Big West 2012 Softball Season In Review
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The Long Beach State softball sealed the deal in the final week of conference play with a 2-1 series win over Pacific for sole possession of the 2012 Big West Softball title, and the automatic berth into the postseason NCAA Softball Regional Tournament.
Long Beach openned up postseason play for the NCAA Tournament on Friday, May 18 at the Tempe Arizona Regional, hosted by Arizona State, where the 49ers faced Syracuse in the opener. No. 25 Syracuse jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the second, but the 49ers were able to tie it up in the fourth. But with two unearned runs in the bottom of the frame, Syracuse took the 4-2 lead to the finish. Long Beach would meet LIU Brooklyn in the loser’s bracket game Saturday, in the double elimination regional play.
On Saturday the 49ers battled hard in two extra inning games, first against Brooklyn in a 5-4 win in nine innings as Leilani Tupua-Tautalatasi hit a two-out double off the wall to score for the win in the elimination game. They continued on against first opponent, Syracuse, where Long Beach knotted a 1-1 game to take it to extra innings. Erin Jones-Wesley pitched all eight innings only allowing four hits and two runs, but not enough to continue on as a solo home run by the Orange finished the season for the 49ers.
LBSU (29-25) had its season end in extra innings at the regional tournament on Saturday night for the second consecutive season. Last year, the 49ers were eliminated by San Diego State in nine innings. The 49ers captured their second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and the 21st trip in program history. Head coach Sowder will be guiding her fourth squad to regionals this season in her six-year era as head coach at Long Beach.
FRESHMAN PITCHING DUEL
Rising Gaucho freshman, Shelby Wisdom takes the top slot in many categories for her outstanding performance in the circle, including Big West Field Player of the Year and All-Big West First Team honors. Wisdom holds the most wins (24), innings pitched (266.2), games started (37) and game appearances (50). Wisdom led the Gauchos in supreme fashion pitching her first career no-no followed by a shutout against Cal State Northridge. She pitched three complete game, for a total 21 innings last week, allowing only eight hits and one earned run. The starting freshman has made a single-season record of 50 appearances, second place in the Big West all-time single season record book, as well as top-ten honors for her 247 strikeouts in 2012, with national recognition at No. 38 for her 24 wins on the season.
Freshman competitor Justine Vela, led the league in her own categories while competing for national recognition. Vela finished her first season as an Aggie receiving the Big West Pitcher of the Year award and Big West Freshman Pitcher of the year recognition. Vela led the league with 272 strikeouts for the season while holding her opponents to a .206 batting average. The freshman’s phenomenal numbers in the circle garner her fifth in all-time Big West single-season records as well as No. 21 in the nation for her 2012 season strikeouts and No. 29 with her nine season shutouts.
RECORD SETTING HIGHLANDERS
UC Riverside set a Division I program record for wins this season finishing 25-28 overall and the 8-13 in Big West. The 25 wins set the program’s Division I record for most wins in a season, while the eight victories in league play did the same.
The Aggies took on a 52-game schedule finishing 24-28 overall and 14-7 in Big West play. With the 14 wins, the Aggies have posted the most conference wins for the program since finishing 15-6 in 2010 for the Big West title. Davis posted a seven-game turnaround compared to last season’s record, with a 7-14 league completion on the season and 22-28 overall. Last season the Aggies had seven ranked-opponent matchups while unable to walk away with a win. This season the Aggies went up against eight nationally ranked opponents, coming out on top against Stanford, 2-1 at home at the beginning of the season.
UC Santa Barbara claimed a top-two finish this season, the highest seed for the Gauchos since the 2008 season when they placed second to Long Beach State as well. The Gauchos improved with a three-game sweep against Northridge to close out the season, giving up only one run in the three-game series. Last season Santa Barbara collected only 11 wins in conference play, improving to 15-6 this season and 30-28 overall. The Gauchos split 2-2 in the 2012 season against top ranked opponents compared to last season, 0-8, unable to come out on top.
Four Big West players claimed a spot on the Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region teams with three institutes being recognizedfor their outstanding athletes. The all-region teams are selected by NFCA member coaches from each region, with all honorees now eligible for selection to one of three 2012 NFCA Division I All-American teams.
For the second straight year, a pair of Tigers found themselves receiving postseason honors with National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Pacific Region recognition. The dynamic duo, Nikki Armagost and Megan Hom were named to the All-Pacific Region after a stellar performance in Big West competition in their junior seasons. Accompanying Hom on the second-team recognition is UC Davis’ Justine Vela for her dominance in the circle. In the West Region, Long Beach State’s Cya Neal was award second-team honors for her stellar defense at second base.
For the first time in her career, Armagost received First-Team All-Region accolades as a first basemen for the Tiger’s. Hom received her second straight second team honor, while Vela and Neal were recognized nationally in the postseason for the first time.
TIGERS TOPPLE BUT TOP BIG WEST RECORDS
Despite losing the ability to win the conference title after a loss on Saturday to conference foe, Long Beach State, the Tigers set record-breaking numbers offensively for Big West recognition. Last season the Tigers set the Big West record for all-time single season highest batting average of .323, while bringing in a .307 this season, but individually a trio of Tigers worked hard offensively. One of the three Tigers lead every offense category this season except for total triples.
Nikki Armagost garnered her second Offensive Player of the Year award in three seasons as a Tiger as well as third consecutive All-Big West first team recognition. Armagost posted this season’s highest batting average, .433, good enough for seventh place on the all-time single season record batting average list in the Big West. With her 18 doubles on the season, the junior is also ranked tied for seventh in the Big West for all-time single season marks for doubles. She ends her junior year with the highest league batting average, second highest on base percentage (.495), third-highest runs scored (35), second-most hits (71), second in RBI (38), first in doubles (18) and most total bases (104).
Starting junior, Megan Hom went into the season already in the Big West all-time career marks with her .367 batting average in her first two seasons as a Tiger. This year, Hom finished with a .409 average, second-highest to teammate Armagost in the league, while moving her up to fifth overall in the career all-time records with a .388 average. The Irvine, Calif. native made her way to her second all-time Big West career record this season with 45 runs scored. The 45 to go along with her 75 thus far, garners her tied for ninth in all-time Big West record books. Hom also tallied league-high 49 runs scored this season to make the top-ten all-time Big West single season records. Hom finished the season with top offense honors in hits (76), runs scored (49). Home was recognized in the post season for her third straight year being named to the All-Big West First Team.
Completing the trio is senior, Nicole Matson who went into the season with a RBI Big West record for her 50 runs batted in on the 2011 season. Claiming her first Defensive Player of the Year recognition, Matson is just the second recipient of this Big West award to go along with her second career recognition on the All-Big West First Team list. In her final season Matson earned herself a place in all-time career records, as well as single-season marks. With a total 174 runs scored over her four years, Matson moves to seventh in all-time career Big West records, with second place honors in career runs batted in (164), and tied for third in career home runs (34). The starting senior is now ranked sixth (50) and seventh (49) for her RBI performance in a single-season, as well as tied for tenth with 13 home runs in 2012. Matson led the league in slugging percentage (.679), on base percentage (.513), runs batted in (49), home runs (13) and walks (35).
Entering the season with 580 career wins, head coach Brian Kolze reached the 600 win plateau after picking up his 20th win in 2012 with victories against Cal State Bakersfield on March 27th.
Kolze is second in all-time in Big West career victories after passing former Cal State Fullerton coach Judi Garman (581) with 614 wins over his career thus far.