LOGAN, Utah - In the closing weeks of the season, heart and passion are essential to make a drive for a championship.
On a brisk Friday afternoon at the footsteps of the Wasatch mountain range, the 25th-ranked Bulldog softball team used its inner strength to earn a doubleheader sweep at Utah State (5-3 and 7-1) and pulled within a half game of New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference standings.
Junior pitcher/first baseman Michelle Moses crushed three home runs, including a grand slam, for 12 total home runs this season and freshman centerfielder Demi Walker went 6-for-7 during the double feature at Johnson Field.
"We really came together as a team today," Moses said. "We got runners on base and scored them. Everyone contributed and we are looking forward to getting back on the field tomorrow."
Moses (12-9) struck out 13, one shy of her season-high, and tossed a complete game in the early 5-3 win while Oakes (15-2) finished the sweep with a complete-game three-hitter for the 7-1 triumph.
"Mac did awesome," Moses said. "She really threw well today."
"Michelle worked hard and put the ball where it needed to go," Walker said. "We need to keep the momentum to close out this series."
No. 25 Fresno State (28-11, 12-2 WAC) will complete its WAC series with Utah State (10-36, 4-10 WAC) on Saturday at 11 a.m. Pacific.
With less than three weeks before the 2011 WAC Tournament, hosted by Fresno State May 11-14, every game is important as the Bulldogs make the push for their sixth WAC regular season championship in a 10-year span.
That mentality radiated throughout the roster from the start despite temperatures that dipped into the 40s.
"We didn't let the environment affect us," Moses said. "We learned from our series at New Mexico State that we have to play to our abilities no matter what and we did that today."
Walker fired up the Bulldogs' bats with a third-inning leadoff double in the day's opener. Two batters later, senior Haley Gilleland drew a walk after a 10-pitch battle and Andrea Ortega was hit by a pitch to set the stage for Moses' first blast of the afternoon.
The Paso Robles-native bombed a one-out grand slam over the left center field fence to jolt Fresno State out to a 4-0 lead.
Moses, who was making her 24th start this year in the circle, had already been dealing in the circle and carried a no-hitter into the fifth until USU's Allison Lenzora connected for a single through the left side.
The Dogs added a run in the sixth to extend their lead to five when Caitlin Stiglich drilled an RBI double to drive in Moses from first after the junior led off with a walk.
Utah State, who took two of three from then WAC-leading Boise State last weekend, mounted a feisty seventh-inning rally before Moses stymied the late push due in large part to the defensive effort of junior rightfielder Rebecca Hall.
After the Aggies pulled within three, Hall snagged a deep fly ball on the run at the right field wall for the second out of the inning. Moses then struck out USU's Lindsey Marquez looking to end the game.
In the day's second contest, Fresno State relied on its patience to keep the momentum rolling. The Dogs received five free passes to the base paths in the second to walk to a 4-0 lead after two frames.
Moses' long ball returned two more home runs - a two-run blast in the fourth and a solo shot in the sixth - as the Bulldogs dominated the Aggies and cruised to a 7-1 victory.
Fresno State improved to 28-11 on the season and 12-2 in WAC play. The Dogs sport a WAC-leading RPI of 26 in the latest NCAA RPI weekly release. Four WAC schools are ranked in the national Top 120: Fresno State (26), New Mexico State (54), Hawai'i (64) and Boise State (120).
With Michelle Moses' three home runs today, Fresno State has now hit 25 home runs this season.
Moses crushed her third career grand slam to move into a tie for third in program history with Amanda Scott. Christina Clark holds the record with five and Caitlin Stiglich owns four, including one to headline Fresno State's 7-5 win earlier this season over six-time defending A-10 champion UMass.
The Bulldogs officially clinched their berth in the 2011 WAC Tournament to be held at Bulldog Diamond May 11-14. Tickets are available for: $10-15 (General Admission), $25 (Upper Reserved) and $40 (Lower Box). For more information, you can visit Fresno State's WAC Tournament Central
"We Are Your Team!" -- After a six-game road trip, the Bulldogs will return home to host Nevada on May 6 (6 p.m.) and May 7 (1/3 p.m.) in the final WAC weekend. Make sure to stay connected with Fresno State Athletics on Facebook and Twitter (@FSAthletics).
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