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This Week in WAC Softball - March 6
Courtesy: Hawai‘i
Nevada’s Ashley Butera and Hawai‘i’s Stephanie Ricketts have been named the Verizon Western Athletic Conference Hitter and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, for Feb. 27-March 4. This is the first-ever honor for Butera and the second of the season and ninth overall for Ricketts.

Butera, a freshman catcher player from Saugus, Calif. (Saugus HS), hit .533 (8-for-15) with a triple and four home runs in five games for the Wolf Pack at the San Diego Classic last weekend. Butera recorded 22 total bases as she had an on-base percentage of .563 and a slugging percentage of 1.467. She drove in seven runs and scored four. Butera started behind the plate all five games and played errorless ball at catcher. In Nevada’s win over San Diego State, she started the Wolf Pack comeback with a solo home run in the fourth inning.

Ricketts, a senior from San Jose, Calif., went 3-0 in the Bank of Hawaii Invitational with a 1.40 ERA and 27 strikeouts. In a 2-1 win over No. 20 Florida State, Ricketts retired the first 13 batters and faced just two batters over the minimum, giving up one run on two hits with a walk and nine strikeouts. She also became the all-time winningest pitcher in Hawai‘i history with the victory. In Sunday’s championship game, she fired a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts. For the week, Ricketts held opponents to a .106 batting average. She is now 10-0 with 10 complete-game wins this season and has 84 career victories with 96 complete games and 28 shutouts.

Other Hitter of the Week nominees included: Stacie Toney of Brigham Young hit .500 with a pair of doubles and two RBI last week ... Fresno State’s Brenna Moss hit .444 with a triple and three RBI ... Jessica Iwata of Hawai‘i hit .308 with a double, a home run and seven RBI on the week ... Louisiana Tech’s Katelynn Hill hit .375 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI ... Kelsey Dodd of New Mexico State hit .375 with a double, a triple and five RBI on the week … San Jose State’s Michelle Cox hit .429 with a triple and two RBI on the week ... Lindsey Marquez of Utah State had six RBI on the week.

Other Pitcher of the Week nominees included: Tori Almond of Brigham Young went 2-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 14 strikeouts ... Fresno State’s Michelle Moses went 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 26 strikeouts last week ... Michelle Jones of Louisiana Tech posted a 2-1 record on the week ... New Mexico State’s Karysta Donisthorpe picked up a pair of wins and had a 0.69 ERA with 12 strikeouts on the week ... Madison Fish of San Jose State went 2-0 with nine strikeouts ... Utah State’s Mandy Harmon went 2-1 with 13 strikeouts last week.

After winning five games last week to improve to 17-0 on the season, Hawai’i moved up to No. 19 in both the NFCA/USA Today and the Softball Top 25 polls. Hawai’i has gotten off to its best start in school history, bettering the 7-0 record set last season. The Rainbow Wahine picked up a pair of wins over No. 20 Florida State last weekend.

Hawai‘i pitcher Stephanie Ricketts is one of the 30 student-athletes selected as candidates for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.

The two-time reigning WAC Pitcher of the Year was named an Easton All-American last season and is Hawai‘i’s all-time strikeout leader. A three-time All-West Region honoree, she has been named an NFCA Scholar-Athlete and Academic all-WAC three times.

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as a senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.

The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot.

New Mexico State will host the 2012 WAC Softball Tournament May 9-12 at the NM State Softball Complex. The top six teams will advance to the double-elimination tournament. It is the second time the Aggies have hosted the event, as they did so in 2010, as well.

Top-seeded New Mexico State shut out No. 3-seed Fresno State 5-0 to claim its first-ever WAC Tournament title last season in Fresno.

The WAC softball coaches selected Fresno State to win the 2012 WAC regular-season crown. It was the 14th time in the last 17 years that the Bulldogs were the preseason favorite to win the title.

Fresno State had 44 points and three first-place votes, just ahead of Hawai‘i with two first-place votes and 42 points. New Mexico State was third with 37 points and two first-place votes. Brigham Young received the other first-place vote and came in fourth place with 35 points. Nevada, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Utah State rounded out the poll.

The preseason all-WAC team is composed of the returning all-conference players from last season. Hawai’i placed the most players on the team with four, while Fresno State and New Mexico State had three apiece.

The WAC features nine players who were first team all-conference performers last year. Three come from New Mexico State - Teresa Conrad, Tiare Jennings and reigning WAC Freshman of the Year Valerie Swedberg. Brigham Young returns Carly Duckworth and Jessica Dugas, both of whom were named to the all-Mountain West team last season. Fresno State returns two players (Michelle Moses and Andrea Ortega), while Hawai‘i returns reigning WAC Pitcher of the Year Stephanie Ricketts and reigning WAC Player of the Year Jessica Iwata.

Second team returnees include: Alex Aguirre, Hawai‘i; Janna Frandrup, Louisiana Tech; Erin Jones, Nevada; Allison Lenzora, Utah State; Kelly Majam, Hawai‘i; Brooke Ortiz, Fresno State; and Kassy Uchida, Utah State.

Hawai’i shortstop Jessica Iwata was one of 50 student-athletes selected to the watch list for the 11th annual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.

Iwata, a two-time WAC Player of the Year, led the Rainbow Wahine last season with a .355 batting average, a .663 slugging percentage and a .447 on-base percentage. Iwata also led UH in runs scored (43), hits (60), home runs (15) and RBI (44), and finished the season on a nine-game hitting streak. She accumulated more multiple-hit games (16) and multiple-RBI games (13) than any other Rainbow Wahine in 2011. Iwata was also voted to the NFCA All-West Region second team for the second straight year and was named a second team Easton All-American last year as a sophomore.

Iwata is just the fourth Rainbow Wahine to ever be selected to the “Top 50 Watch List.” Last season both Melissa Gonzalez and Kelly Majam were chosen to the list. Before that, the only player to ever represent Hawai’i was Kate Robinson in her senior season, 2008.

The award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by collegiate softball players across the country. The 2012 Watch List is comprised of 23 seniors, 20 juniors and seven sophomores representing 31 universities and 13 conferences.

The Top 25 finalists for the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced April 11. The Top 10 finalists will be announced May 9 and the Top 3 finalists will be announced May 23. On May 29, prior to the start of the 2012 NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City, the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed.
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