May 3, 2014
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State softball team (30-18, 14-6) matched a history-making pre-game ceremony with offensive fireworks of its own en route to a 7-2 win over Colorado State (30-15, 11-9) Saturday afternoon at the newly-named Margie Wright Diamond.
The aforementioned Hall of Fame and former Bulldog head coach and a crowd of 1,351 cheered the team to a comeback win in her return to the formerly-known Bulldog Diamond.
"Wow, what a fun day," second-year Fresno State head coach Trisha Ford said. "The team did a great job of enjoying all the pre-game happenings, yet still kept their focus. A lot of these players were recruited by her, so this was an important weekend for them and our fans."
In fitting fashion, two of Wright's former players played pivotal roles with their home run bats.
In the second and fourth innings, senior first baseman Stesha Brazil became the second Bulldog this year to hit multiple homers in the same game with her solo lead-off shots.
Now with a team-high 10 homers on the year, the Turlock, Calif., native also went 2-for-3 on the day for her 11th multi-hit game of the year - second-most on the squad.
"This is my last weekend playing here, so I was trying to soak it all in and make every moment count," Brazil said. "The crowd was really pumped up today and that carried over to our team. Coach Wright had a special impact on me coming here, so to see her in the stands, and then give her a hug after meant a lot."
Between those fence-clearing shots, the Rams retook the lead in the third inning on a two-run homer by Shae Rodriguez to right field.
Later in the fourth inning, the `Dogs battled back with a go-ahead run on an RBI single by freshman left fielder Kierra Willis (1-for-3) - her second game-winner of the year - after a single by junior DP Kelly Megee (2-for-3) and walk by sophomore catcher Paige Gumz (1-for-2).
Clinging to a one-run lead for the next two innings, Solomon changed that with one swing on a 3-2 pitch that sailed over the left field wall with two outs in the sixth inning.
"We gained a lot of confidence offensively yesterday," Solomon said, "and I was more trying to just make contact. It was a neat to come through on such a historic day that our fans won't forget for a while. Coach Wright was a big reason why I came here, so to see her name on the scoreboard was a special way to tie the past with the present."
The Beaumont, Calif., native Solomon hit her first grand slam of the season and third career-wise, after singles by Gumz, junior center fielder Brenna Moss (2-for-4) and senior shortstop Brooke Ortiz (1-for-2).
In the circle, Bulldog sophomore starter Hannah Harris (9-8) notched her sixth conference win in the last 1 1/2 months, walked one, and allowed five hits and two earned runs in her 5.0 innings.
The current MW Pitcher of the Week, sophomore Jill Compton, pitched a scoreless final two innings and notched her second save of the year (and in as many weeks). Among the six outs she retired, five came via strikeouts, while she walked two and allowed one hit.
"Our plan of attack at the plate was to relax a little, partly since we've been working so hard at various things the last few weeks," Ford said. "It was great to see our seniors play key roles on their weekend. Hannah (Harris) did a good job of getting ground ball outs and put us in position to win. Jill (Compton) made a lot of big pitches when she needed them. Michelle excelled in one of those do or die situations you dream of when you're a little kid at the playground, and pretending the count is full and it's two outs in a close game."
For CSU, starter Larisa Petakoff pitched the first 3.1 innings, allowed four hits, one walk and two earned runs, and posted no strikeouts.
Ram reliever Molly Reinke (18-9) took the loss for the second straight day after she gave up six hits, five earned runs, three walks and had no strikeouts.
At the plate for CSU, Chelsea Biglow (3-for-3) accounted for half of her team's hits, and three others hit safely once.
Saturday's decision kept the 'Dogs in the MW lead by one game with a 14-6 mark ahead of Boise State (second, 13-7), followed by San Diego State (third, 12-8), UNLV (fourth, 12-9) and Colorado State (fifth, 11-9) and San Jose State (fifth, 11-9).
In other conference action Saturday, San Jose State beat SDSU, 5-0, Boise State edged New Mexico, 7-5; Nevada beat Utah State, 5-3; and UNLV topped Oregon State, 1-0.
Savoring it all was Wright who was feted at pre-game festivities that featured speeches by Congressman Jim Costa, University President Dr. Joseph I Castro, Athletics Director Thomas Boeh and Fresno Fire Chief and former Bulldog player Kerri Donis.
Wright's 27-year Bulldog resume featured an NCAA record 1,294-450-1 ledger, and 10 World College World Series trips that included one NCAA title (1998), three NCAA runner-up finishes (1988, `89, `90), three NCAA third-place finishes (1991, `92, `97) and three NCAA fifth-place finishes (1987, `94, `99).
The 10-Time Conference Coach of the Year led Fresno State to 17 conference titles, 26 NCAA Tournament bids (1986-2011) and 178 straight weeks in the NCAA Top 25 en route to NFCA and ASA-USA Softball Hall of Fame nods.
On the individual front, her Bulldog players included 53 All-Americans, 15 Olympians, 29 Conference Players/Pitchers/Freshmen, 16 Academic All-Americans, eight professional players, four Honda Award Finalists and two NCAA Top VIII Award winners.
Away from the collegiate spectrum, she served as the 1998 ISF World Championship Gold Medal head coach and 1996 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal assistant coach.
The Bulldogs' softball home is equally renowned as the national attendance leader 13 times since 1991. An NCAA all-time largest regular-season softball crowd of 5,724 saw the team play Arizona (March 14, 2000), and also topped the 5,000 mark twice at home versus UCLA in 1996 (5,427, February 24 - stadium opener) and 1997 (5,167, February 8).
"Margie was such a pioneer in the sport, and also women's athletics," Ford said, "and helped pave the way for where softball is today. To win a national championship and build a beautiful stadium like this are part of a legacy that is fitting for a coach who epitomized hard work, tenacity and competitiveness - a true Bulldog."
Looking ahead, Sunday's noon series finale will feature a pre-game Senior Day ceremony for the five 'Dog seniors in their final home game of 2014 at Margie Wright Diamond.
Fans should also note that the start time is an hour earlier than originally scheduled.
Fresno State 7, Colorado State 2 (May 03, 2014 at Fresno, Calif.)
Colorado State 002 000 0 - 2 6 0 (30-15, 11-9 MW) Fresno State 010 204 X - 7 10 0 (30-18, 14-6 MW)
Pitchers: Colorado State - PETAKOFF; REINKE(4) and MANZANARES. Fresno State - Harris, Hannah; COMPTON, Jill(6) and Gumz, Paige. Win-HARRIS, Hannah(9-8) Save-COMPTON, Jill(2) Loss-REINKE(18-9) T-1:58 A-1351. HR CS - RODRIGUEZ (4). HR FS - Solomon, Michelle (6); Brazil, Stesha 2 (10). Weather: 93, sunny, wind 1-3mph
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