Bulldogs Continue Tourney Run with San Diego Swing
Feb. 26, 2014
By Geoff Thurner
THIS WEEK'S BULLDOG SOFTBALL ACTION
Friday, February 28
Saturday, March 1
Sunday, March 2
*Asterisk indicates home team
BULLDOGS CONTINUE TOURNEY RUN W/ SAN DIEGO SWING
Two of this weekend's five foes received NCAA Tournament bids last year - last year's national runner-up and No. 2 Tennessee (14-0) and returning WCC champion BYU (6-9). The `Dogs' other foes include Illinois-Chicago (2-11), Ole Miss (11-6) and San Diego (3-7).
LAST WEEKEND'S TOURNAMENT RECAP
In other tilts in its toughest non-conference trip, the `Dogs became the third team this year to finish one run shy of last year's NCAA runner-up and No. 2 Tennessee (5-4), and also was edged by WCWS returnee and No. 25 Texas (5-0) and Super Regional returnee and No. 14 Arizona (8-0 (5)).
Its 11 runs vs. Virginia on Saturday tied its season high from opening week vs. Appalachian State, and its 16 hits, 2 doubles, 21 total bases, 2 sacrifice hits vs. UVa were also Bulldog season highs.
RECENT BULLDOG STARTERS (2014/2013/Career Starts)
RECENT BULLDOG HEROES
Last team's weekend tournament showing was her best so far in 2014 after she led team in batting (.389) and hits (7), and stood third in RBI (3) and fourth in on-base percentage (.421).
Four other players topped .300 last weekend - sophomore second baseman Whitney Smith (.375, 3H, 2B), junior center fielder Brenna Moss (.333, 6H, 3B, 1 RBI, 1 SB), freshman left fielder Kierra Willis (.333, 4H, 6 BB, 1 SB) and senior third baseman Vonnie Martin (.308, 4H, HR, 4 RBI, 5 BB).
Two Bulldogs climbed all-time school career lists last week - junior Brenna Moss (triples, fifth-tied, 15) and senior Stesha Brazil (homers, eighth, 20), and Moss hiked her second-best career stolen base total by one to 53.
Brazil hit two- and three-run homers vs. Virginia and LIU Brooklyn, and her four RBI each game tied her career high. This year, she leads the team in RBI (22) and homers (4) and ranks second and third in the MW this week, respectively.
Moss tied her season high in hits vs. Virginia (3-for-5), and came up big with an assist at home plate in the seventh inning to prevent a Cavalier go-ahead run. In the finale, she laced her first triple of the year vs. No. 2 Tennessee in her 2-for-3 evening. This week in the MW, she stood top six in runs (third, 16), stolen bases (third, 8) and hits (sixth, 16).
Martin hit her second homer of the year vs. No. 2 Tennessee. She also posted multi-hit games vs. the Vols (2-for-4, 2 RBI) and LIU Brooklyn (2-for-3, RBI, BB) to give her four this season. This week, she stood third in the MW in walks (13) and ninth in RBI (12).
Junior Taylor Green logged pinch-hit doubles vs. both Virginia and LIU Brooklyn, and season-wise leads the team in pinch hits (2) and pinch-hit batting average (.200).
Smith hit safely in three of the team's contests vs. No. 14 Arizona (1-for-1, 2B, BB), LIU Brooklyn (1-for-2) and No. 2 Tennessee (1-for-2).
Willis logged her second multi-hit vs. No. 2 Tennessee (2-for-3, BB), and reached base four times vs. Virginia with a team-season high three walks and single. Last weekend was also her first +.300 tourney mark (.333, 4-for-12, 6 BB)
Junior right fielder Michelle Solomon hit her team-leading third double of the year vs. Virginia (2-for-5, 2 RBI) en route to her fourth multi-RBI game. Conference-wise, she ranked fourth in the MW this week in runs (14) and ninth in RBI (12).
Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton logged both of the team's wins last weekend vs. Virginia (4.2 IP, 2 SO, 3 BB, 5 H, 2 ER) and LIU Brooklyn (7.0 IP, 5 SO, 5 BB, 4 H, 2R/0ER).
Already the MW leader in relief appearances (8), sophomore Taylor Langdon made her first start of the year vs. No. 2 Tennessee, and in her three innings, struck out one, walked one and allowed only two runs.
ON TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN WEST
At the plate, five `Dogs were spotted offensively - senior first baseman Stesha Brazil (RBI, second, 22; homers, third, 4; hits, sixth, 16), All-MW center fielder and junior Brenna Moss (runs, third, 16; stolen bases, third, 8; hits, sixth, 16), junior right fielder Michelle Solomon (runs, fourth, 14; RBI, ninth, 12), senior third baseman Vonnie Martin (walks, third, 13; RBI, ninth, 12) and freshman left fielder Kierra Willis (walks, fifth, 11).
Team-wise, the Bulldog pitchers still pace the conference in saves (4), and stood second in lowest opposing batting average (.255) and ERA (2.98).
In its most recent meetings, Fresno State beat BYU, 5-4, in 2013, and Ole Miss, 4-2, in 2005. Last year vs. the Toreros, the `Dogs won 8-1, but dropped decisions, 2-1 and 8-7 (9 innings). Last week vs. the 'Dogs, No. 2 Tennessee won 5-4 in Palm Springs and came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third inning.
WEEKEND SCOUTING REPORT
BYU (www.BYUcougars.com): The Cougars (6-9) scored two wins in Cathedral City last week vs. Virginia (9-0 (5)) and Fordham (5-2), and other wins this year came vs. Southern Utah (10-2 (5)), East Carolina (13-5 (6)), Seattle (14-8) and PSU (5-4). BYU returns seven starters from last year's NCAA Tournament qualifiers that went 33-25 overall and won the West Coast Conference with a 19-5 mark. Senior pitcher Tori Almond went 12-8 last year and entered the season ranked fourth in BYU history in wins, strikeouts and shutouts. Senior infielder Katie Manuma led the team in homers (6) and RBI (44) last year, while sophomore CoCo Tauali'i hit .308 in WCC play last year. Sophomore outfielder Gordy Bravo ranked top five in 2013 in the BYU freshman record books in batting (.389), hits (70), RBI (43) and on-base percentage (.435), while junior outfielder Lacey Millett-Hofstedt set the team season stolen base record last year (25). Eleventh-year head coach Gordon Eakin has led the Cougars to nine NCAA trips and seven conference titles. In his tenure in Provo, he has coached 11 BYU All-Americans and eight league players of the year and two pitchers of the year.
No. 2 Tennessee (www.UTsports.com): The Volunteers (14-0) remained unbeaten last weekend in Cathedral City with its first top-25 wins of the year vs. No. 9 Nebraska (5-3) and No. 11 Stanford (3-1), and also edged returning NCAA advancer Oregon State (5-1). Last year's NCAA runners-up return seven position starters, three pitchers and 13 letterwinners from a squad that went 52-14 overall and won the SEC East title (22-6). UT graduated two All-Americans in second baseman Lauren Gibson and third baseman Raven Chavanne, but still returns First-Team All-America shortstop Madison Shipman and All-Region Second-team selection and senior right-hander Ellen Renfroe. Co-Head Coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly have led the Vols to two national runner-up finishes among five WCWS trips and 25 All-America honors the past 12 years. Overall in his career, Weekly has racked up 1,133 wins at Tennessee (2002-14), Chattanooga (1995-2001) and Pacific Lutheran (1986-1994), and Karen has been a co-head coach in 16 of the duo's last 18 seasons in Knoxville and Chattanooga.
Ole Miss (www.OleMissSports.com): The Rebels (11-6) went 5-0 last weekend at home in the Red and Blue Classic, and also scored notable wins earlier in the year vs. Liberty (5-1) and Southern Mississippi (7-4, 4-3 (8)). Ole Miss returns 13 letterwinners, eight starters in the field and four pitchers from last year's team that went 25-31 overall and tied for seventh in the SEC West (3-21). Senior outfielder R.T. Cantillo was an All-SEC Second-Team and SEC All-Freshman Team choice in `12, and All-Region selection in `13. She hit .306 last year, and stole 17 bases and clubbed seven homers. Two other returning starters topped .300 in 2013 - sophomore DP Madi Osias (.368, 28 H, 6 HR, 22 RBI) and junior third baseman Allison Brown (.354, 57 H, 17 2B, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 10 SB). Senior pitcher Carly Hummell is the team's top returnee in the circle from last year (13-16, 4.67 ERA, 112 SO, 74 BB, 147 innings). Third-year head coach Windy Thees served as the prior head coach at Memphis and started the program in 2005. Six years later she led the Tigers to an NCAA tourney berth, and ended with a 172-151 mark and five Conference USA championships. As a player, she was a four-year starter at catcher and second base at Florida State, and helped lead the team to three ACC titles, and was a team captain and two-time All-ACC Tournament Team choice.
San Diego Toreros (www.USDtoreros.com). The Toreros (3-7) staked wins the opening two weeks vs. UC Davis (5-2), UNLV (8-4) and Sacramento State (13-2). USD returns eight starters in the field and two pitchers from last year's team that went 24-29 overall and placed sixth in the PCSC with a 9-15 mark. Five USD players were All-PCSC choices in 2013 - first-team pitcher Cassidy Coleman (13-13, 1.92 ERA, 211 So, 68 BB, 174.2 IP), second-team choices first baseman Caitlin Rooney (.281, 9 2B) and Mary Grabowski (.244, 9 2B, 2 HR), and honorable mention catcher Charley Swanberg (.221, 21 H) and third baseman Chloe Kaneko (.267, 43 H). Head Coach Melissa McElvain is the USD all-time coaching wins leader and is in her 13th year at the helm. As a player, the 1999 Oklahoma State graduate was an All-Big 12 catcher and second baseman and led the team to three NCAA trips including a 1998 WCWS bid.
REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS
At the plate, senior first baseman Stesha Brazil drilled her third and fourth homers of the season last week in Cathedral City and moved into sole position of eighth place on the Bulldog career homer list (20).
Junior center fielder Brenna Moss stole another base last weekend to up her career total to 54 - second-best for Fresno State just ahead of former All-American Becky Witt (third, 51, 1998-2001). Her triple against No. 2 Tennessee moved her to 15 career-wise and into a tie for fifth all-time for the `Dogs, and her four runs opening week vs. UC Riverside tied a team game record shared by four other Bulldogs.
Last year, Moss smashed the school stolen bases record with her 34 swipes - seven better than the former mark (27) shared by Haley Gilleland (2011) and Karen Tabor. Moss's nine triples was also second-best in `Dog history behind All-American Laura Berg (11, 1995), while two others stood top 15 - Maria Sio (sacrifices, 14th-tie, 19) and Vonnie Martin (hitting streak, eighth-tie, 14 games).
Sophomore pitcher Jill Compton also made history with the program's 70th no-hitter vs. St. Mary's last February. Her seven-inning, five-strikeout performance also made her the Bulldog freshman to achieve the feat since 2006. Among other all-time Bulldog game bests, Moss's three stolen bases vs. New Mexico tied a school record.
Last year, the squad combined for a school record 87 stolen bases in 54 contests. For comparison's sake in 2014, the `Dogs have already swiped 25 bases after 15 games (which would equate to 93 in a 56-game season).
SIZING UP THE `DOGS IN 2014
All four of last year's All-MW picks are also back - senior infielder Vonnie Martin, junior outfielder Brenna Moss and sophomore pitcher Jill Compton and catcher Paige Gumz - while senior infielder Brooke Ortiz was an All-WAC choice in 2011.
Last year in Ford's first season, the Bulldogs went 30-24 overall and tied for second in the MW Conference with an 11-7 mark.
NEW TO THE FOLD
Her first recruiting class is entirely from California and includes catcher Niki Kaleialii (Oakley), infielder Liza Liddell (La Verne), and outfielders Melissa Gilbert (Merced), M.J. Jimenez (Newark), Alanna Layton (Acton), Christina Rodriguez (Livingston) and Kierra Willis (Pleasant Hill).
Kaleialii helped led her team to three Bay Valley Athletic titles and was a two-time captain; Liddell was a four-time all-league selection at third base and shortstop; Jimenez was a three-time All-League pick; Gilbert helped lead Merced High School to three CCC titles; Layton was a CIF All-League First-Team choice; Rodriguez was a multiple all-conference choice; and Willis was a four-time first-team all-league selection.
Willis has started 14 games this year, while Liddell has made six appearances as a pinch-hitter and at second base and shortstop. Jimenez pinch-ran ran vs. No. 8 Oregon and Riverside, while Kaleialii saw time behind the plate vs. UC Riverside and No. 25 Texas.
ANOTHER STACKED SCHEDULE
In the opening months of the year, Fresno State will face another Super Regional advancer (Oregon), a seventh NCAA Regional Finalist (N.C. State) and five other NCAA tourney qualifiers (Arizona, BYU, Houston, San Diego State and San Jose State).
Overall, the `Dogs will play 17 contests against 12 squads that advanced to last year's 64-team NCAA tournament field (not to mention four teams that have combined for 12 national titles in their school histories).
PRIDE OF THE VALLEY
Two players are from the Fresno area directly - seniors Kapri Angotti (Clovis) and Kim Fisher (Fresno) - and also played their initial collegiate seasons at Fresno City College. Two others' hometowns are less than an hour's drive away - freshman Melissa Gilbert (Merced) and sophomore Bria Kennedy (Hanford) - and two other starters are from the Central Valley, senior Stesha Brazil (Turlock) and junior Brenna Moss (Bakersfield).
Looking northward, seven players matriculated from the Bay Area - freshmen Christina Rodriguez (Livingston), Niki Kaleialii (Oakley), M.J. Jimenez (Newark) and Kierra Willis (Pleasant Hill), sophomores Kiley Shae Aldridge (Lompoc) and Whitney Smith (Auburn) and senior Brooke Ortiz (Lodi).
Ten players hail from the nation's most fertile softball fields (Southern California) - freshmen Alanna Layton (Acton) and Liza Liddell (La Verne),sophomores Jill Compton (Oceano); Hannah Harris (Santa Barbara), Taylor Langdon (Glendora) and Paige Gumz (Chino Hills) and juniors Michelle Solomon (Beaumont), Maria Sio (Lake Forest), Kelly Megee (Riverside) and Taylor Green (Chino Hills).
The team's only non-California resident is senior Vonnie Martin (Plano, Texas) who is only a 22-hour 1,556-mile drive from Fresno.
ON PACE IN THE CLASSROOM
The group of senior infielder Brooke Ortiz, junior infielder Kelly Megee and catcher/infielder Taylor Green, sophomore pitcher/utility player Hannah Harris and Taylor Langdon and former senior outfielder Diane Runge were selected based on their +3.50 grade point averages for the 2012-13 academic year.
The six-member class tied the largest in Bulldog softball history, and are among 39 Fresno State players that have received similar honors since the 1997-98 school year. Runge and Ortiz are three- and two-time honorees and the 10th and 11th Bulldogs to claim multiple honors. In addition, Runge and Ortiz were CoSIDA Academic All-District First-Team choices in 2013 and `12, respectively.
Last spring, nine `Dogs picked up Academic All-Mountain West honors - Harris, Langdon, Megee, Ortiz, Runge, senior catcher/infielder Stesha Brazil and infielder/outfielder Vonnie Martin, junior center fielder Brenna Moss and sophomore infielder Whitney Smith.
Overall in school history, the softball team has racked up 108 academic all-conference honors since it began WAC play in 1993 and MW action in 2013.
UPDATED 2014 MW STANDINGS
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2014 MW PRESEASON POLL