Feb. 7, 2014
By Geoff Thurner
TEMPE, Ariz. - The Fresno State softball team (1-1) confirmed the potential for an exciting 2014 campaign with a split in Friday's opening day tilts vs. a pair of NCAA Tournament returnees at ASU's Farrington Stadium.
In the first game vs. returning Pac-12 Champion Oregon (1-1), the `Dogs struck for six runs off All-Region pitcher Cheridan Hawkins in the first two innings before the Ducks fought back to take a narrow 10-9 decision in eight innings.
Immediately after, Fresno State bounced back with a command performance in the circle by All-MW pitcher and sophomore Jill Compton en route to a 1-0 shutout of returning ACC Tournament Champion N.C. State (0-3).
"Overall, I was proud of how we played today," second-year Fresno State head coach Trisha Ford said. "We faced two very good teams and gave good efforts against both of them. We had Oregon on the ropes, and could have been 2-0, but some mistakes cost us, especially in base-running, so we need to keep working on the little things. We had great energy early, and showed that we can play with anybody, and ultimately we control our own destiny."
In her first appearance of the season, Compton (1-0) struck out four in the evening finale, walked one and allowed only two hits.
In her seven innings, she faced no more than four batters in any inning with only one runner reaching second base in the sixth after an opening infield error and stolen base. The Oceano, Calif., native answered with a pair of pop-outs and strikeout to the WolfPack's 2-3-4 hitters to end the threat.
"Coach Ford and Paige (Gumz, starting catcher) called a great game," Compton said. "We mixed up the pitches well, and the defense did a great job, especially on some hard hit balls hit to the outfield. Overall, my location was pretty good, and I was able to get ahead of the hitters and get a lot of ground-outs."
The `Dogs scored their lone run on the day's craziest play as freshman left fielder Kierra Willis hit a soft grounder to the left of the pitcher who bobbled the ball just outside the circle, then threw it wide of first base. The ball ultimately caromed off the fence past the right fielder, and Willis sped around to score before the defense even attempted a throw home.
Willis' first run as a collegian eased the frustration of the three prior innings where the `Dogs stranded a pair of runners each time, including a pair of singles by junior right fielder Michelle Solomon and senior third baseman Vonnie Martin that opened the fourth inning .
At game's end , All-MW junior center fielder Brenna Moss (3-for-3) tied her hits career high and also reached via a walk.
Three other `Dogs also hit safely once - senior shortstop Brooke Ortiz (1-for-4), Solomon (1-for-3) and Martin (1-for-3).
For N.C. State, freshman starter Courtney Mirabella pitched the first four innings, struck out two, walked one and allowed four hits.
Returning ACC Pitcher of the Year and junior Emily Weiman (0-2) pitched the final three innings, struck out four, walked one, gave up two hits, and one unearned run.
Immediately before in the opener vs. Oregon, the `Dogs struck for four runs in the first inning on a Martin RBI single and towering three-run homer to center field by senior first baseman Stesha Brazil - the 17th of her career.
Three one-out walks set the table for three more runs in the second inning, as Solomon and Martin each drove in a RBI on infielder grounders to the left side, and Brazil added another run on a ground-out to second base.
Altogether in regulation, Oregon scored in five of the seven innings thanks to single runs in the first, second and sixth stanzas, along with four more in the third and two in the fourth.
After the returning Super Regional advancers staked a 9-8 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the `Dogs tied the game after a Brazil single, Gumz's fielder's choice grounder to the pitcher and a lined single by sophomore Whitney Smith to right field.
Oregon scored the winning run in the eighth inning with help from the international tiebreaker rule that places a runner on second base as it followed with a stolen base and sacrifice fly for the deciding run.
However, the `Dogs didn't go down without a fight and loaded the bases with a pair of 3-2 walks against Hawkins before a game-ending strikeout.
For the game, Martin went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI, while Brazil's 2-for-5 effort included a career-high 4 RBI.
In her first game since a season-ending injury last February, Ortiz (2-for-3) made her first collegiate start at shortstop, and two other `Dogs hit safely once.
In the circle, Bulldog sophomore starter Hannah Harris pitched the first 3.2 innings, struck out four, walked five, allowed five hits, and five of her eight runs allowed were earned.
In her first appearance since 2012, redshirt sophomore Kiley Shae Aldridge (0-1) pitched the final 4.1 innings, struck out three, walked one, allowed three hits, and one of her two runs allowed was earned.
Hawkins, who starred on the U.S. National Team at the 2013 World Junior Championships squad last summer that also Ford served on as an assistant coach, evened her record at 1-1 on the season, and logged six strikeouts and seven walks, allowed two hits, and all six of her runs allowed were earned.
Duck junior Karissa Hovinga pitched the other five middle innings, struck out two, walked two, yielded seven hits, and two of her three runs allowed were earned.
Looking ahead, the `Dogs return for second-day action in the Kajikawa Classic Saturday morning and face Appalachian State and UC Riverside at approximately 9 am and 11:30 a.m., respectively, then play at tourney host and No. 7 Arizona State Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m.
A complete tournament schedule is available at the http://www.thesundevils.com/pdf9/2595788.pdf URL address.
"Catch the Wave!" - Follow Fresno State softball on Twitter at the *NEW* @FresnoStateSB address.
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