Apr 022008
 
Authors: Nick Hubel

With the Rams’ conference softball season kicking off Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah, the team will be looking to end the school year on a positive note for the athletic department. Here’s how the six-team conference shakes out, team by team:

Brigham Young (20-12, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 1 (five first-place votes)

Last year’s conference champion nabbed the top spot in this year’s preseason polls, and for good reason. The Cougars return seven starters from last year’s 43-20, 16-4 MWC team and have cruised to 20 quick wins so far this season. Led by senior pitcher/first baseman Daniela Snow with a .396 batting average and nine home runs and senior pitcher Christina Trice with a 1.06 ERA, BYU is definitely the team to beat this season.

San Diego State (27-10, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 2 (1 first-place vote)

In spite of their second-place ranking in preseason polls, the Aztecs have rolled to the conference’s best record so far this season. They have eight returning starters augmenting an impressive lineup, including four former All-Mountain West players and one former All-American (2006’s Freshman of the Year Erin Floros). The Aztecs rely on their stellar pitching more than their bats, with senior Christina Ross posting an impressive 0.93 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 29 appearances this season.

Nevada Las Vegas (19-19-1, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 3

The conference’s third team in the preseason has struggled their way to a .500 record so far this season, the worst in the Mountain West. Key to the Lady Rebel’s success, the pitching staff has limped through the non-conference schedule with a 3.11 ERA. Offensively, UNLV is led by sophomore shortstop Jaci Hull with a .320 average and nine homeruns (driving her .691 slugging percentage). For all of her offensive production, Hull has been a liability on defense, posting 20 errors and a .865 fielding percentage in 39 games.

CSU (19-11, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 4 (tie)

The Rams have been the most surprising team so far this season. Picked to finish in a tie for fourth, they have stormed their way to the conference’s second best record and have picked up impressive wins against quality programs like Oregon (No. 20) and Northwestern (No. 12). Leaning heavily on their offensive production for wins, the Rams are led by seniors Lauren Cusick (.402 average, .892 slugging percentage, 11 homeruns) and Julia Kloppe (.441 average, .750 slugging percentage, 5 homeruns). The team returned six players with starting experience from last year’s team, including the 2007 Mountain West Freshman of the Year Ashley Munoz.

New Mexico (15-12, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 4 (tie)

The Lobos opened their season with their best start since 1999 at 13-7, but have struggled of late behind inconsistent defense and poor pitching. As a team, UNM has 49 errors in 27 games and their staff has posted a 4.12 ERA. Offensively they are led by senior first baseman Lindsey Elcess and redshirt freshman utility player Gabriella Parra, who are both hitting over .400 heading into the conference season. Elcess leads the team in slugging percentage and homeruns as well (.824 and nine, respectively).

Utah (17-16, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 6

Conference bottom-feeder Utah has a new coach this year in Amy Hogue, a former All-American for the Utes. Still, Hogue has her work cut out for her as the team lost the heart of their pitching staff to graduation last year. The team does return nine starters from last year’s squad (a team that went 25-26 overall and finished last in the MWC at 5-14). The Utes are led offensively by senior centerfielder Diana Phillips, who has posted a .388 average this season with eight doubles. Sophomore Kara Foster is not far behind her at .337 and leads the team in homeruns with 10.

With the Rams’ conference softball season kicking off Thursday in Salt Lake City, Utah, the team will be looking to end the school year on a positive note for the athletic department. Here’s how the six-team conference shakes out, team by team:

Brigham Young (20-12, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 1 (five first-place votes)

Last year’s conference champion nabbed the top spot in this year’s preseason polls, and for good reason. The Cougars return seven starters from last year’s 43-20, 16-4 MWC team and have cruised to 20 quick wins so far this season. Led by senior pitcher/first baseman Daniela Snow with a .396 batting average and nine home runs and senior pitcher Christina Trice with a 1.06 ERA, BYU is definitely the team to beat this season.

San Diego State (27-10, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 2 (1 first-place vote)

In spite of their second-place ranking in preseason polls, the Aztecs have rolled to the conference’s best record so far this season. They have eight returning starters augmenting an impressive lineup, including four former All-Mountain West players and one former All-American (2006’s Freshman of the Year Erin Floros). The Aztecs rely on their stellar pitching more than their bats, with senior Christina Ross posting an impressive 0.93 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 29 appearances this season.

Nevada Las Vegas (19-19-1, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 3

The conference’s third team in the preseason has struggled their way to a .500 record so far this season, the worst in the Mountain West. Key to the Lady Rebel’s success, the pitching staff has limped through the non-conference schedule with a 3.11 ERA. Offensively, UNLV is led by sophomore shortstop Jaci Hull with a .320 average and nine homeruns (driving her .691 slugging percentage). For all of her offensive production, Hull has been a liability on defense, posting 20 errors and a .865 fielding percentage in 39 games.

CSU (19-11, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 4 (tie)

The Rams have been the most surprising team so far this season. Picked to finish in a tie for fourth, they have stormed their way to the conference’s second best record and have picked up impressive wins against quality programs like Oregon (No. 20) and Northwestern (No. 12). Leaning heavily on their offensive production for wins, the Rams are led by seniors Lauren Cusick (.402 average, .892 slugging percentage, 11 homeruns) and Julia Kloppe (.441 average, .750 slugging percentage, 5 homeruns). The team returned six players with starting experience from last year’s team, including the 2007 Mountain West Freshman of the Year Ashley Munoz.

New Mexico (15-12, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 4 (tie)

The Lobos opened their season with their best start since 1999 at 13-7, but have struggled of late behind inconsistent defense and poor pitching. As a team, UNM has 49 errors in 27 games and their staff has posted a 4.12 ERA. Offensively they are led by senior first baseman Lindsey Elcess and redshirt freshman utility player Gabriella Parra, who are both hitting over .400 heading into the conference season. Elcess leads the team in slugging percentage and homeruns as well (.824 and nine, respectively).

Utah (17-16, 0-0 MWC)

Preseason Rank: 6

Conference bottom-feeder Utah has a new coach this year in Amy Hogue, a former All-American for the Utes. Still, Hogue has her work cut out for her as the team lost the heart of their pitching staff to graduation last year. The team does return nine starters from last year’s squad (a team that went 25-26 overall and finished last in the MWC at 5-14). The Utes are led offensively by senior centerfielder Diana Phillips, who has posted a .388 average this season with eight doubles. Sophomore Kara Foster is not far behind her at .337 and leads the team in homeruns with 10.

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