Fresno State, coming off back-to-back second-place finishes in its first two seasons in the league, has been named the favorite in the 2015 Mountain West Conference softball race.
The Bulldogs collected seven first-place votes and 63 total points in a poll of conference coaches released Tuesday. Three-time defending champion San Diego State was second with 54 points and one first.
UNLV received the other first-place vote and was third with 44 points.
Fresno State returns five starters and eight letterwinners from a 2014 club that was 31-21 overall and tied for second with UNLV at 15-9 in the Mountain West.
Senior outfielder Brenna Moss was the 2014 conference Defensive Player of the Year and hit .337 with 18 RBIs. The Bulldogs’ top four pitchers also are back, including junior right-hander Jill Compton (20-9, 2.16 ERA, 160 strikeouts in 191.1 innings).
The Bulldogs, under third-year coach Trisha Ford, open the season Friday, facing Fordham and Portland State to begin the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. Mountain West play opens March 20-22 with a three-game series at Colorado State, which was fourth in the poll with 43 points.
San Diego State has seven starters back after going 40-19 and 16-8 last season. First baseman/designated player Sydnee Cable hit .356 with 32 RBIs as a freshman. Senior designated player/left fielder Lorena Bauer redshirted, but in 2013 she hit .401 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.
The Aztecs’ roster includes sophomore third baseman Sam Vlot, a former Chowchilla High standout, who played in three games as a freshman after redshirting in 2013.
UNLV has 11 players back who saw regular duty, including reigning Offensive Player of the Year Garie Blando (.421, four homers, 22 RBIs), a junior shortstop. A quartet of four returning pitchers is led by sophomore Morgan Ettinger, who started 17 games and won nine games last season.