Colorado State will look to be back in the winning column this weekend as they are heading to California to take on San Jose this for a three-game series April 7-9.
After losing two of three games to SDSU, the Rams (16-12, 4-5 Mountain West) currently sit in a four-way tie for fifth place in conference, two games back of Utah State (23-8, 6-3 MW) are in first and the Spartans (23-12, 3-3 MW) are in fourth, one and a half games back.
The series will not be played at San Jose’s normal field, however, as they are waiting on construction of their new field to be completed. The three game series will take place at Mission College as will the rest of the Spartans remaining home games this season.
The field will not be the only unfamiliar site for CSU, as the Spartans’ greatest strength this season has been pitching, where in year’s past it has been an explosive offense leading the way.
SJSU’s senior pitchers, Katelyn Linford and Colette Riggs, are tied for fourth in the MW with their ERAs at 2.32. Linford also leads the conference in strikeouts with 138, seven of which came in her five inning no-hitter over the Nevada Wolfpack back on March 18.
Overall, the Spartans have a 3.23 team ERA lead the MW in strikeouts (182). CSU batters are third in conference in strikeouts with 147 trips back to the dugout.
“In the past they have just been stacked with offense, one through nine,” head coach Jen Fisher said. “We have been letting the players familiarize themselves a little bit without over analyzing…we got to go in there prepared for solid pitching.”
The Spartans pitchers are not without their own mistakes though as they have given up the third most walks in the MW with 91 free bases given away. CSU batters have shown patience at the plate this season, sitting second in conference drawing 120 trips down the first base line.
Plate discipline will be a factor in the series, something coach Fisher believes is the key to every game.
“It always is for us,” Fisher said. “We definitely have been trying to do a better job battling at the plate, in the games we have been able to do that we have been successful.”
Last weekend, the Rams handily beat New Mexico 12-2 in their first game but fell apart in the next two. The defense allowed four unearned runs in one inning in a 7-3 loss in game two of the series and the pitching gave up 15 hits in their 8-6 loss in game three.
Sophomore catcher Amber Nelson lost her lead in the batting average (.447) but still leads the conference in home runs (10), on-base percentage (.578) and has nearly a 100-point lead in slugging percentage (.882). Her 30 RBIs are the most on the team and her 21 walks are third most in conference.
Senior Haley Hutton has also been dynamic this season, most notably in conference play where her 16 runs scored are the most from MW play and her 33 runs scored on the season are the second most in conference.
Pitching and defense will have to step up and match the offense as they have given up the most runs in conference play (57) and the pitchers rank sixth in conference with a 4.83 ERA.
“We have gone up against some hot hitters so far,” Fisher said. “(We are going) in there and saying who is going to beat us and who are we going to not let beat us…we are going to try to make them hit our pitch.”
As for common opponents, the only non-conference foe CSU and SJSU shared was Weber State who CSU defeated 4-0 on February 19 and the Spartans lost to the Wildcats 4-1 the same day. The Spartans are also coming off a 1-2 series loss to SDSU who the Rams defeated in two out of three games two weeks ago.
“Every time we give them an extra out, that’s costing us,” Fisher said. “When we are playing our best we are working together, pitching, defense, offense.”
The series gets underway Friday at 1 p.m. and the games Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for the same time. However, rain is in the forecast for Friday and Saturday.
Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajwrules44