There’s nowhere to go but up for the Fresno State softball team after the most daunting of season-openers.
UCLA beat the Bulldogs 8-2 to start the Hawaii Paradise Classic on Thursday afternoon in Honolulu. Fresno State stayed on the field for its second game and beat Texas-Arlington 5-4 in nine innings.
UCLA is ranked No. 1 in the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. Fresno State, which hasn’t been ranked since 2017, received votes in the preseason poll after finishing third in the Mountain West in 2018. Conference coaches picked the Bulldogs to finish second behind defending champion Boise State this season; the Broncos didn’t get a mention in others receiving votes in the national preseason poll.
Despite Thursday’s opening setback, there’s reason for optimism at Fresno State. The Bulldogs return seven position player starters including All-MW first baseman Rachel Minogue and catcher Hayleigh Galvan.
The pitching staff features Danielle East, an All-MW selection last season as a freshman who got the start against UCLA. She’s joined by 6-foot sophomore Hailey Dolcini, a transfer from UC Riverside, and freshman Danielle Lung, a MaxPreps All-American last year at Clovis High. All three saw action against UCLA.
Galvan figures to split time with another transfer, junior Kelcey Carrasco. The former Tulare Western star batted .310 with 17 homers and 73 RBIs in two seasons at Michigan State.
Carrasco got Fresno State’s first hit against UCLA, a single leading off the fifth inning, and Galvan singled with two outs in the sixth. Minogue followed with a homer to prevent a run-rule loss.
Bubba Nickles, UCLA’s junior center fielder from Merced, was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
In the second game, Fresno State tied Texas-Arlington with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. McKenzie Wilson was hit by a pitch (the Bulldogs had three HBPs Thursday after ranking second in the country last year with 71), advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Galvan’s two-strike double.
Fresno State scored in each extra inning with the international tiebreaker (runner starts at second base) in effect. The Mavericks got their runner to third in the ninth but East stranded her on a flyout and a groundout.
All three Fresno State pitchers saw action again in Game 2, with East throwing the last three innings for the win after starting against UCLA.
Fresno State finishes the Hawaii Paradise Classic with games late Thursday against Texas-Arlington, Friday against Saint Mary’s and Georgia State and Saturday against Hawaii.
The rest of February has the Bulldogs going to two Southern California tournaments including a rematch at UCLA and against No. 2 Washington in Fullerton.
The first home games are March 7-10 in the Bulldog Classic followed the next weekend by the Mountain West opening series at Colorado State.