Jill Compton still gets chills thinking about Sunday’s win.
Fresno State’s softball ace delivered one of her finest performances of the season, and one of the most memorable for the team, in a 6-4 victory against San Jose State that clinched the Mountain West Championship and an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
Behind the plate was go-to catcher and fellow senior Paige Gumz, who has caught every inning for the Bulldogs in her four-year career. After the final out, the two hugged on the infield before being swarmed by teammates.
“It was just awesome,” Compton said. “It made everything so real for us.”
The two called the game on their own, finding a steady rhythm. Compton gave up just one hit across the final four innings for her 13th win in conference, more than any other Mountain West school has as a team.
With Paige (Gumz), we just have a great connection, great bond. We’re best friends on the team.
Jill Compton, on her relationship with her catcher and fellow senior
A dominant offense led by sluggers Lindsey Willmon, Alyssa Villalpando, Dominique Jackson and Kierra Willis continued to provide plenty of support for the Bulldogs (37-9-1, 18-0).
At .381, Fresno State is on track to break the Mountain West conference-games record of .379 set by BYU in 2009.
But the Bulldogs, regardless of whatever records they break, will stick to their one-at-a-time approach.
Fresno State, ranked No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Softball and No. 20 in the USA Today/NFCA polls, and at No. 17 in RPI, still has an undefeated Mountain West season in sight and in two weeks, possibly will be awarded an NCAA regional. But neither of those goals are where they’ve put their focus.
It’s everyone’s goal. That would be awesome. But our goal is to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time and that’s what has been working for us.
Fresno State senior catcher Paige Gumz, on potentially going undefeated in the Mountain West
“I haven’t really thought about it a lot,” coach Trisha Ford said. “I think (an NCAA regional at home) would be phenomenal for our fans, and I mean I think they deserve it. I think our team deserves it. This would be a pretty electric atmosphere. But first we have to take care of business and we’ll see where it falls.”
Next is a three-game series at Nevada (30-12, 8-7) starting Friday at 4 p.m.. The Bulldogs close the regular season at home with three games against UNLV from May 12-14 before regional play begins May 20.
“They want to see what they can do,” Ford said. “Winning the (Mountain West) championship was great, but that’s not our end all be all.”
I tell (the players) this quite often: ‘Never in your life will you have this many people working as hard as they are toward one goal. This is it. Make the most of it. It’s about seizing that opportunity, to fight until we can’t fight anymore.’
Trisha Ford, Fresno State head coach
Baseball – Fresno State hosts San Diego State in a three-game series this weekend and will honor Bob Bennett – the winningest coach in program history with 1,302 career victories – by renaming its home ballpark Pete Beiden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium.
Bennett played under Beiden in 1952-55, then coached Fresno State in 1967 and from 1970-2002. Named the 1988 NCAA Coach of the Year by Sporting News, his legacy includes two College World Series appearances, 21 NCAA regional appearances, 17 conference championships and 32 All-America players.
Fresno State will honor Bennett in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. first pitch against the Aztecs. The teams open Friday at 6:05 p.m. and wrap up Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
With six regular-season conference games remaining, the Bulldogs (30-16, 17-7) are in second place, having won 8 of 9 Mountain West games since getting swept at first-place New Mexico (31-16, 16-5) on April 8-10.
San Diego State (13-30, 5-14) is coming off a 7-2 nonleague victory Tuesday against No. 17 Cal State Fullerton but has lost five of its past six conference games, including getting swept last weekend by Nevada at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
After a Mountain West series next weekend at UNLV, Fresno State will host USF in a three-game nonconference series May 19-21 before heading to the conference tournament in Albuquerque, N.M., starting May 25.
Men’s golf – Bulldogs junior and Mountain West individual champion Trevor Clayton will compete in the NCAA championships starting at the Albuquerque Regional on May 16-18.
Clayton, a first-year Bulldog who transferred from Cal State Stanislaus after prepping at Clovis High, led Fresno State with a 72.00 scoring average over 33 rounds (11 tournaments).
Said Clayton: “I came to Fresno State to have an opportunity just like this.”
Women’s golf – Freshman Kristin Simonsen opened with a 5-over-par 76 at an NCAA regional at Stanford University Golf Course. She is tied for 52nd in a field of 96 that will advance the low three individuals not on the top six teams. Colorado State’s Katrina Prendergast led after a 68.