Since she took over the Fresno State softball program two seasons ago, coach Trisha Ford has waited patiently for her pitching to develop consistency and increased dominance.
Based on early results this year, the arms appear to be heading in that direction.
But as the Bulldogs’ first two games at the Fresno State Kick-Off tournament proved, they are still not quite there.
Junior Hannah Harris threw a five-hitter in a 2-0 victory Friday against Santa Clara, exposing the Broncos with her improved drop ball that attacks the inside corner of the strike zone.
Fellow junior Jill Compton followed by cruising through the first six innings before giving up three in the top of the seventh as Fresno State lost 4-2 to UC Riverside in the nightcap at Margie Wright Diamond.
Harris (1-0) has yet to allow an earned run in 171/3 innings. Compton (3-2, 2.22) finished with seven strikeouts Friday and has 35 in 281/3 innings for the season.
“They’re getting there,” Ford said. “Hannah has done a really good job this fall. … She started falling behind hitters. But as the game went on, she did a good job of focusing and working ahead.
“For Jill, she’s just got to believe in herself. She’s a very capable pitcher. She wants it. She just has to take it up that next level. You kind of have to get gritty when things get sticky. She’ll get there. The more times we’re in these situations, the better off we’re going to be at the end of the season. ”
Fresno State (5-2), picked to win the Mountain West Conference in a preseason coaches’ poll, will continue tournament action at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against UC Davis, then play again at 6 p.m. against Santa Clara.
The Bulldogs in Ford’s first two seasons have played some of their best softball at home, going 18-3 and 17-5.
It looked Friday as if that pattern would continue — until Fresno State’s final inning.
In the first game, while Harris was blanking Santa Clara, Brenna Moss and Katie Castellon provided the offense. Moss, a senior, singled and scored twith the hlep of a Michelle Solomon single and Santa Clara error to make it 1-0 after one inning.
Castellon, a freshman, launched a shot over the left-center field wall in the fourth for her first career home run.
Harris did not allow a walk or an extra-base hit.
“I think since it’s the third year, I’ve had two years of experience under my belt, I’m getting more comfortable in the circle,” Harris said. “Just have a lot more confidence and trusting my pitches and trusting my teammates to score runs and play defense.”
Fresno State also got on the scoreboard quickly against Riverside, with Moss drawing a walk and stealing second before moving to third and then coming home on wild pitches. The Bulldogs scored in the third when designated player Taylor Green drew a bases-loaded walk that brought in Kierra Willis.
But in the seventh, Compton gave up a single and a walk and Castellon, a freshman shortstop, committed an error while trying to field a sharp grounder that loaded the bases with one out.
Compton got behind in the count and eventually hit Riverside’s Natalie Sanchez to force in the tying run. Riverside’s Haley Harris put Riverside into the lead with a sacrifice fly to right.