Champs, again

Photo Courtesy Western Athletic Conference
Softball wins the WAC in dramatic fashion and makes 28th straight NCAAs

The ’Dogs came out swinging at this weekend’s Western Athletic Conference Tournament, winning the championship with a game to spare, as tournament MVP Morgan Melloh quieted the bats of Boise State, Louisiana Tech and Nevada.

The championship marks Fresno State’s third WAC Tournament victory and its 28th-straight trip to the NCAA Softball Tournament.

Fresno State never lost a game in the double-elimination tournament, meaning that even a loss to Nevada Saturday afternoon would have yielded another chance to win later that night.

Morgan Melloh pitched every single inning for the Bulldogs.

“I thought Morgan pitched extremely well,” Coach Margie Wright said. “Every time they got people in scoring position in all three games she buckled down.”

The sophomore pitcher improved her overall record to 28-14, going 3-0 in the tournament. She only allowed two runs in the entire effort.

The team started their run by blanking Boise State 4-0 on the strength of a late rally. The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth and back-to-back hits by Lisamarie Coronado and Alexis Lujan put the game out of Boise’s reach.

In their second game, the ’Dogs ran over Louisiana Tech 5-0 with solid hitting all around and another shutout for Melloh. Coronado went 3-for-4 on the afternoon and scored a run.

Saturday’s final went all the way to extra innings, with both teams trading runs and coming to the eighth tied 2-2. The Wolf Pack’s pitcher walked Coronado and a subsequent single by Nicole Angene, put runners on second and third. Nevada decided to walk Haley Perkins, which set up Haley Gilleland to win the game for the ‘Dogs.

Gilleland hit a single and drove in the winning run, ending the tournament with Fresno State on top.

“I think they knew what Haley Perkins could do. They might have underestimated what Haley [Gilleland] can do.” Coach Wright said, “I wanted either of those players to bat in that situation. We couldn’t have had it better.”

Wright was stressed during the game, saying afterwards, “That was a little too exciting for a coach.”
Coronado and Gilleland were named to the WAC All-Tournament Team along with Melloh.

Fresno State played well against conference opponents this season, going 15-5, but struggled against ranked ones. Losses have come against Florida, UCLA, Washington, Michigan and DePaul, all of whom currently boast national rankings. Wright believes hosting games in the NCAA Regionals would be a benefit to the team.

“It would be great if we got to host again this year” Wright said, “The fans are always awesome for us.” However, Wright also said she thought hosting tournament games this year is unlikely because the team hosted games last year.

It appears the ‘Dogs are peaking at just the right time, winning eight straight games heading into the national tournament. Asked if she thought her team could be this year’s Wonderdogs, Wright said, “Oh Gosh, I don’t know. You always think that. I just feel like we’re playing very well.”

The NCAA made selections for the 2009 tournament and Fresno State will be traveling down Highway 99 to take on UNLV in the first game at UCLA. The Bruins are the No. 1 seed and are hosting the regional.

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