I wanted to give my thoughts on the Pac-12 softball awards that will be released sometime this upcoming week and my own bracket before Sunday’s Selection Show that will air on ESPN2 starting at 6 p.m. Arizona time.
Player of the Year
The Pac-12 Player of the Year comes down to three players; UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, Washington’s Baylee Klingler and Arizona State’s Maddi Hackbarth. Washington’s Gabbie Plain will probably get attention as well, but she is going her own award later.
Garcia is the two-time National Player of the Year. However, she’s probably not going to grab a third because of missed time and Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo having an incredible season at the plate. Nevertheless, she has a good shot at another conference accolade.
As a pitcher, Garcia is 14-0 this season and has a 0.60 ERA, which is the best in the nation for qualified pitchers. Although, her 95 innings this season isn’t as many as most aces.
Garcia had a lot of important home runs for UCLA in much needed moments. Her seven in conference play are tied for the most. She also bolsters a .362 season-long batting average and 30 RBIs.
Klingler’s season-long numbers and Pac-12 only stats are nearly identical. She finished the regular season with a .414/.508/.822 slash line.
In conference play, she was in the top-three for hits, home runs, RBI, doubles, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and runs scored.
Klingler was the most consistent bat in Washington’s lineup and she can play all over the infield, including catching behind the plate.
Throughout the season, Hackbarth led all Pac-12 players in home runs and RBIs. It finished that way as well. Nationally, she also ended the regular season in the top-10 in those categories.
The dip that might be held against Hackbarth for voting for this award, is that outside of home runs, her Pac-12 play numbers don’t standout as much as her overall season numbers.
Prediction: Garcia wins (I’d personally vote for Klingler)
Pitcher of the Year
The two names for this award are Garcia and Washington’s Gabbie Plain. Garcia’s numbers are listed above, but as impressive as they are, Plain should win this unanimously.
Softball’s days of one ace carrying a team to Oklahoma City might be ending, but Plain reminded everyone those days aren’t over yet.
She’s 29-2 with a 1.19 ERA across 200.1 innings. She had a complete game win against every single Pac-12 foe - all of them. Plain leads the nation in wins, shutouts (11), innings pitched, strikeouts (302), and is second in ERA.
Prediction: The choice is Plain and simple
Freshman of the Year
This is probably the tricky one of the bunch. In the mix is Arizona’s Janelle Meono, Stanford’s Alana Vawter and UCLA’s Maya Brady, all of whom are redshirt freshman, but they’ve been counted for the weekly awards.
Meono ended up the Pac-12 batting champion with a .442 batting average. That’s pretty impressive as a freshman that took over Arizona’s leadoff spot.
Her first round of conference play, she still hit .400 against Pac-12 foes. Meono was the most consistent bat in a powerful Arizona lineup. She also made quality plays in the outfield defensively.
Vawter might end up being the best pitcher in the conference one day. She had great outings against Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington amongst others.
Vawter closed the regular season at 21-9 with a 1.21 ERA. She finished fourth in the conference in ERA behind Plain, Garcia and UCLA’s Megan Faraimo, which is a pretty decent group to say the least.
Brady quietly has really good numbers in that UCLA lineup. In conference play, she had the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Brady was also in the three-way tie at at the top with seven home runs in Pac-12 play along with Garcia and Hackbarth. She also matched Meono’s .400 batting average.
Prediction: Meono and Vawter are named co-Freshmen of the Year (Personally, I’d choose Brady to go with Vawter, but winning the batting title as a freshman also can’t go unnoticed)
Coach of the Year
The two prime candidates share a common theme. Oregon’s Melyssa Lombardi and Arizona State’s Trisha Ford had to deal with big names transferring out following each program’s last appearance to the Women’s College World Series in 2018.
Lombardi has redesigned Oregon’s roster very quickly, having the Ducks ascend into the top-five rankings this season.
The Ducks have crashed a bit as the season started to close, but they are still in hosting contention and placed third in the conference. Not many coaches could do the overhaul that Lombardi did so quickly.
Ford’s biggest claim to the award is that she handles the pitching and still had the fourth-best record in the Pac-12 with two pitchers that had never thrown in the daunting conference before.
Allison Royalty and Lindsay Lopez’s numbers aren’t outstanding by any means, however, series wins over Arizona, Oregon and Washington is a testament to Ford and how she’s developed her players.
Prediction: Lombardi hoists the trophy
Defensive Player of the Year
I’m not going to waste my time trying to argue for anyone else. This is the Sis Bates Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. The honor isn’t her getting the trophy, it’s the trophy getting her name on it.
Here’s one of my favorite Bates plays:
Los Angeles Regional
- UCLA* (1)
- Fresno State*
- Long Beach State*
Ann Arbor Regional
- Michigan* (16)
- Miami (OH)*
- Oklahoma* (2)
- Mississippi State
- Texas State
- Oregon (15)
- George Washington*
- Portland State*
- Alabama* (3)
- South Alabama
- Alabama State*
- Clemson (14)
- James Madison*
- South Carolina
- UNC Greensboro*
- Florida (4)
- Morgan State*
- Arizona (13)
- South Dakota State*
- Boston U*
- Arkansas (5)
- Wichita State*
- Southern Illinois*
- Arizona State (12)
- Oklahoma State (6)
- Notre Dame
- Texas A&M
- Saint Francis*
- Tennessee (11)
- Virginia Tech
- Eastern Kentucky*
- Florida State (7)
- Missouri (10)
- Iowa State
- Northern Iowa
- Western Kentucky*
Baton Rouge Regional
- LSU (8)
- McNeese State*
- Washington (9)
- Ole Miss
Last Four In
Northern Iowa - 61
USF - 62
Northwestern - 63
Troy - 64