FRESNO, Calif. – A year after the Fresno State Bulldogs visited San Jose, swept the San Jose State Spartans, and won the Mountain West Conference title on rival territory, San Jose State (29-15, 9-6 MW) got payback and stayed in contention for the Mountain West Conference title by beating Fresno State (26-20, 6-8 MW) 9-3 on Sunday in a rivalry rubber match.
Katelyn Linford made her second straight win in relief and improved to 19-7 on the season. Starter Colette Riggs gave up no hits for the first two innings. For Fresno State, starter Savannah McHellon (5-7) took the loss. Three Fresno State pitchers gave up a total of 12 hits, and Fresno State committed six errors on defense.
“[Margie Wright Diamond] is a difficult place to play, and winning here is big,” said San Jose State head coach Peter Turner.
This win keeps San Jose State tied with San Diego State at second place and within two games of conference leader Utah State (12-5 MW).
Like on Saturday, San Jose State scored first, off a Casey Watt RBI double. Chelsea Jenner reached on a bases loaded fielder’s choice to score Watt. In the second inning, San Jose State went up 4-0 off a Watt two-RBI triple to deep right center.
“I’ve been struggling a lot this whole weekend, so I really managed to turn it around and stay focused,” said Watt.
Katie Castellon made Fresno State’s first hit, a third inning double to right center. Malia Rivers hit an RBI infield single that Riggs could not field cleanly, and Miranda Rohleder hit a sacrifice fly to deep right for another run. The score remained 4-2 after Morgan Howe flew out into a double play caused by Rivers mistakenly rounding second.
In the fourth, a Lindsey Willmon hit bounced off Riggs’ glove into the outfield. Two outs and two walks later, Linford was subbed in and pitched a groundout to defend the 4-2 lead.
San Jose State stranded runners at second and third in the fifth, due to a runner’s interference call against Alyssa Avila for colliding with the shortstop. With two outs on defense, San Jose State shortstop Georgia Blair dropped a ground ball and put two runners on base, but San Jose State caught another break. An umpire ruled Vanessa Hernandez to have grounded out, after the ball rolled along the foul line and hit third base.
“You never stop playing, until the umpire says dead ball… [Fresno State] not paying attention [to] the fly ball, that’s on somebody, not us,” commented Turner about the plays that ended the third and fifth innings.
The wheels fell off defensively for Fresno State in the sixth, starting with three errors that began the inning. Watt scored from second base after Rohleder airmailed a double play throw that let Blair reach first. With two outs, Abacherli and Avila hit consecutive doubles and extended the lead to 8-2. Reliever Sarah Santana ended the inning by pitching a groundout to San Jose State pinch hitter Alexandra Luna.
In the bottom of the sixth, Fresno State would not back down, as Willmon hit a one-out homer and cut the deficit to 8-3. Linford struck out Haley Fuller, and Abacherli made a diving catch of a Castellon fly ball at center to end the inning. Castellon mishandled a ground ball in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded. This sixth error by Fresno State allowed San Jose State to go up 9-3.
San Jose State’s road trip continues with three games at New Mexico starting Friday. The upcoming San Jose State-New Mexico and San Diego State-Utah State series will be crucial in determining the conference title.