Before its game against UNLV was even halfway over, the Fresno State softball team clinched its first conference championship since 2009.
Sitting two games ahead of San Jose State with two games to go, the Bulldogs claimed the Mountain West regular-season crown and an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament when New Mexico blanked the Spartans 14-0 Friday afternoon to knock them out of the race.
The Bulldogs (39-14, 19-4) then went on to a 15-7 victory over the host Rebels to clinch the series in two games.
Fresno State scored first on Kierra Willis’ RBI double but that quickly turned around when Alyssa Cordova connected on a first-inning grand slam for UNLV.
That didn’t faze the Bulldogs, who responded with 13 runs over the next three inning, including a six-hit, seven-run third highlighted by Chase LeeHong’s two-run single.
Bulldogs ace Jill Compton pitched 2 1/3 innings and left with Fresno State ahead 10-6 after giving up six hits and six earned runs. Hannah Harris took over and held the Rebels to just one run on five hits into the bottom of the fifth before putting two on with two outs. Taylor Langdon came in and got Samantha Juarez to ground out to third to get out of the jam and end the game.
Brenna Moss had a two-run triple in the fourth and Bria Kennedy hit a solo home run to left in the fifth for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State on Thursday clinched at least a tie for the conference crown with a 10-2 series-opening win. The Bulldogs and Rebels close out the series at noon Saturday.
After that, the Bulldogs find out their spot in the NCAA Tournament during the selection show announced at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
It will be the 31st NCAA Tournament appearance in 34 years for the Bulldogs, who last competed in the tournament in 2011. Fresno State won the national title in 1998.