Friday, December 11, 2015

Recapping the 2016 Mountain West signing classes

The early signing period for National Letters of Intent in the sport of college softball has come to an end, and Mountain West teams fared well.

Defending conference champion Fresno State led the way with a recruiting class deemed the nation's 18th best, according to the fastpitch web site Flo Softball.  In its list of the Top 100 high school recruits nationally, Flo Softball credited Trisha Ford with signing four of the country's 100 best players to become future Bulldogs.

Fresno State is the only team in the country outside of the five power conferences to be ranked among the Top 25 recruiting classes, according to the web site.  No other Mountain West team added a Top 100 national recruit, according to Flo Softball.  But that's not to say the remaining MW teams didn't come up with some talent.  They did.

Here's a closer look, team by team.

Fresno State - With the No. 18 overall recruiting class in the country, the Bulldogs were the big winners during this early signing period.  Headlining the class are a pair of pitchers, including Top 50 national recruit Giselle Juarez, a left-hander from Glendale, Ariz.  A 2015 Gatorade Arizona State High School Player of the Year finalist, Juarez has led her Mountain Ridge HS team to back-to-back state championship game appearances in the large-school division.  A dominant power pitcher known for her grit and composure, she was recruited by nearly every major school in the country and had originally orally committed to 8-time NCAA champion Arizona before switching to Fresno State.  Juarez has lowered her ERA each year in high school, finishing her junior year with a 1.08 ERA against top large-school competition and numerous other NCAA Division I recruits in the Phoenix area.  With an excellent strikeouts to walks ratio, Juarez struck out nearly two batters per inning last season, with 178 Ks in just 97 2/3 innings.  Also joining the Bulldog pitching staff: All-state right-hander Samantha Mejia (Ridgeview HS), the Bakersfield area Most Valuable Player and 2-time conference Pitcher of the Year.  Mejia went 22-2 with a 0.48 ERA and 188 strikeouts as a junior, and enters her senior season 52-11 for her high school career.  The Bulldogs added a unique dimension to their team, signing heavily-recruited twin sisters Madison and Kindra Hackbarth, two of three signees from Oakdale HS.  First-team all-state honoree Kindra Hackbarth is known for her speed (91 stolen bases) and outfield savvy reminiscent of Fresno State alum Brenna Moss.  Kindra is a 2-time conference Offensive Player of the Year winner, while her twin sister Madison, a catcher/infielder, is the conference's reigning Defensive Player of the Year.  The Hackbarth sisters were recruited by a slew of powerhouse programs, including the likes of Oklahoma, Washington, Michigan and Cal, all former national champions.  The Bulldogs signed their first-ever softball recruit from the state of Kansas in Miranda Rohleder, a shortstop at Goddard HS (Wichita).  Rohleder is known for making difficult defensive plays look routine, and hit over .500 a year ago in winning her second straight all-state, first team honors.  Ford beat out other former national champions (Arizona State) when Rohleder chose the Bulldogs over the Sun Devils and other programs from the Pac-12 and SEC.  Elizabeth Torosian, a catcher who's won a trifecta of honors in offensive, defensive and MVP categories at Visalia (Calif.) Mt. Whitney HS, also joins the Bulldogs, along with Haley Fuller (Oakdale).  Fuller, an infielder, won defensive all-conference honors a year ago and was also recruited by Purdue of the Big Ten.  Read more about Fresno State's 2016 recruits here.

San Diego State - The Aztecs and coach Kathy Van Wyk signed three players for 2016, with the standout being pitcher Marissa Moreno (Torrance HS).  Moreno led her high school squad to a Division 4 CIF Southern Section title in 2015, striking out 13 in a 13-inning marathon to capture the crown.  The right-hander finished her junior season with a 1.34 ERA, striking out an impressive 264 as the workhorse in the circle for Torrance.  Moreno, who also hit .448 with 36 RBI, won first team all-state underclass honors and was an overall second team all-state pick by Cal-Hi Sports.  Megan Smith (Valencia, Calif., West Ranch HS) hit .415 a year ago and has a perfect fielding percentage during her high school career as an outfielder.  And Shelby Thompson (Benicia, Calif., HS) was the Solano County Athletic Conference MVP as a junior, batting .597 with 38 RBI.  Read more about San Diego State's 2016 recruits here.

San Jose State - The Spartans and coach Peter Turner signed a whopping nine recruits, the most of any MW team and one of the largest recruiting classes in the country.  Included are a pair of international players from Australia, one of whom was signed to compete immediately this season.  Pitcher Chantelle Ladner, 19, will enroll at the conclusion of the Fall semester and apparently be eligible to compete immediately as a freshman after spending years on the international stage competing with the Australian National Team.  Read more about San Jose State's 2016 recruits here.

New Mexico - Coach Erica Beach added three new recruits in pitcher Jensen Main (Seaside, Calif.), a 3-time all-conference pick; Cameryn O'Grady, a first-team all-league infielder in 2015 out of Orange, Calif.; and local standout Lauren Wilmert, an all-state catcher from Albuquerque.  Read more about New Mexico's 2016 recruits here, here and here.

You can read more about the recruits and 2016 signing classes for other Mountain West teams here:  Utah State, Nevada, Boise State, and UNLV.  Colorado State has not released a list of signees thus far.