Fresno State got what it wanted out of its weekend four-team softball invitational: an NCAA Tournament regional-type experience before starting Mountain West play.
The Bulldogs finished 4-1 in the Fresno State Invitational, concluding with a 5-2 victory over Sacramento State on Sunday at Margie Wright Diamond.
Fresno State (17-9) beat Oregon State (15-7) twice, split two games with BYU (14-7) and won its lone game against Sacramento State (6-12-1).
Fresno State, Oregon State and BYU reached the NCAA Tournament last year, though each lost twice in the regionals and failed to advance to the Super Regionals.
We went into this getting ready for what regional play is like.
Bulldogs coach Linda Garza on the Fresno State Invitational
“It was a great experience for us,” first-year Bulldogs coach Linda Garza said. “We faced two really great teams, facing 66-67-mph pitchers in those games. And Sac State came and brought in a left-handed pitcher, (who throws) a lot slower.
“It was great to see we were able to get some timely hitting. This was a great opportunity.”
Junior Savannah McHellon, who played at Georgia and Northwest Florida State College before transferring to Fresno State, emerged as a key player not just at the plate but in the circle.
McHellon threw seven scoreless innings in a 6-1 victory over BYU on Friday, then went the distance while scattering five hits in a 5-2 win over Oregon State on Saturday.
And Sunday might have been her best work, entering for starter Kamalani Dung with Fresno State up three runs with two outs in the sixth but with the bases loaded.
0.91 Savannah McHellon’s ERA this weekend in two starts and one relief appearance for Fresno State
“Had a lot of butterflies,” McHellon admitted afterward. “A lot of anxiety. But in the good way. Just kind of ready to step up big for my team.”
McHellon responded by inducing a fly out to right to end the threat.
“We need to know how to be in those situations so we can pull through,” Garza said. “… For us, we went into this getting ready for what regional play is like.”
McHellon also went 2 for 2 and drove in three runs Sunday, raising her average to .317 with a .571 slugging percentage and 20 RBIs.
“That’s the fun part,” McHellon said of hitting.
McHellon recorded a four-out save. And Dung lasted 5 2/3 innings, scattering seven hits and two walks for two runs.
“I think we needed this weekend,” McHellon said. “We have a little bit more pep on our shoulders and a little bit more pep going into conference.”
FRESNO STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
- Series: 6 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday at SDSU Softball Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 17-9, Aztecs 15-9
- Radio: None
- Internet broadcast: Friday and Sunday on the Mountain West Network
- Of note: This weekend will be the Mountain West opener. Fresno State was picked to win the conference with four first-place votes, according to the Mountain West coaches’ preseason poll. San Diego State, which returned seven starters, was picked second with three first-place votes.