The Fresno State softball team enters its first season in the Mountain West Conference under first-year coach Trisha Ford.
The Bulldogs, who competed in the Western Athletic Conference last season under former coach Margie Wright, missed out on the postseason after failing to secure an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Up until then, Fresno State had been the only school to have made an appearance at the tournament since its inception.
This season, the Bulldogs return two seniors in a young roster. How will they fare this year in the Mountain West?
Here is a capsule on all the other Mountain West teams Fresno State will face this season.
Last Season: (21-36, 9-1 2 WAC)
Key Player: Junior shortstop Karley Hopkins. The junior slugger was one of four players to start all 57 of the Wolf Pack’s games. She led Nevada in batting average (.337).
Update: The Wolf Pack, picked to finish last in the conference, might be one of the Mountain West sleepers this season. Nevada debuted the season with a 3-2 performance in the Red Desert Classic – including a convincing 14-6 season-opening win against BYU, which beat Fresno State in the WAC Tournament finale.
San Diego State
Last Season: (32-24, 9-3 MWC)
Key Player: Junior shortstop Hayley Miles. San Diego State returns one of the league’s best in Miles, who earned 2012 Mountain West co-Player of the Year honors.
Update: San Diego State, the preseason favorite to repeat as Mountain West champion, will definitely be tested heading into conference play. The Aztecs will face three ranked teams in nonconference play, including squaring off against No. 1 Oklahoma, the reigning national champion. Fresno State plays San Diego State on the road on April 26-28 in a three-game conference series.
Last Season: (34-20, 8-4 MWC)
Key Player: Junior outfielder Tara Glover. Boise State has one of the nation’s biggest hitters in Glover – last season’s Mountain West co-Player of the Year. She started all 54 games in center field, and finished with a .476 batting average as the Broncos’ leadoff hitter. She led the NCAA in hits (88) and hits per game (1.63) in the regular season.
Update: The Broncos are returning five starters this season from a 34-20 roster that tied for second place in the Mountain West standings last season.
Last Season: (29-22, 8-4 MWC)
Key Player: Senior pitcher Kacie McCarthy. The Rams’ returning ace started 21 games in 2012 as a junior, posting a 2.86 ERA. She led the team the team in with strikeouts (105) en route to racking up 17 wins and earning 2012 Mountain West Pitcher of the Year honors.
Update: Colorado State finished second in conference standings last season. With their returning ace’s firepower, can the Rams take the top of the Mountain this year? Early survey says: not quite. The Rams were picked to finish second again this season, behind incumbent champion San Diego State.
Last Season: (22-27, 3-9 MWC)
Key Player: Senior outfielder Paige Emerson. UNLV returns its premier power hitter in Emerson, who is a two-time All-Mountain West Conference selection. Last season, Emerson finished with a .367 batting average and had a .426 on-base percentage.
Update: The Rebels are coming off a rocky campaign – but one that saw them sweep Fresno State in nonconference competition. UNLV, though returning five seniors, was picked to finish second-to-last in Mountain West standings by the conference coaches in a preseason poll. The Rebels are entering their first season under head coach Lisa Dodd.
Last Season: (27-25, 2-8 MWC)
Key Player: Redshirt senior pitcher Kaela DeBroeck. A workhorse for the Lobos, DeBroeck logged in majority of the time in the circle for New Mexico, pitching 133.2 innings – including throwing 12 complete games.
Update: The Lobos broke .500 last season, but that does not tell the whole story for a team that finished 2-8 in conference play. This year, they have the experience in a senior-laden roster, but have started the season with a 0-7 mark.