The Fresno State softball team was left with a bitter taste in its mouth after it lost back-to-back games at the UNLV Invitational last weekend.
The Bulldogs were upset by two unranked opponents and knocked out of the Top 25 poll for the first time this season. Even more surprising was the fact that Fresno State was shutout in both games.
Consequently, head coach Margie Wright made some changes when the team returned to practice on Monday.
â€œThey didnâ€™t like losing those two games and we practiced tough on Monday,” Wright said. â€œWe worked really hard this week at making good adjustments.”
One adjustment the Bulldogs made to improve success at the plate was to switch from pitching machines to live pitchers in batting practice.
â€œIt helped because youâ€™re seeing the motion and how it changes,” first baseman Kristin Sylvester said.
Hitters also examined video of individual plate appearances to increase at-bat success.
Centerfielder Michelle Palazuelos believes watching video was helpful because most of the players are visual learners.
To say the Bulldogs plate appearances were successful would be a tremendous understatement.
After sweeping UConn in a doubleheader on Tuesday, Fresno Stateâ€™s offense exploded as the team outscored its opponents 43-10 and went 5-0 at the Bulldog Classic.
In fact, the only ones on the field that could stop the Bulldogs offense were the umpires. Fresno State ended the tournament with a 10-2 mercy-rule defeat of Penn State –â€” the Bulldogs second mercy-rule victory of the tournament.
Fresno State stumbled early against the Nittany Lions. Penn State took an early one-run lead when pitcher Robin Mackinâ€™s pitch in the dirt and catcher Nichole Willisâ€™ errant throw allowed shortstop Jen Acunto to score from first base.
â€œThe first inning was a joke,” Wright said. â€œWe didnâ€™t come ready to play and it just puts everyone on edge and gives the other team a lot of confidence.”
Fresno State quickly took back that confidence as the offense awoke and put the game away in the bottom of the third inning.
Palazuelos started the offensive onslaught when she reached base on an infield hit. Three batters later, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded and only one out as Sylvester stepped to the plate.
After falling behind with two quick strikes, Wright called time and summoned Sylvester.
â€œI had swung at two horrible pitches so coach just told me to be patient,” Sylvester said.
Sylvester battled-off the next two pitches foul and then connected for a two-run double.
The at-bat opened the gate for a seven-run inning in which 10 Fresno State batters made plate appearances.
The Bulldogs had two players finish the game three-for-four, Sylvester and leftfielder Shannon Garvin. Cervantez also hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The recent offensive success has increased every hitterâ€™s confidence at the plate.
â€œWeâ€™re really comfortable,” Cervantez said. â€œOur hits are contagious.”