Mountain West softball having a year to remember

Austin White

The 2017 season has been far from ordinary for Mountain West softball with no team truly emerging as the best team.

Currently, Utah State sits top the standings with a 12-5 record, followed by San Jose State and San Diego State both at 9-6. Colorado State sits in fifth with an 8-10 mark in conference and only two conference series left against Nevada and Fresno State.

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This year, no team has solidified its spot top the conference. In years past, it has been dominated by California schools San Jose State, San Diego State and Fresno State. The 2017 season has been even, seeing only two three-game sweeps by any team all season. The only two were SDSU sweeping New Mexico and SJSU sweeping Boise State.

“I think we are all extremely evenly matched,” Rams head coach Jen Fisher said. “It’s good for our conference I think too because we have so many schools with more than 20 wins.”

The top team, Utah State, has not swept a conference opponent. Meanwhile UNLV, who is tied for last in conference play with six wins, has not been swept.

This season has been up and down for CSU, having success against the top teams and falling to the teams lower in the standings. CSU’s two conference series victories have come against SJSU and SDSU, the two teams tied for second in conference. Their four losses have been to UNLV (T-7th) New Mexico (T-7th), Boise State (last) and Utah State (first).

Despite all this parody, the Mountain West is enjoying one of the best softball seasons they have ever had as a whole. For the first time ever, all nine schools are ranked in the top 150 in RPI. The Mountain West currently has five schools inside the top 100, CSU being one of them ranked at 78.

“We’ve made some changes in the way that we schedule…that’s actually helped overall our strength of our schedule,” Fisher said. “We almost have everyone in the top 100 (in RPI)…coaches are really pulling for the whole conference.”

Overall, the MW has gone 22-26 against Power Five schools, including wins over No. 25 BYU and No. 17 Utah. Fresno State has played the most games against such opponents with a 7-8 record. Nevada, the Rams opponent this weekend, has the best record with a 3-2 mark against Power Five teams.

The Rams have a 4-5 record against Power Five opponents—two each over the Big Ten’s Penn State and Maryland. Their five losses were from the hands of Wisconsin, Texas and the current No. 4 Minnesota.

At the front of the Rams success this season has been senior Haley Hutton, who leads the conference in runs scored with 46. Her batting average and on-base percentage are both inside the top-15 as she looks to be named to the All-Mountain West team for the fourth straight season.

Utah State’s ascension to first has been thanks to freshman pitcher Kellie White who leads the conference in ERA (1.90). SJSU has also climbed up the standings behind senior pitching from Colette Riggs and Katelyn Linford.

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San Diego State was in second-to-last a few weeks ago and is now tied for second behind their offensive fire power. Jenavee Peres leads the conference in home runs (12), hits (55) and slugging percentage (.779), putting SDSU in first in almost every major offensive category, including batting average which they are 36 points ahead of the next best school.

At the beginning of conference play, CSU sophomore Amber Nelson was the leader in each of those categories. She still leads in OBP (.538) but has fallen down in the other rankings, and now ranks in the top 10 of those categories.

CSU heads out on the road this weekend to face Nevada before their conference bye the following week. During that bye week, they will host the Ram Classic in which they face South Dakota and current No. 4 Texas A&M Aggies. They will finish up the regular season the next week when they host Fresno State.

Current conference standings (sorted by win percentage)

1. Utah State 12-5

T2. San Jose State 9-6

T2. San Diego State 9-6

4. Nevada 8-7

5. CSU 8-10

6. Fresno State 6-8

T7. UNLV 6-9

T7. New Mexico 6-9

9. Boise State 7-11

Collegian sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @ajwrules44