Fresno State coach Trisha Ford knew exactly what her Bulldogs needed in the clutch – even if it meant subbing out her top contact hitter late in the game for a freshman reserve.
The switch paid off big as Morgan Howe, hitting for senior Whitney Smith, hit a two-run double that drove in the go-ahead runs and Fresno State pulled out a 6-3 win against San Diego State in Mountain West action Saturday at Margie Wright Diamond.
The Bulldogs (23-9-1, 5-0), the series clinched ahead of Sunday’s noon finale, have won their first five conference games for the first time since starting 6-0 in 2011 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Fresno State was in need of just a sacrifice fly to move ahead lead when Ford made the pivotal switch with no outs in the sixth. Dominque Jackson began the inning with a double, then advanced to third on Chase LeeHong’s single.
Smith entered the game sporting a team-best .359 average. But the slap-hitter, who bats ninth in the order, had just four extra-base hits in 64 at-bats and was hitless in her first two at-bats of the day.
So Ford turned to Morgan, who came into the game hitting .263 with five extra-base hits in 38 at-bats. The freshman stepped up, delivering a double to left off Aztecs starting pitcher Erica Romero.
Leadoff hitter Bria Kennedy, who finished 3 for 4 with two runs and an RBI, added an insurance run with an RBI single.
Jill Compton (13-4), who entered in relief in the sixth after throwing a complete game in a 9-2 win Friday against the Aztecs, closed things out with a scoreless seventh.
First pitch for Sunday’s series finale is at noon.
Baseball – Jesse Medrano tripled to drive in the go-ahead runs as part of a four-run eighth as Fresno State rallied for a 6-3 win against Air Force on Saturday at Beiden Field.
The Bulldogs (19-8, 8-3) trailed 3-2 when senior Brody Russell got the rally going with a bunt single. After an Aaron Arruda single down the left-field line advanced Russell to third, Austin Guibor tied it with an run-scoring bunt.
Dylan Lee pitched the ninth to save it for starter Jimmy Lambert.
Lambert scattered six hits while allowing three runs (two earned) in a duel with the Falcons’ Griffin Jax, who gave up three hits, a walk and two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Jax entered the game with the top ERA in the Mountain West at 0.88 and Lambert was second at 1.49.
Fresno State will aim for its first three-game conference sweep of the season during Sunday’s finale. First pitch is 1:05 p.m. Air Force (13-7, 4-3) began the series as the Mountain West front-runner.
▪ Scott Silva and Guibor each hit grand slams to highlight a 12-run third Fresno State’s 14-1 win Friday night. Ricky Thomas (4-2) allowed two hits and an unearned run over seven innings, striking out eight against a Falcons team that entered hitting .343 – second best in the nation among 295 programs. Air Force scored its lone run in the first, and Thomas then retired the side in order in five of the next six innings.
Track and field – Fresno State’s Kayla Hopkins and Yazmin Torres finished 1-2 in the collegiate women’s discus on the final day of the Stanford Invitational.
Hopkins cleared 163 feet, 8 inches for the 10th-best mark in school history. Torres threw 160-2. The collegiate field was missing Stanford two-time All-American Valarie Allman, who competed in the Invite Division.
Friday’s highlights included Je’Nia Sears clearing 20-9.25 to break her school record in winning the invitational division of the women’s long jump, a foot better than Stanford’s Daryth Gayles. Kyra Johnson won the 400-meter hurdles in a season-best 59.22. Annemarie Schwanz topped her school record while finishing second in 16:05.58 in one of four sections of the 5,000.
Women’s golf – Guðrún Björgvinsdóttir fired a 2-over 74 and Kristin Simonsen a 75 as both Bulldogs climbed into the top 15 entering Sunday’s final round at the Rebel Intercollegiate in Oxford, Miss. Fresno State (304-305-609) remained tied for sixth among 15 teams.