Monday, May 11, 2015

Our picks: Moss, Compton, Peres have earned MW honors

If we had a vote (which we don't), here are our selections for the 2015 Mountain West softball Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year. 

Yesterday, we picked our 2015 Co-Coaches of the Year:  Fresno State's Trisha Ford and New Mexico's Erica Beach.  You can read more about those selections here.

Our 2015 Player of the Year is Brenna Moss of Fresno State

The choice came down to a few players, including Moss and teammate Kierra Willis, along with San Diego State slugger Lorena Bauer and San Jose State first baseman Jessie Hufstetler.  In the end, Moss stood out.

The Mountain West leader in batting average (.446), hits (82) and stolen bases (25), Moss also finished second in runs scored (59).  Simply put, she made conference champion Fresno State go.  The Bulldogs' leadoff hitter ignited an offense whose final regular-season team batting average (.328) rivaled the school record of .340 set by the 1998 NCAA championship team.

Setting Moss apart was her ability to hit elite pitching during Fresno State's daunting schedule.  Moss had four hits, including doubles in each game, against SEC Pitcher of the Year Lauren Haeger of No. 1 ranked Florida, and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Cheridan Hawkins of 2nd-ranked Oregon on the same day in March.  The next day, she added four more hits against nationally-ranked Arizona and Baylor with two in each game.

In the decisive game three of the Bulldogs' series at San Diego State, Moss had three hits -- including another double -- and reached base in four of five at-bats.  That was in a game that Fresno State would win 8-1 and one that would ultimately provide the 2-game swing allowing the Bulldogs to win their first conference championship since 2009.

And that doesn't even begin to tell the whole story.  Moss was such a defensive presence in center field, anchoring the Mountain West's top outfield, that opponents seldom dared to score from second base on hits in her direction.  When they did, Moss' cannon of an arm erased opposing base runners almost routinely.  She finished with eight assists, a staggering number for an outfielder.

Now ranking among the all-time Fresno State leaders in batting average and hits, Moss is the school's career stolen base leader. That's what made her batting average of .446 -- ranking among the top 25 in the country -- so powerful.  Once Moss reached base, she was always a threat to steal.  More often than not, her singles translated to doubles and triples.

For those reasons and in leading her team to a conference crown, Moss is our choice for Player of the Year.  She will begin her professional softball career this summer with the Chicago Bandits after being selected 13th overall in the recent National Pro Fastpitch draft.

Our 2015 Pitcher of the Year is Jill Compton of Fresno State.

This choice was an easy one, and over the past two months it became clear:  Compton
was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in Mountain West history.

Winning conference Pitcher of the Week honors four consecutive weeks during one stretch, Compton became the first MW pitcher to ever accomplish the feat.  She earned that distinction six times in a seven-week span, signaling her move from not just the Mountain West stage but to the national stage.  And this doesn't include the weeks she didn't win the honor:  like when she tossed a perfect game against the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten; or when she defeated then-No. 25 Texas in Palm Springs; or guided the Bulldogs to wins over Stanford and Big West champion Cal State Northridge.

Compton was at her best in Mountain West play, becoming a shut-down type of pitcher against teams that otherwise were offensive powers.  She tossed 1-hitters on almost a routine basis and toyed with MW opponents even when she wasn't at her best.  In April, she threw 1-hit shutouts three times in a five-game stretch.  Over the past several weeks, Fresno State is 15-0 in her last 15 starts.

More than any other player in the conference, Compton became a difference-maker.  The bottom line:  the Bulldogs would not have won the Mountain West title without her.  For a myriad of reasons, Compton is our choice for Pitcher of the Year.

Our 2015 Freshman of the Year is Jenavee Peres of San Diego State.

After a somewhat slow start to the season, Peres came on strong in conference play and let everyone know why she is a member of the US Junior National Team.  The powerful freshman finished with a .366 overall batting average and 46 RBI that included eight home runs.  Her RBI total was second-best on San Diego State's team.

Peres had 11 doubles and a .595 slugging percentage, keeping the Aztecs in the race for their fourth straight Mountain West title until finally being eliminated in the final weekend.  She had 56 hits in 51 games, starting 48 of them, and added six stolen bases.