As the California sunset faded at UCLA’s Easton Stadium, so did Fresno State’s record-setting softball season.
The Bulldogs, after beating Cal State Bakersfield 8-5 in the afternoon to stay alive, gave up seven unanswered runs on a series of miscues and lost 7-1 to Cal State Fullerton in Saturday’s second elimination game of the Los Angeles regional.
“It’s a tough one to swallow right now,” coach Trisha Ford said. “But I’m very, very proud of this group.”
It was an abrupt end to the season for Fresno State (42-12-1), which won 23 in a row before losing two of its last three games.
“We’ve had more losses in the last couple of days than we’ve had probably in a month and a half,” Ford said. “It is what it is. It’s postseason play. And I think there’s a lot we can learn from this weekend.”
The Bulldogs struck first against Fullerton on Lindsey Willmon’s solo home run to center (her team-leading 12th of the year) but crumbled after that. The Bulldogs made three errors in the game and each eventually led to a run for the Titans (45-15).
Freshman Kamalani Dung got the start, hoping to continue her domination from the Bulldogs’ first game Saturday when she retired all eight batters in relief of Jill Compton to earn the save in an 8-5 victory against Cal State Bakersfield.
But the Titans got to Dung, peppering her for eight hits and six runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings.
In the second, Delynn Rippy lined a two-out, two-run double down the left-field line to put the Titans in front.
In the fourth, back-to-back Bulldogs errors on bunts loaded the bases for the Titans before two four-pitch walks made it 4-1.
It only got worse in the next inning as Dung gave up consecutive two-out RBI singles to Rippy and Samantha Vandiver as the Titans built their lead to 6-1.
Sydney Colenzo added an insurance run in the sixth with an RBI double to left.
At the plate, the Bulldogs were halted by senior Desiree Ybarra, who pitched five shutout innings in relief of freshman starter Sydney Golden. Ybarra gave up no hits, struck out seven and walked two to lead Fullerton into Sunday’s final day against the host Bruins.
UCLA beat Fullerton 3-2 in Saturday’s first game before the Bulldogs held off Bakersfield for their first postseason win under fourth-year coach Ford. Fresno State built a 3-0 lead in the first courtesy of four Roadrunners errors and two hits, including Alyssa Villalpando’s RBI double to deep center.
In the third, Villalpando smashed a solo homer, her 10th of the year, to right field to put the Bulldogs ahead 4-2.
The home run sparked a four-run inning for the Bulldogs, with Bria Kennedy adding a two-out, three-run double to the gap in right-center for a 7-2 lead. Freshman Morgan Howe added a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
After the loss to Fullerton, Villalpando said the Bulldogs still had a great season.
“It’s a special group, and knowing that we’re no longer going to be together is tough,” she said. “It’s hard. Regardless of the loss today, we’ve had a hell of a year. This is one of the best groups I’ve played with thus far, and coming to (Fresno) State has been one of the best decisions ever.”
NCAA TOURNAMENT: Los Angeles regional
Friday-Sunday at UCLA’s Easton Stadium
- Game 1: Cal State Fullerton 6, Fresno State 4
- Game 2: UCLA 7, Cal State Bakersfield 0
- Game 3: UCLA 3, Fullerton 2
- Game 4: Fresno State 8, Bakersfield 5
- Game 5: Fullerton 7, Fresno State 1
- Game 6: UCLA vs. Fullerton, noon
- Game 7: UCLA vs. Fullerton (if necessary), 3 p.m.