Coaches Tab Hawaii To Win 2013 Big West Softball Title
2013 Big West Softball Preseason Coaches Poll
Hawai’i, ranked No. 23 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Top 25, was picked to capture the 2013 Big West Softball championship in a vote of the nine head coaches in their annual preseason poll Wednesday.
The Rainbow Wahine collected four first-place votes and 76 points to edge out defending champion Long Beach State for the top spot. The 49ers also garnered four first-place nods and had 73 points overall.
Pacific earned 58 points for third place and picked up the lone remaining first-place vote.
Hawai’i, which competed for 12 seasons (1985-96) in the Big West and made two NCAA Tournament appearances before departing for the Western Athletic Conference, returns to its roots on the heels of a spectacular 2012 campaign. UH began last season with a school record 21-game win streak, won its fourth WAC title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th time in school history. UH finished the season 44-9 overall and No. 22 in the final NFCA rankings.
The Rainbow Wahine return four players who started all 53 games last year – seniors Jessica Iwata and Kelly Majam, and sophomores Leisha Li’ili’i and Kayla Wartner. Iwata led the team offensively with a .400 average, 14 home runs and 57 RBI en route to first team All-WAC honors for the third straight season. Majam earned first team all-conference recognition for the second time in her career after clubbing a team-best 15 homers with 28 RBI to go along with a .318 average. Li’ill’i gave UH a third double-digit home run producer as the first baseman blasted 10 last year. In the circle, UH brings back senior Kaia Parnaby, a native of Australia who received second team All-WAC plaudits after going 16-3 with a 1.47 ERA and striking out 124 hitters in 124.0 innings of work.
Long Beach State returns seven of its top nine hitters to a club that finished 29-25 overall and won the Big West regular season championship with a 16-5 mark in 2012. The 49ers won 20 of their final 26 games to secure their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance during head coach Kim Sowder’s tenure. Senior Cya Neal, an All-Big West First Team selection, spearheads the 49er offense after hitting .319 with a team-high tying 24 runs scored. Junior Karli Sandoval nabbed second team all-conference honors on the strength of a team-best .337 average, and tied for the team lead with 11 doubles. Two-time All-Big West First Team standout Erin Jones-Wesley returns for her junior campaign as the leader of the 49er pitching corps. She posted a 21-13 record with a 2.02 ERA, fanning 176 hitters in 229.0 innings pitched.
In its final season as a Big West member, Pacific also is expected to contend for the conference championship after finishing 34-20 a year ago. The Tigers are led by one of the nation’s top two-way players in senior Nikki Armagost. Armagost, the 2012 Big West Offensive Player of the Year, led the conference in batting average (.433), doubles (18) and total bases (104), while also ranking in the top five in runs scored (35 - 3rd), hits (71 - 2nd), RBI (38 - 2nd) and slugging percentage (.634 - 3rd). Armagost also excelled in the circle with an 11-7 record and 2.29 ERA. Fellow senior Megan Hom gives the Tigers another .400 hitter in the lineup and first team all-conference performer. Hom hit .409 with a Big West leading 49 runs scored. In addition to Armagost, the Pacific pitching staff is bolstered by the return of junior Tori Shepard, who received All-Big West Second Team acclaim and amassed a league-leading seven saves.
UC Santa Barbara amassed 54 points for fourth place in the poll. The Gauchos are powered by 2012 Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year Shelby Wisdom, an All-Big West First Team pick who also excelled in the circle. Wisdom hit .271 with five home runs and 22 RBI. She set the UCSB single-season record for wins (24) and strikeouts (247), going 24-14 with a 2.31 ERA. The Gauchos just finished ahead of fifth place UC Davis, which totalled 51 points. UC Davis has an outstanding player of its own in sophomore Justine Vela. The Bakersfield, Calif. native commanded Big West Pitcher of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors with a 20-13 record, 2.10 ERA and nine shutouts. She whiffed a league-best 272 batters in 203.0 innings.
Rounding out the poll is Cal State Fullerton in sixth place with 33 points, Cal Poly (24), UC Riverside (22) and Cal State Northridge (16), respectively.
The 2013 season begins on Thursday, February 7.
2013 BIG WEST SOFTBALL PRESEASON COACHES POLL
No. School Pts.
1. Hawai’i (4) 76
2. Long Beach State (4) 73
3. Pacific (1) 58
4. UC Santa Barbara 52
5. UC Davis 51
6. Cal State Fullerton 33
7. Cal Poly 24
8. UC Riverside 22
9. Cal State Northridge 16
( ) First-place votes