Fresno State softball players Brenna Moss and Michelle Solomon didn’t fully comprehend what they missed out on for three years.
Then freshmen, but still key contributors, Moss and Solomon became part of the wrong side of history when the 2012 Bulldogs failed to make the NCAA Tournament field after 30 consecutive years of successful qualifying runs.
But as their college careers near a close, Moss and Solomon finally will know what it’s like to take part in the NCAA’s after Fresno State captured the Mountain West championship and earned an automatic bid into the field of 64.
On Sunday, two days after clinching a spot, Fresno State (40-14) learned it will play in the Eugene Regional and open against North Dakota State (43-9) at 2 p.m. Thursday. The other opening game in the double-elimination regional pits No. 2 seed Oregon (46-6) against Brigham Young (39-12).
“It’s really exciting to finally come back and be like other Bulldogs teams that have gone to the playoffs every year,” Solomon said. “And me being the first class that never made it, it’s exciting to see that we’re coming back.”
Fresno State, which advanced to its first postseason in the tenure of third-year coach Trisha Ford, enters the NCAA Tournament riding an 11-game win streak and winners of 16 of its past 17.
Bulldogs junior ace Jill Compton, who is 28-10 with a 2.10 ERA and 235 strikeouts in 233 innings, has won her past 15 starts. And offensively, the Bulldogs are hitting .328 and averaging 5.9 runs.
Moss has been the catalyst, hitting .446 with 59 runs and 25 steals and building an on-base percentage of .512. Solomon has continued to hit for power throughout her career, notching five homers and 50 RBIs with a .358 average.
The development of outfield cleanup hitter Kierra Willis (.376, 8 HRs, 55 RBI) also has played a big role, as well as the production from transfer products Malia Rivers from Georgia and Alyssa Villalpando from Hawaii.
Rivers, the second baseman, is hitting .374 with 40 runs and 30 RBIs. Villalpando, the starting third baseman, is batting .358 with five homers and 31 RBIs.
“Since the fall, the new girls came in and we had such a bond from the start and made this team as strong as it is today,” Moss said. “That’s a goal that we have every year and for us to get back to it my senior year, it’s huge.”
The Bulldogs gathered to watch the selection show together Sunday night in Fresno State’s Duncan building.
Some players appeared to be watching nervously, despite knowing the Bulldogs were assured a postseason bid.
After Fresno State’s destination was revealed and the cheers subsided, Ford stood before the room to speak.
“This is something that’s been a goal of ours and something that this community is thirsty for,” Ford said. “Fresno State softball has been a mainstay in postseason. It’s where we belong.”
• Fresno State will leave for Oregon on Tuesday.
• Other local rooting interests in the tournament field are Kelsey Dodd (Buchanan), a New Mexico State senior; Tara Mueller (Clovis), a UCLA senior; Kayla Gomness, Lemoore, and Randi Wallace, Liberty-Madera Ranchos, both Central Arkansas sophomores; Claire Stucker (Bullard), a Mississippi State freshman; and Sam Vlot (Chowchilla), a San Diego State redshirt sophomore.