The 2014 Big West softball major awards were distributed evenly between the top four teams in the standings. Cal Poly’s Sierra Hyland garnered both Big West Pitcher of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year praise while Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors went to Long Beach State’s Shayna Kimbrough and Kim Sowder, respectively. The honor roll continued with Cal State Fullerton’s Missy Taukeiaho claiming Player of the Year accolades and UC Santa Barbara’s Kristen Clark earning Freshman Field Player of the Year recognition.
Cal Poly standout Hyland (Visalia, Calif./El Diamante HS) made history as the fourth representative to capture both the Big West Pitcher of the Year and Freshman Pitcher of the Year awards in the same season. She joined Long Beach State’s Brooke Turner (2008) and Erin Jones-Wesley (2011), and Justine Vela of UC Davis (2012) on the prestigious list. Hyland enjoyed a record-breaking inaugural campaign in which she broke school records for innings pitched (264.1), appearances (42), starts (34), shutouts (13) and strikeouts (263). She also finished second with 26 victories and sixth in ERA (1.51). Upon completion of the regular season, Hyland led all freshmen nationally in wins, while her strikeout total placed her ninth in the Big West record book. Hyland’s six Big West Pitcher of the Week awards tied her for third all-time, with two of those citations resulting from a no-hitter she tossed against Maryland on Feb. 22 and a March 29 perfect game versus Cal State Northridge. Tabbed a top-10 finalist for the inaugural NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year award, Hyland helped the Mustangs (33-19) to a 14-win improvement over the 2013 season.
Kimbrough (Oxnard, Calif./Frontier HS) added the Defensive Player of the Year award to her mantle following her selection as the Big West Player of the Year in 2013. The Long Beach State junior led all Big West shortstops with a .974 fielding percentage in 21 conference games, committing just two errors in 76 total chances. In 53 starts, Kimbrough logged just 11 errors in 192 chances for a .943 fielding percentage. She also was involved in nine double plays. At the plate, Kimbrough paced the conference’s top-ranked offense with a .394 average, fourth-best in the Big West, and also ranked in the top-10 in hits (69 – 3rd), total bases (85 – 5th) and on base percentage (.459 – 4th). Kimbrough ranked second in the Big West with 23 multi-hit games, and she is just nine hits shy of 200 for her career.
Sowder directed Long Beach State (38-17) to its third Big West championship – and the program’s eighth overall – in her eighth season at the helm. The 49ers won a tightly contested Big West race by one game, finishing 15-6 in conference play to outduel Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. Sowder’s high octane offense crushed the single-season school record for average with a league-leading .310 mark, eclipsing the 2013 squad’s .288 clip. LBSU scored seven more or runs in 12 of its 15 Big West victories. The 38 wins overall are tied for the second-most by a Sowder-coached 49er team. She led the 49ers to their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, and collected her 100th Big West win in March 30 conference opener against UC Davis. Earning her second Coach of the Year honor (2008), Sowder needs two wins to reach the 40-win plateau for the second time in her tenure.
Taukeiaho (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Etiwanda HS) is the seventh Titan to earn recognition as the Big West’s top offensive player, and the first since Ashley Van Boxmeer in 2006. The University of Washington transfer turned in one of the most productive seasons in Big West history, rewriting four categories in the conference record book. She notched a Big West record 62 runs scored, and blasted 19 home runs for the No. 2 spot on the single-season list. In addition, she finished No. 6 in RBI (51) and No. 9 in average (.429). Taukeiaho’s 21 multi-hit games and 12 multi-RBI games ignited a CSF offense that hit .300 overall for the first time since 2000. She hammered eight of her 19 homers and hit .508 during conference play. The third baseman recorded four or more RBI on five different occasions, including a career-high tying five twice. Taukeiaho earned three Big West Field Player of the Week citations with highlight reel performances in victories over No. 2 Oklahoma, Big West runner-up UC Santa Barbara and league champion Long Beach State. She led the Big West in home runs, runs scored, RBI, walks (40), on-base percentage (.547) and slugging percentage (.851).
For the second time in the last three seasons, UC Santa Barbara produced the Freshman Field Player of the Year as Clark followed teammate Shelby Wisdom (2012). Clark (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista HS) set school records for batting average (.437) and hits (90) from the leadoff spot. Those marks also placed her at No. 5 in average and No. 3 in hits in the Big West single-season annals. Her league-leading 28 multi-hit games included 13 contests with three or more hits, and the outfielder hit safely in 46 of the team’s 54 games. Clark’s offensive prowess helped the Gauchos tie the school’s Division I record for wins (34) and set the mark for overall winning percentage (.630). Ranking second on the conference leaderboard with 25 stolen bases and fifth with a .455 on-base percentage, Clark spearheaded UCSB’s late season push for the title by hitting .581 (18-for-31) over her last seven games. Clark also was one of 25 finalists named for the NFCA Freshman of the Year trophy.
Long Beach State led all Big West schools with five selections to the first-team. Long Beach State’s Jones-Wesley became just the seventh player in Big West history to be named first team four times. Kimbrough and Long Beach State teammate Cya Neal, along with UC Santa Barbara junior Shelby Wisdom, earned spots on the first-team for the second time in their careers. The Big West also named an All-Freshman Team for the first time. – See more at: http://www.bigwest.org//story.asp?story_id=17750#sthash.ieQY9XOb.dpuf