The San Jose State Spartans softball team wrapped up the season on Saturday with a 5-3 win and series sweep over the visiting New Mexico Lobos. This win followed a 4-1 win on Thursday and 9-0, six-inning run rule win on Friday.
Emily Rogers and Katelyn Linford combined for nine strikeouts. Rogers, who started her seventh game in 23 appearances on the season for the Spartans, had four strikeouts, three hits, and one earned run. In relief, Linford limited New Mexico to two hits and no runs in 4.1 innings of work while striking out five. With 17 total strikeouts this series, Linford earned the win and improved to 10-10 on the season.
For New Mexico, Lauren Soles had six hits, one earned run, and two strikeouts in 5.2 innings pitched and took the loss. Both teams committed two errors each. Because of that, most runs scored in this game were unearned.
Saturday’s game had an unusual starting lineup, with all seven seniors in the starting nine. Jessie Hufstetler played at first base instead of freshman Madison Aurin. Anissa Pinedo played at third base instead of sophomore Emma Entzminger. Casey Lester played at right field instead of sophomore Chelsea Jenner.
“We were in a position where we had second [place] locked up, and I could play the seniors,” explained Turner. “It worked out, [and] we were very fortunate, but that was my plan.”
New Mexico scored first off a home run by Michala Erickson, following a popout by Mariah Rimmer. Rogers then gave up a walk to Jasmine Casados before striking out both Karissa Haleman and Lisa Rodrigues to end New Mexico’s threat.
San Jose State responded with a three-run first inning. With two outs, the bases were loaded after a Jessica Madrid walk and both Hufstetler and Taylor Purdy were hit by pitches. A third base error by Casados allowed Madrid to score and tie the game 1-1. Then, Pinedo had an infield single that drove in both Purdy and Hufstetler, after Shelbie Franc stumbled while fielding the ball at second base and made the throw late.
Neither team put anyone on base in the second inning. Rogers led off the second with a three-pitch strikeout of Jade Gray and ended the inning catching a drifting popup by Brooke Breland.
New Mexico tied the game in the third inning. The Lobos led off with singles by Franc and Rimmer, both of whom advanced after Franc stole second. Franc scored an unearned run after Spartan shortstop Alyssa Martinez dropped what should have been a ground out. With the bases loaded, Rimmer scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Rogers during a four-pitch walk that again loaded the bases. Linford was subbed in and struck out Chelsea Johnson to keep the game tied.
Following two scoreless innings, San Jose State reclaimed the lead in the fifth. The inning began with singles by Martinez and Madrid. Another third base error allowed Purdy to reach first and Martinez to score. Pinedo hit another single that scored Hufstetler, but pinch runner Julia Gallegos was tagged out trying to advance from second to third base.
With Aurin returning to first base, the seventh inning began with Franc reaching first on an off-target throw to first by Martinez. Rimmer followed this with a single and represented the tying run. Both runners would remain stranded, as Alyssa Avila caught a foul ball by Erickson, then Casados hit a grounder that Entzminger tagged to third base and threw right on time to Aurin at first for the game-ending 5-3 double play.
“They’ve really improved, and they’ve really shut people down over the last three or four weeks,” said Turner about his pitching staff.
Turner also said that the 2017 season will rely on the pitching performances Linford, Rogers, and Colette Riggs, all of whom will be seniors then.
“We’re losing too many good hitters, but I think we got great athletes coming in, and next year will be our year,” said Turner.
In this series, Linford and Riggs reached new career highs. Linford made a personal record 12 strikeouts on Thursday and became the first San Jose State pitcher with 10 or more strikeouts in seven innings since Amanda Pridmore struck out 17 in a 4-0 win over Marist on March 16, 2013. Then on Friday, Riggs pitched her first complete game.
With this win, San Jose State ended the season with a six-game winning streak and finished 28-24, including a 17-7 conference record good enough for second place in the Mountain West. San Jose State has improved in conference play every season in the Mountain West era. In 2014, the Spartans went 10-8 in MW play for fourth place, followed by a 17-7 conference record in 2015 for third place.
This also marks the final game played at SJSU Field, before it is demolished to make way for the Spartan Golf Facility whose groundbreaking took place on Friday. Turner stated that next year’s home games will be played at Santa Clara University.
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