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This Week in WAC Softball - March 1
Courtesy: UT Arlington
Fresno State’s Haley Gilleland and New Mexico State’s Alex Newman have been named the Verizon Western Athletic Conference Hitter and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, for Feb. 21-27. This is the first-ever honor for both.

Gilleland, a senior shortstop from Fresno, Calif., went 5-for-11 (.455) with three runs, a pair of doubles, five RBI and two stolen bases as the Bulldogs went 3-1 on the week. In a 4-3 win over No. 19 Oklahoma State, she hit the game-winning two-run double and scored on a suicide squeeze in the Dogs’ 7-5 win over UMass. With her two steals on the week, she improved to 5-for-5 this season and moved her Bulldog career record to 64, good for 10th all-time in the WAC.

Newman, a sophomore from Rio Linda, Calif., went 4-0 on the week with 16 strikeouts in 19.0 innings of work. She posted a 1.47 ERA, allowing just four earned runs. In a 6-4 win over rival UTEP, she came into the game in the bottom of the first with the Aggies down 4-1 and threw 7.0 innings in relief to pick up the win. In a 12-10 extra-inning win over Bradley, she entered in the top of the eighth and got NM State out of a jam, forcing two outs. Against Texas State, Newman went the distance for a complete-game shutout, allowing the Bobcats just four hits in the game. She closed out the week with a win over North Dakota to move her season record to 8-0.

Other Hitter of the Week nominees included: Boise State’s Tazz Weatherly hit .500 with a double and two RBI on the week … Melissa Gonzalez of Hawai`i hit .400 with eight hits and six RBI on the week … Nevada’s Megan Fincher hit .417 with a .563 on-base percentage on the week … Hoku Nohara of New Mexico State hit .444 with four doubles and three home runs on the week.

Other Pitcher of the Week nominees included: Fresno State’s Mackenzie Oakes went 2-0 on the week with a pair of complete-game victories … Stephanie Ricketts of Hawai`i went 2-2 with a 0.78 ERA on the week.

Michelle Moses hit the first cycle in Fresno State softball history in the first game of a doubleheader against Sacramento State on Feb. 12. She opened her production at the plate with a two-run home run in the third inning, then followed with a double in the fifth, a single in the seventh and a triple in the ninth inning.

Fresno State will host the 2011 WAC Softball Tournament for the second time in the last three years. The top six teams will advance to the double-elimination tournament, which will be held at Bulldog Diamond from May 11-14. It is the fifth time the Bulldogs have hosted the event.

Top-seeded Hawai`i defeated No. 2-seed Fresno State to claim its first-ever WAC Tournament title last season in Las Cruces, N.M. and earn the WAC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

The WAC softball coaches selected Hawai`i to win the 2011 WAC regular-season crown. This is the third time the Rainbow Wahine have been the favorite to take the crown (2002, 2008).

Reigning WAC champion Hawai`i took the top spot in the preseason poll with 48 points and six first-place votes. Fresno State came in second, picking up two first-place vote and 43 points, followed by Boise State in third place. New Mexico State edged Louisiana Tech for fourth place. Nevada was picked to finish sixth (24), followed by San Jose State in seventh with 13 points. Utah State rounded out the poll in eighth place with eight points.

Hawai`i junior hurler Stephanie Ricketts was selected in a vote of the league’s eight coaches as the preseason Pitcher of the Year, while teammate sophomore outfielder Kelly Majam earned preseason Player of the Year honors.

Hawai`i placed the most players on the preseason all-WAC team with five, while Fresno State had three and New Mexico State had two. Joining Ricketts and Majam on the preseason team are Hawai`i’s Melissa Gonzalez, Jessica Iwata and Jenna Rodriguez, Fresno State’s Haley Gilleland, Michelle Moses and Caitlin Stiglich, New Mexico State’s Tiare Jennings and Hoku Nohara, Meghan Krieg of Louisiana Tech, Allie Crump of Boise State and Amanda Pridmore of San Jose State.

All but one member of the preseason all-WAC team was named to the 2011 all-WAC team. Ten members were first team all-WAC honorees a year ago (Gilleland, Gonzalez, Iwata, Jennings, Krieg, Majam, Moses, Ricketts, Rodriguez and Stiglich), while two 2010 second-team honorees are on the team (Crump and Nohara).

Two WAC softball players – Hawai`i’s Melissa Gonzalez and Kelly Majam – have been named to the watch list for the 10th annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award.

Gonzalez, a 2010 first team NFCA All-American, had a breakout season last year as a junior, posting career highs in batting average (.394), hits (81), doubles (13), home runs (25), RBI (60) and slugging percentage (.807). She was ranked fourth nationally in home runs (25) and 17th in slugging percentage (.457) while leading UH with 25 multiple-hit games, five in which she hit two home runs.
Majam, an NFCA and 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 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 broke the UH single-season records for runs scored (88) and walks (44).

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 2011 Watch List is comprised of 50 players representing 36 schools and 15 different conferences.

A list of 10 finalists will be named and released on May 11. The three finalists will be announced May 25, while the winner of the 2011 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced prior to the start of the 2011 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

After leading the nation with 30 home runs last year, Hawai`i’s Kelly Majam was selected to the Preseason All-America first team.

Majam has also been named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Award “Watch List,” is the WAC Preseason Player of the Year and was selected to the preseason all-WAC team.

The WAC will feature 10 players who were 2010 first team all-WAC performers. Five of the returners come from Hawai`i - senior third baseman Melissa Gonzalez, sophomore shortstop and reigning WAC Player of the Year Jessica Iwata, sophomore outfielder and reigning WAC Freshman of the Year Kelly Majam, junior pitcher and reigning WAC Pitcher of the Year Stephanie Ricketts and senior outfielder Jenna Rodriguez. Fresno State returns three players (Haley Gilleland, Michelle Moses and Caitlin Stiglich). New Mexico State returns Tiare Jennings, while Louisiana Tech returns Meghan Krieg.

Second team returnees include: Kellie Caplan, Boise State; Allie Crump, Boise State; Kandis Jones, New Mexico State; Hoku Nohara, New Mexico State; Andrea Ortega, Fresno State; Danielle Patrick, Nevada; and Kylie Randall, New Mexico State.
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