First, there was the euphoria of a 9-1 lead, then the angst of surrendering a 9-spot in the fifth. Momentum was regained in the bottom of the sixth, only to be surrendered in the seventh – and on and on Fresno State went into extra innings Saturday in Mexico.
But the roller-coaster ride turned out just fine for the Bulldogs. Thanks to a couple of eighth-inning gifts, Fresno State walked off as winners when sophomore Vanessa Hernandez delivered the game-winning hit in a 12-11 victory over Cal State Fullerton at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
Fresno State (6-4) finished 2-3 at the tournament, wrapping up with a 9-6 loss to Texas Tech.
The Bulldogs weren’t expecting drama against the Titans, not after No. 21 Fresno State rolled to a five-run second and scored four more in the third to erase Cal State Fullerton’s 1-0 first-inning lead.
Triples by freshmen Kindra Hackbarth in the second and Schuylar Broussard in the third drove in two and three runs, respectively.
But then came the top of the fifth and the full fury of the Titans’ bats. Even then, the Bulldogs had a chance to escape unharmed. After surrendering back-to-back singles to open the inning, Fresno State starter Savannah McHellon got the next two hitters with only a single run home.
From there, however, it went single, double, walk, double, single, single, and the lead was cut to 9-7. Early-season ace Kamalani Dung took over in the circle, but a single and a double later and the Titans were in front.
In the sixth, it was Fresno State’s turn again. Four walks, the last drawn by Kierra Willis, forced in the tying run, and Hernandez followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly.
Dung gave it right back, walking two ahead of Alexis Gonzalez’s run-scoring single. But the sophomore right-hander held the Titans in the seventh and eighth, and the heart of the Bulldogs’ order came through in the bottom of the eighth.
Lindsey Willmon was hit by a pitch, and Willis walked before Hernandez doubled to left to bring home Willmon.
In addition to 23 combined runs on 21 hits in a sport where the national leader a year ago posted a 0.76 ERA: the teams totaled 19 walks (11 surrendered by Titans pitchers).
Bulldogs fall to Texas Tech
The swings weren’t quite as wild against Texas Tech (6-4), which took a 2-0 lead in the third only to see the Bulldogs respond with four in the bottom half of the inning in a game originally scheduled for Sunday. Hernandez hit a go-ahead two-run double.
Dung couldn’t hold the lead and left after allowing seven runs on five hits and three walks in five innings. Three of the runs were unearned, including two that scored on a third-strike wild pitch in the fourth.
Hackbarth went 3 for 4.
Jessica Hartwell, a sophomore from Galt, hit a two-run homer in the fifth for Texas Tech, which lost to Cal State Fullerton 5-3 earlier Saturday.
▪ Dung, coming off a five-inning no-hitter against Florida Gulf Coast, earned a win and loss and is 5-2.
▪ Willis drew three walks against the Titans, one of four Bulldogs with at least two in the game.
▪ Cal State Fullerton (4-5) saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
▪ Titans sophomore outfielder Adele Leuma (Hanford West High) did not play. She has made one appearance as a pinch-runner this season.