Broncos thwart Spartan comeback
BOISE, Idaho-A two-out, two-run home run by Jordan Kreiger in the bottom of the sixth inning was just enough insurance for Boise State to weather a comeback by San Jose State as the Broncos held on to win 7-6. The Spartans scored three times in the seventh and left the go-ahead running on base to end the game.
Boise State (22-18, 7-6 MW) picked up the series-opening victory despite being outhit 10-5. The win moves the Broncos a half game closer to conference leader Fresno State (8-4), who is idle this weekend.
Ashley Palmer and Brittany McCray highlighted a five-run first inning for the Broncos. Palmer hit at two-run home run to take the lead after San Jose State (23-17, 6-4 MW) scored once in the top of the frame. The inning continued on a pair of walks and an error, allowing one run to score. After a wild pitch, McCray was batting with two in scoring position and two outs. She singled up the middle to score both runs.
The early offense staked Rebecca Patton to a big cushion after allowing an unearned run in the first. The defense also picked it up after the first, led by third baseman Makenna Weir. After Weir's error in the first contributed to the first run of the game, she contributed three putouts and five assists. She started a 5-4-3 double play to end the second inning and made every out in the third inning.
Patton ran into trouble in the fourth. After retiring the leadoff hitter, she allowed three-straight hits. A double to the wall in left center was followed by a home run to right center to get the Spartans within two. A single was later erased by a fielder's choice before Weir made another play on a groundball to finish the inning.
In the fifth inning, the Spartans brought the top of the order to the plate to see Patton for the third time. She responded with her first perfect frame of the day. When the middle of the order came up in the sixth, she sat them down in order as the Broncos held on to the 5-3 lead.
San Jose State starting pitcher Katelyn Linford settled in after the first inning as well. In the second through fifth innings, Linford allowed just one hit and worked around four walks. The one hit came in the third inning, a single by Libbie Jimenez, to put runners at first and second with one out. Linford escaped the jam with a strikeout and a caught stealing.
The Broncos would get to her again in the sixth. A hit batter started the inning and Weir reached on a fielder's choice, just beating out a double play to turn the lineup over with still one out. It proved vital as Kreiger came up with two outs and Weir still at first. Kreiger watched two strikes before getting to an inside pitch and driving it just over the fence in left. The two-run shot put the Broncos back up by four.
The Spartans did not go quietly in the seventh. After putting their leadoff hitter on for the first time in the game the next two batters beat out double play opportunities as the Broncos settled for one out each time. That was enough to bring the top of the lineup back to the plate with one on and two outs.
The first three hitters in the San Jose State order each delivered with their first hits of the game, including Jessica Garcia who came to the plate as the tying run with the bases loaded. Garcia singled to center, driving in two. The next batter was Jessie Hufstetler, the Mountain West's leading hitter. Hufstetler singled up the middle to drive in another run and put the go-ahead run on base. Patton got the next batter to ground out and end the threat.
The win for Patton is her 19th of the season, one shy of the school record. She did so in her 20th complete game of the year, which breaks the single-season record.
The long ball for Kreiger was her second of the season, her first since the season opener. All three of her home runs last year came in conference play. Four of her seven career home runs have come in the sixth inning or later.
Tara Glover singled in the first inning and stole second base before scoring on Palmer's home run. Glover's steal was her 27th of the year, tying her own single-season school record. Lindsey Nicholson also stole a base in the game, giving Boise State 80 steals for the year, seven shy of the all-time Mountain West record.
The Broncos and Spartans resume their series Friday at 3 p.m. (MT), before finishing Saturday with a noon (MT) first pitch. Boise State's Locks of Love hair donation event will take place after the game Saturday. Anybody interested in donating their hair is welcome to register at BroncoSports.com/locksoflove.