Saturday, August 11, 2012

Off-season news in the Mountain West

New Fresno State head coach Trisha Ford with AD Thomas Boeh.

Normally in the 'dog days of summer,' you won't be hearing too much college softball news.  But that's not the case this time around.  News and rumblings around the world of Mountain West softball have been ongoing in June, July and August.

First and foremost are the two new additions to the Mountain West:  Fresno State and Nevada.  Both became official members on July 1 and will compete for the 2013 conference championship.

Among the latest news:

Fresno State

Probably no news was bigger than the retirement of legendary softball coach Margie Wright, the trailblazing giant in the sport.  Wright's retirement after 27 years at the helm of the Bulldogs means Fresno State will take the field in 2013 with its first new softball coach since the 1985 season.  Wright departed as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA softball history, with 1,457 victories under her belt and a winning percentage of 74.2%.

On June 18, the school hired former Stanford associate head coach Trisha Ford as the new Bulldogs head coach.  Ford has been at Stanford for the past nine years, including the last four as the lead assistant under Cardinal head coach John Rittman.  On July 26, Ford announced the hiring of former Washington standout Sara Pickering as a new Fresno State assistant.  Also that date, Florida State announced on its web site that former Seminoles player Carly Wynn had been named an assistant at Fresno State.  Still, this news remains curious, since it has not been confirmed with any sort of announcement on the Bulldogs' web site more than two weeks later.

On July 12, in Chicago, former Fresno State standout Laura Berg was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, along with her 2004 U.S. Olympic Women's Softball Team.

UNLV

At the conclusion of last season, the Rebels announced that head coach Pete Manarino was not being retained.  Manarino last took UNLV to the NCAA Tournament in 2009, when the Rebels met (and lost) to then-WAC member Fresno State in an opening-round game. He was 113-86 at UNLV, including a 22-27 (3-9 MW) mark last season.

On June 21, the school announced the hiring of former UCLA standout Lisa Dodd as the new head coach.  Dodd was most recently an assistant at Oregon, where she spent the last three seasons with the Ducks.

Boise State

Perhaps the biggest news surrounding the Broncos' softball team revolves around a new, on-campus stadium.  Boise State played its first four seasons of collegiate ball at the Mountain Cove softball complex, a former high school facility, but will move to a new home beginning in the 2013 season -- Dona Larsen Park.

The new field combines the softball facility, a track and field venue, and a football practice facility, a short distance from the blue turf of Boise State's famed football stadium.  Head coach Erin Thorpe announced the signing of two new transfers this month in former Cal Poly pitcher Rebecca Patton and former Yavapai College catcher Brittany McCray.

San Diego State

The Aztecs saw their assistant coach Stacey Nuveman Deniz, the former UCLA standout, and her 2004 U.S. Olympic Women's Softball Team inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame on July 12 in Chicago.

On June 19, San Diego State head softball coach Kathy Van Wyk inked a new, 3-year contract extension with the school.  The Aztecs will embark on their final season in the Mountain West in 2013 before moving to the Big West for the 2014 season.  That year, new Mountain West teams will arrive in the form of San Jose State and Utah State, which will depart a severely-weakened WAC.

 New Mexico

On August 4, Lobos head softball coach Erica Beach was inducted into the Arizona Softball Foundation Hall of Fame. Beach is the seventh former Arizona State standout to be inducted into the ASF Hall.