The Fresno State softball team hosted two doubleheaders against Illinois and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo on March 16 and 18, respectively. The Bulldogs lost 10-9 and 8-5 to Illinois on Friday and defeated San Luis Obispo 10-2 and 9-5 on Sunday.
With a 13-11 overall record, the Bulldogs were looking have good games against two teams just before the start of conference play.
After a rain delay, the Bulldogs begin the first of two games against Illinois strong with a solo home run by Katie Castellon in the first inning. Then in the second inning, the offense got hot for Fresno State, scoring two runs before Savannah McHellon hit a grand slam, adding four more runs and giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.
Illinois, however, was able to score on pitcher Danielle East in the fourth inning. The inning ended with Fresno State giving up four runs and then another four in the fifth inning, giving Illinois a 8-7 lead.
In the sixth inning, Fresno State gave up two more runs and did not score any runs. The seventh inning was the last chance for the Bulldogs to either win or tie the game – they fell short, only scoring two of the three runs needed to tie the game. The Bulldogs lost 10-9
In the second game, Fresno State kicked off by making the first run of the game in the first inning. In the bottom of the second inning, Fresno State grew the lead with two more runs going up 3-0.
Illinois scored once in the third inning and in the top of the fifth inning. They scored three more runs taking the lead from the Bulldogs 4-3. In the same fifth inning, the Bulldogs answered with another run, tying the game.
In the top of the sixth inning, Illinois scored a run taking the lead and forcing Fresno State to change pitchers for the final inning in of the game. Savannah Berkowitz pitched six innings, allowing six hits. She was replaced by Sarah Santana who pitched the rest of the game.
In the seventh inning the Bulldogs McHellon hit a solo home run to center field that tied the game and forced extra innings.
The tie break rule came into effect, which means that each team has a runner on second base to start the inning. The Bulldogs found themselves in trouble in the bottom of the ninth inning when they allowed three runs.
The ‘Dogs lost 8-5.
“It was a tough day…I just wish we would have been able to punch in one or two more runs in order to win the games,” head coach Linda Garza said.
For the second doubleheader of the weekend, Fresno State faced Cal Poly Sunday morning.
The game started scoreless in the first two innings, and it was not until the bottom of the third inning that the Bulldogs found luck in their bats. Fresno State scored five runs in that inning and this was a lead that would not give up for the rest of the game.
Cal Poly was able to score twice in the top of the fourth inning, giving it hope of a comeback in the later innings. That hope was diminished when the Bulldog’s McHellon hit a home run that brought in Castellon, bringing in two more runs.
With a scoreless top of the fifth, the Bulldogs knew that they had a chance of ending the game early with three more runs. Fresno State’s offense got started quickly in the inning and managed to score three runs and end the game by mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth inning.
McHellon pitched all five innings, only allowing three hits and striking out six batters.
In the second game, Cal Poly managed to get on the scoreboard quickly and put up two runs. The Bulldogs came back score a run of their own in the bottom of the first then score four more runs in the bottom of the second.
Cal Poly also managed to score two more runs in the top of the third, which forced Garza to make pitching changes. Berkowitz started the game, but was relieved of her duties after two-thirds of an inning in favor of Santana.
Santana proceeded to give up two runs to the Mustangs. East was next up on the mound, but did not manage to get an out after hitting two batters with pitches. This forced another switch, this time to Mejia.
Mejia pitched the final five innings of the game, and only gave up one earned run.
With the pitching in order, the Bulldogs were more confident in their defense and didn’t allow any more more runs. However, their offense scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth and gave the Bulldogs a lead that they wouldn’t surrender.
The game ended with Mejia getting the last three outs, sealing the 9-5 Bulldog victory.
“We’re at a place with our pitcher that we’re getting to know what we have and what we don’t have and learning how to work with it,” Garza said. “We have a young developing [pitching] staff and our job is to find ways to make them grow.”