FRESNO, Calif. - On an absolutely gorgeous February afternoon, the Fresno State Bulldog softball team beat Sacramento State 5-4 in an 11-inning thrilling opener and capped the doubleheader sweep with a 7-4 victory.
"We had some outstanding performances and have a very good team," head coach Margie Wright said of her team's strong start to the 2011 season.
Michelle Moses delivered the first cycle in Bulldog softball's storied history and the first of Moses' softball career in the day's opening game. On the afternoon, she went six for eight with a pair of home runs and a 1.875 slugging percentage, including a game-best four for five clip at the plate in game one.
Senior Haley Gilleland, who has started every game at shortstop since her freshman season, added some perspective on the importance of finishing off wins.
"Two wins on opening day was huge," Gilleland said. "We came through when we needed to and it's good to go on the road with a couple of wins under our belt."
After Sacramento State scored the opening run of the day in the third inning of game one, Fresno State responded with four of its own over the next two innings before the Hornets evened the game at 4-4 behind a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Gilleland, who made difficult plays in the field look routine all afternoon, scored the winning run in game one to end the 11-inning and three-hour marathon opener when she sprinted home on a throwing error by Sacramento State's Marissa Navarro. The Hornets' catcher tried to pick the dangerously fast Gilleland off second base and the speedster never hesitated when Wright sent her home for the win.
In game two, the Dogs jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first two innings, never looked back and completed the sweep by the final tally of 7-4.
Wright praised the offensive production of both Gilleland and Moses.
"Haley and Michelle were nails hitting for us today," she added. "Michelle's cycle was a pretty special way to start the season. Haley's got great instincts and she makes quick decisions."
Junior pitcher Mackenzie Oakes earned both victories to improve to 2-0 on the season with a 2.13 earned run average. She pitched 12.2 innings, including 5.2 innings of scoreless ball to close out game one.
"It is really good to put wins on the board and get wins at home," Oakes noted. "All of our pitchers know we may have to come in and we are always ready."
With the addition of four newcomers and a full complement of veterans, the Bulldog roster was able to use depth to its advantage all afternoon long.
Walker made the defensive play of the day in first inning of the afternoon when she retired Sacramento State's Alyssa Nakken at home plate on a perfect throw after catching a fly ball in left field.
"It boosted our team's confidence with that throw," Wright said. "We see it every day in practice, but she really made an awesome throw there. Our freshmen will have great careers here."
Fresno State will start its road treks on Tuesday at Pacific for a doubleheader that starts at 1 p.m. in Stockton before heading south to play in the San Diego State Classic I on Friday and Saturday.
Michelle Moses, a 2011 Preseason All-WAC and 2010 All-West Region honoree, became the first Bulldog softball student-athlete to hit for the cycle and went six for eight with two home runs, a triple, a double, 15 total bases and a 1.875 slugging percentage.
Haley Gilleland, another 2011 Preseason All- WAC honoree, scored the winning run in the game one win when Sacramento State's catcher Marissa Navarro sailed an errant throw failed to pick Gilleland off second base. Gilleland's speed took her from second base to home plate to end the 11-inning affair. She also improved her Fresno State record to 60 career stolen bases with a stolen base in game one.
Mackenzie Oakes picked up two victories and pitched 5.2 scoreless relief innings to lock down Sacramento State late in the first game. Her performance gave Gilleland the chance to sprint for the final run. In game two, Oakes went the distance for her 14th career complete game. On the day, she pitched 12.2 innings, struck out 10 batters and sported a 2.13 earned run average.
Wright inserted a pair of freshmen into the starting line-up (Demi Walker and Brooke Ortiz) and all four newcomers, including freshman Vonnie Martin and junior Rebecca Hall earned critical playing time.
D. Walker started both games in left field and immediately made an impact when she threw a strike to retire the Hornets' Alyssa Nakken at home plate after catching a fly ball off the bat Devin Caldwell in the bottom of game one's first inning. Walker added a pair of hits and scored twice on her first day playing as Bulldog.
Ortiz started game one at third base and moved to second base later in the day. She hit her first double, recorded three total hits and scored a pair of runs for the Dogs.
Martin pinch hit late in game one and started the second game at designated player. She hit safely to left field in game two for her first collegiate single.
Hall pinch hit late in game one and started the second game in right field. She chipped in an RBI.
A total of 16 Bulldogs were used over 18 innings of action.
Fresno State improved to 2-0 on the season and extended the Dogs' all-time series lead over the Hornets to 31-9. This also marked the 12th consecutive Fresno State victory over Sacramento State.
Wright closed to within 12 wins of her 1,400th career victory. She has now won 1,388 games over her 31-year career at Fresno State and Illinois State. Wright is in her 26h season with the Dogs.
"We Are Your Team!" --- Fresno State takes to the road for the next month. The Bulldogs will travel to Stockton for a date with Pacific on Tuesday afternoon before starting non-conference tournament action on Friday in San Diego against a pair of teams that appeared the 2010 College World Series (No. 7/9 Missouri and No. 10/11 Washington). Fresno State returns to Bulldog Diamond on March 10 when the Dogs host the 2011 Bayer CropScience Classic.
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