Fresno State went back and forth against Cal State Fullerton, then couldn’t survive the Titans’ seventh-inning rally and lost 6-4 Friday afternoon to open an NCAA Tournament regional at UCLA’s Easton Stadium.
The Bulldogs (41-11-1) sealed their fate with mistakes at the plate and in the field, leaving the team frustrated and still in search of its first postseason win under fourth-year coach Trisha Ford.
A final blast to center by No. 3 hitter Kierra Willis fell short of a tying two-run homer.
Fresno State plays at 3 p.m. Saturday in the double-elimination format against Cal State Bakersfield, a 7-0 loser while getting no-hit by UCLA in the regional’s other game Friday.
1 for 17 Fresno State’s low success rate with runners on base Friday
“We got to figure out how to win in postseason,” Ford bluntly said at the postgame news conference. “I thought we came out with some good energy, but we couldn’t get over the hump in some key situations.”
Tied 4-4 after six innings, the game finally swung in favor of the Titans (44-14) in the top of the seventh. With two on and one out, Melissa Sechrestt singled and Willis, in left field, tried to make a play at third. Instead, the throw overshot Alyssa Villalpando and the tiebreaking run scored. Cal State Fullerton added an insurance run on a groundout.
Earlier, wildness on the part of Bulldogs senior starter Jill Compton repeatedly set up Titans threats.
What killed me were the walks. After every run that they scored I was paying attention, and I think I let it overwhelm me a little bit.
Fresno State starting pitcher Jill Compton
Compton, after getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and retiring the side in order in the second, walked leadoff batters in the third, fourth and fifth innings and each eventually scored.
“I actually felt really good, but what killed me were the walks,” said Compton, named earlier this week as the Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Year. “I think I let it affect me too much. After every run that they scored I was paying attention, and I think I let it overwhelm me a little bit.”
Compton (24-6) went the distance, allowing four earned runs on eight hits while walking five and striking out two.
The good thing is it’s double elimination and we’re going to come back ready tomorrow.
Bulldogs coach Trisha Ford
Cal State Fullerton, after spotting Fresno State the lead in the second, went ahead 2-1 in the third on a two-run home run by Missy Taukeiaho. But the Bulldogs answered right back with a two-run home run of their own, by Willis, to retake the lead.
The Titans tied it 3-3 in the fourth on pinch-hitter Sarah Moore’s single and made it 4-3 in the fifth on a single by Courtney Rodriguez.
The Bulldogs pushed across the tying run in their half of the fifth, with Malia Rivers coming home with the help of a throwing error by shortstop Shianne Brannon.
Fresno State tagged Titans starter Desiree Ybarra for three runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings before freshman Sydney Golden (18-5) mostly restored order, holding the Bulldogs to one run on two hits the rest of the way.
Willis launched a shot in the bottom of the seventh that fell just shy of going out, with Titans center fielder Rodriguez making the catch against the wall.
The Bulldogs wasted numerous scoring opportunities, going 1 for 17 with runners on base, including 0 for 2 with a runner at third.
“We didn’t execute when we needed to,” Ford said. “We got to execute bunts in big situations. Move runners and have good at-bats with runners on base. Some of those things I think we’re better than that.
“We’re going to bounce back. The good thing is it’s double elimination and we’re going to come back ready tomorrow.”
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Los Angeles Regional
Friday-Sunday at UCLA’s Easton Stadium
- Game 1: CS Fullerton 6, Fresno State 4
- Game 2: UCLA 7, CS Bakersfield 0
- Game 3: CS Fullerton vs. UCLA, noon
- Game 4: Fresno State vs. CS Bakersfield, 3 p.m.
- Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.
- Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, noon
- Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser (if necessary), 3 p.m.