mathematically still remain in the hunt for the conference title by shrinking its deficit to five games with six remaining.

It would not be the first time a Fresno State team won its conference championship or other significant reward in its rival’s venue, should Fresno State win tomorrow. On November 26, 2002, Fresno State beat San Jose State in football at Spartan Stadium 19-16. With that win, Fresno State earned a bid to the Silicon Valley Football Classic to be held at the same stadium in December.

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