Fresno State moved within one win of earning an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, riding the first home runs of the season by Breanna Moss and Bria Kennedy to a 10-2, six-inning Mountain West Conference softball victory over UNLV on Thursday.
The Bulldogs (38-14, 18-4) clinched at least a tie for their first conference championship since 2009. They can wrap up the title outright — along with the conference’s automatic ticket into the 64-team NCAA Tournament field — with a win in one of their two remaining games against the Rebels, set for 6 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday at Eller Media Stadium.
San Diego State is two games back at 18-6 in conference play and done for the regular season, while San Jose State is 16-6 with two games to play.
Fresno State last appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2011. The Bulldogs were national champions in 1998.
The Bulldogs jumped out front 4-0 in the first inning as Paige Gumz drew a bases-loaded walk, Alyssa Villalpando doubled in two runs and Kennedy added a sacrifice fly.
Kennedy hit her homer in the third inning, and Moss’ two-run shot in the sixth enacted the run-rule.
Fresno State pounded out 14 hits to back Jill Compton, who allowed two earned runs on five hits while striking out eight. She improved to 27-10.
Strong start for Ly at NCAA Regional
Madchen Ly took a solid first step in her attempt to qualify for the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, shooting a five-over 77 during the first round of an NCAA Regionals at Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind.
Ly is tied for 49th overall in the 96-player field — but third out of six players competing in the tournament individually. The top three individuals advance to the NCAA Championships on May 22-27 in Bradenton, Fla.
Ly was 1 under at the turn but struggled on the back nine with four bogeys and one double-bogey. The former Clovis High standout sits two strokes ahead of Michigan State’s Gabby Yurik, Indiana’s Elizabeth Tong and Fullerton’s Martina Edberg for the third qualifying spot.
Duke’s Celine Boutier leads the tournament at 5-under 67, with the second round today and the third round set for Saturday.