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Fresno State sophomore outfielder Kierra Willis connects on pitch during Sunday’s 12-0 shutout win over Nevada at Margie Wright Diamond. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Softball: ‘Dogs inching near conference title

Fresno State sophomore outfielder Kierra Willis connects on pitch during Sunday’s 12-0 shutout win over Nevada at Margie Wright Diamond. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Fresno State sophomore outfielder Kierra Willis connects on pitch during Sunday’s 12-0 shutout win over Nevada at Margie Wright Diamond. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)

Six years ago, head coach Margie Wright led the Fresno State softball team to its 10th conference title.

Since then, the Bulldogs have moved from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West. They are now led by head coach Trisha Ford, who took over in 2012.

But the program has not won another conference title since 2009. Now, with three games left in the 2015 regular season, the Bulldogs are in position to end the drought.

After a 5-0 shutout on Saturday against the Pacific Tigers, which helped them extend their winning streak to eight games, the ‘Dogs hold a two-game lead in the Mountain West.

Kierra Willis led the team offensively in Saturday’s win with two hits in three at-bats, and four runs batted in.

Willis gave the ‘Dogs a 4-0 lead in the third with a three-run home run over the right-center fence. The homer was the eighth of the season for Willis.

Six-time Mountain West Pitcher of the Week Jill Compton (26-10) drew her 38th start on the mound, and pitched six innings with seven strikeouts.

Junior Hannah Harris replaced Compton in the seventh inning and closed the game with three consecutive outs.

With the win, the Bulldogs improved their record to 37-14 on the season while holding a 17-4 record in Mountain West play.

The Bulldogs will look to clinch the conference title when they travel to Las Vegas to face UNLV in the final regular season series, starting on Thursday.

“This is what you want your whole season to come down to,” Ford said. “UNLV can swing it. We’ve seen that they can put some runs on the board, so it’s not gonna be an easy task.”

Since the last conference championship in 2009, the ‘Dogs have finished second in the conference four times.

Ford believes the outcome will be different this time.

“Last year we were in this same exact situation,” Ford said. “I’m fully confident that they’ve all learned. They were all juniors last year. They were all freshmen and sophomores, so they have another year under their belt. I’m just hoping we keep building and ride this high.”