#43 Fresno State Softball 2016 Preview

Fresno State Bulldogs

Overall Rank: #43
Conference Rank: #2 Mountain West

 Fresno State Softball Preview

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Fresno State continued its resurgence under the direction of reigning Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year Trisha Ford. The Bulldogs won 40 games and laid claim to their first ever Mountain West Conference Championship in 2015 and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament. A very balanced squad returns in 2016 that will be looking to get back to the NCAA Tournament and do some damage after losing two straight games in the Eugene Regional.

2015: 40-16, 19-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Trisha Ford

Field Players:
Fresno State returns a pretty deep lineup in 2016 which will need to continue to grow with the graduation of Brenna Moss. Kierra Willis will be the primary power source offensively in the cleanup spot in the batting order. Willis hit .364 and eight home runs while driving in 55. The other element to Willis’ game that is underrated is her ability to simply get on base. Last season she got on nearly 48 percent of the time. Malia Rivers will be counted on towards the top of batting order to get on base and use her speed to cause plenty of havoc on the bases. Rivers stole 16 bases a season ago and will be counted upon to elevate those totals into the mid-20’s with the loss of Moss and her 25 stolen bases last season.

One of the most critical elements that are needed in order to make a run to Oklahoma City is to have an experienced ace in the circle. Well, the Bulldogs will have that in 2016 with the return of Jill Compton. Compton was 28-11 in 2015 and has the ability, when she is on, to be dominant. She struck out 242 batters in 242.1 innings pitched last season. Also, keep an eye on Hannah Harris as she did a nice job as the number two starter in 2015 in her 12 starts.

Who to Watch:
Alyssa Villalpando, as the primary utility player for Fresno State, will be a key player to watch as Villalpando brings plenty of power and ability to drive in runs. Villalpando had a very good first season with the Bulldogs after transferring over from Hawaii, hitting six homeruns and driving in 33. This same level of offensive production, or even better, from Villalpando will only lengthen the Fresno State lineup and keep teams from pitching around Willis on a regular basis.

Final Projection:
There is a very nice core in place for the Bulldogs to make another run at a 40 plus win season and potentially defend their Mountain West Conference championship. It will take some time for the offensive attack to figure out the best way to replace the lost offensive production from Brenna Moss. The schedule also will provide plenty of great tests during the non-conference portion of the schedule with match-ups against the likes of Tennessee, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Northwestern, Baylor and California. San Diego State visits during the first weekend of April in a series that quite frankly is probably going to decide who the best team in the Mountain West Conference will be in 2016. Nevertheless, this Bulldogs squad should be in the neighborhood of 40 wins this season and get a return trip back to the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Malia Rivers, IF, 194
Hits: Malia Rivers, IF, 72
Home Runs: Kierra Willis, OF, 8
RBIs: Kierra Willis, OF, 55
Runs: Kierra Willis, OF, 43
Stolen Bases: Malia Rivers, IF, 16

Wins: Jill Compton, P, 28
Innings Pitched: Jill Compton, P, 242.1
Strikeouts: Jill Compton, P,242
Complete Games: Jill Compton, P, 23

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