Hawaii tabbed at top of WAC
’Bows boast top pitcher, player among five all-league selections
|4||New Mexico State||28|
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HONOLULU -- The Western Athletic Conference softball coaches tabbed the University of Hawaii as the early favorites to win the 2011 WAC regular-season crown. The coaches also voted Rainbow Wahine junior Stephanie Ricketts as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year and sophomore outfielder Kelly Majam as the Preseason Player of the Year, while Melissa Gonzalez, Jessica Iwata, and Jenna Rodriguez were all selected preseason All-WAC selections.
This marks the third time that the Rainbow Wahine have been selected as the favorite to capture the WAC title (also 2002 and 2008). UH garnered 48 points and six first-place votes, while Fresno State came in second with a pair of first-place votes and 43 points. Last year, Hawaii went 19-1 in the conference to win its third WAC regular-season crown and then went on to win the WAC tournament for the first time.
The ‘Bows are coming off its strongest season in program history (50-16), during which it set the NCAA record for home runs in a season with 158 and advanced to the NCAA Women’s College World Series for the first time in program history. Currently, Hawaii is ranked No. 8 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll and No. 13 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball preseason poll.
Ricketts, the reigning WAC Pitcher of the Year, had a solid season in 2010, posting a 30-10 record with a 2.59 ERA while holding the opposition to a .237 batting average. She fired 237.2 innings and walked just 91 batters with 161 strike outs. In WAC games, Ricketts notched a perfect 13-0 record with a 1.55 ERA with 25 walks and 52 strike outs in 81.1 innings pitched.
Majam, an NFCA and ESPN.com All-American and reigning WAC Freshman of the Year, had one of the best individual seasons in UH history. She finished the season as the NCAA home run leader while setting new WAC and UH single-season home run records with 30. Nationally, she finished the season ranked fourth in runs per game (81), fifth in slugging percentage (.919), 27th in on-base percentage (.519), and 42nd in batting average (.400). Majam reached base safely in 61-of-66 games and broke the UH single-season records for runs scored (88) and walks (44). In WAC action, Majam hit .397 with six doubles, 10 home runs and 24 RBI.
Gonzalez, a first team NFCA All-America, had a breakout season in 2010, posting career-highs in batting average (.394), hits (81), doubles (13), home runs (25), RBIs (60) and slugging percentage (.807). Gonzalez was ranked fourth nationally with 25 home runs and 17th in slugging percentage (.457) while leading UH with 25 multiple-hit games--five in which she hit two home runs.
Iwata, the reigning WAC Player of the Year, had also had an exceptional freshman season putting up big stats in batting average (.367), runs scored (65), home runs (18), and breaking the single-season record for doubles with 21. Iwata had a .729 slugging percentage and a .424 on-base percentage and in the WAC led the team with a .488 batting average with 39 hits, 12 doubles, 11 home runs, and 32 RBI. She became the first Rainbow Wahine to be named NFCA National Player of the week on April 13, after going 12-of-20 at the plate with nine runs, 17 RBI, two doubles, six home runs, two grand slams, and two walks at Utah State and Boise State.
Rodriguez, an all-WAC First Team and NFCA All-West Region player last season, was the utility player on the team last season, appearing in five games as a pitcher, 12 games as an outfielder and 52 as the designated player. Overall, Rodriguez hit .377 with 58 RBIs, 17 home runs, 13 doubles, a .422 on-base percentage, and a .696 slugging percentage.
Hawaii opens its season hosting the Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic on Feb. 10-12, featuring Texas State, Southern Utah, and UH’s NCAA Regional opening game opponent from last season , UC Davis.