On Sunday, No. 20 Fresno State remained perfect in Mountain West Conference play by completing a sweep of San Jose State with a 6-4 victory. Not only did the Bulldogs sweep their regional rival on said rival’s field, but they also clinched their second straight Mountain West title and automatic qualification for the NCAA Tournament.
After giving up two home runs early, Jill Compton pitched four scoreless innings to end the game. The conference leader in wins, Compton won her 22nd game of the season, with five hits, four earned runs, and four strikeouts in a complete game. The five hits were the lowest number of hits San Jose State made in a conference game this year. For the Spartans, Katelyn Linford (7-10) took the loss, her second in this series. Also pitching a complete game, Linford gave up 10 hits and six earned runs while striking out five.
Fresno State got on the board first, as was the case the past two days. With two outs, both Kierra Willis and Alyssa Villalpando singled, to put themselves on the corners. Paige Gumz blasted a single to left field to drive in Willis. Lindsey Willmon followed with her own single, but Jessica Madrid heaved a throw from left field to Alyssa Avila as Villalpando attempted to score from third base. Avila tagged Villalpando out at home plate, to keep the score 1-0 as San Jose State came up to bat.
In the bottom of the first, San Jose State stranded two on base. Brittany Abacherli led off with a full-count walk. Both Abacherli and Madrid advanced safely, after Malia Rivers dropped what should have been a second base ground out by Madrid. Jessie Hufstetler made a sacrifice fly to advance Abacherli to third, but the inning ended scoreless after a Madison Aurin fly out.
San Jose State then tied the game in the bottom of the second inning after a one-two-three top. Leading off, Taylor Purdy smashed a solo home run that Willis chased towards the left field wall but could only watch. Emma Entzminger then walked but ended up stranded, as Compton retired the next three batters.
With another two-out score, Fresno State took back the lead in the third inning with a solo shot to right center by Willis. San Jose State responded by taking a 4-2 lead at the end of three innings, with all the scoring happenings with two outs. Hufstetler doubled but advanced to third base, as Fresno State rightfielder Bria Kennedy bobbled the ball when attempting to throw back to infield. Aurin followed with a smash over the left field wall. Purdy then walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch before scoring on an RBI off an Entzminger single.
In the fourth inning, Fresno State took the lead right back with three runs, all of which came off home runs. First, Willmon hit a home run with Paige Gumz at first to score two. Vanessa Hernandez followed with a solo shot out of the park. San Jose State went one-two-three out of its turn in that inning. Fresno State then got what would be the final margin, a 6-4 lead following a Willis walk and Villalpando double in the deep left field gap to score Willis.
“We’ve been having problems all year after scoring runs, coming in and stopping the other team immediately,” said San Jose State head coach Peter Turner.
Despite the two home runs in one inning, Turner stuck to Linford.
“We had [Colette] Riggs ready to go, but Riggs is not tailored for the next two hitters who were coming up,” explained Turner.
Turner also said that letting Linford keep playing would benefit her in the long term, coming into her senior year in 2017.
Like Emily Rogers yesterday, Linford reached a record pitch count on Sunday: 122. This surpassed her previous pitch count record of 121 set on April 17, 2014, in a 7-6 loss at Boise State.
Not only did San Jose State not score in the final four innings, but Compton also limited San Jose State to one hit in that period, a two-out double by Madrid that reached the center field wall and fired up the San Jose State bench and crowd. Next at bat, Hufstetler struck out in four pitches, and the Fresno State players and fans ended up making all the noise as the players rushed the field to embrace Compton.
“You see how they celebrate; you see how they pull for each other,” observed Turner. “We need to build that culture; we’ve had that before. We need to demand that as we move on.”
After the game, Compton tweeted a photo of her standing with Hufstetler, with the caption: “love and respect...been battling against each other since 10 years old!” Both players went to different high schools in San Luis Obispo County and different club teams as well; Hufstetler played travel ball for the Fresno Force while in high school.
San Jose State (22-24, 11-7 MW) remains in second place in the Mountain West, seven games behind Fresno State with six remaining. The Spartans will travel to Boise State (13-33, 5-13 MW) for a three-game series that begins on Friday, then return to San Jose for the season finale series against New Mexico (22-21, 7-10 MW).
San Jose State entered this series with a #71 Ratings Percentage Index ranking. With this three-game losing streak and the upcoming opponents having sub-100 RPI rankings, earning an at-large NCAA bid is highly doubtful.
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