Courtesy of NMSU
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Six New Mexico State softball players along with head coach Kathy Rodolph were honored on Wednesday as the Western Athletic Conference announced its annual end of the year conference awards.
Aggie senior Staci Rodriguez, the Preseason Player of the Year, showed why she was picked before the season as the conference’s best player as she won her second WAC Player of the Year honor in three years.
Rodolph was named the WAC Coach of the Year while dual-threat Dallas McBride was named the WAC Freshman of the Year and an All-WAC first teamer. Joining Rodriguez and McBride on the All-WAC first team is senior Kelsey Dodd, junior Fiana Finau and sophomore Haley Nakamura. Redshirt junior pitcher Karysta Donisthorpe, meanwhile, is part of the All-WAC second team.
Rodriguez’s win now makes it three-straight WAC Player of the Year awards for NM State as her 2013 win was followed by Lacey Rother’s player of the year honor last season. Rodriguez also becomes only the fifth player in WAC softball history to win at least two player of the year honors. The last player to do so was Jessica Iwata of Hawai’i who won the award in 2010 and 2011.
In WAC play, Rodriguez led the conference in batting average (.523), on-base percentage (.603) and runs scored (19) while finishing second in hits (23) and fifth in slugging percentage (.795) and RBIs (16).
She also broke the NM State runs scored in a season record after crossing the plate 62 times so far this season and became only the second Aggie player to hit 50 home runs in a career, currently with 53. Rodriguez has been honored as an All-WAC member for three-consecutive years now as she was also part of the All-WAC second team last season.
“Staci is amazing and she is truly the unsung leader of this team,” Rodolph said. “ She’s a quiet player that likes to lead by example, but somebody that has definitely taken this program to a new level.”
Coach Rodolph also joins Rodriguez as a two-time winner as she was named the WAC Coach of the Year for the second time. She was also the coach of the year in 2011. Rodolph has led the Aggies to a 42-13 overall record that includes a 14-1 WAC record, the best conference record in program history.
The 42 wins is two shy of the 44 the 2011 Aggie team recorded, a program record. Rodolph and her team have a chance to break that win total during the upcoming WAC Tournament. She also marked her and her team’s 100th WAC win in the 10 years in the conference earlier this season. NM State also broke the team homers in a season record this season and are within reach of several other records.
Rodolph becomes the first Aggie softball coach to win multiple conference coach of the year honors. The only other two NM State softball coaches to win the coach of the year are 1992 Big West Coach of the Year Ron Landschoot and 1996 Big West Coach of the Year Rick Gamez.
“First and foremost I have to give equal credit to my associate head coach Cat Heifner,” Rodolph said. “She runs the entire offense on our team and obviously we’ve had a lot hitters of the week, so that’s our standout part. Second of all, I have some amazing young ladies that want to come out here and play for us.”
McBride, meanwhile, has made an immediate impact on the Aggie squad after coming to the team as a highly-touted high school player. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native is 15-5 in the circle with 100 strikeouts while also hitting .333 on the season with six home runs, seven doubles and 20 RBIs.
She finished tied for the WAC lead with among others Donisthorpe with six wins in conference games. McBride also finished WAC play third in ERA (2.24) and total runs allowed (12) and fourth in strikeouts (31).
McBride joins 2005 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Sarah O’Neil and 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year Valerie Swedberg as the Aggies’ only conference freshman of the year winners. Swedberg, by the way, went on to lead NM State to the tournament title and was named the 2011 WAC Tournament MVP.
“Dallas is a stud, when the lights go on she wants to compete like no other,” Rodolph said. “Pressure is something that fuels her and I think the sky is the limit for her career here at NM State.”
Finau picks up her second-consecutive All-WAC first team honor after leading the Aggies with 22 home runs and 65 RBIs this season. She is two home runs and eight RBIs shy of tying the NM State records for single-season homers and RBIs. Finau, who will be a senior next year, gives the Aggies a legitimate shot of making it four-straight player of the year honors next season.
Dodd adds to her incredible senior season by making her first-ever All-WAC team. The NM State first baseman reached double-digit home runs for the first time in her career as she currently sits at 11 home runs on the season. She also has career highs in batting average (.329), RBIs (44) and runs scored (23).
Shortstop Nakamura is hitting .370 on the season, but improved her hitting average to .500 during WAC games, good enough to tie her for the second-best average in conference play behind only Rodriguez. With her first all-conference nod, she joins her teammate and older sister, Brennalyn, as part of the All-WAC teams as Brennalyn was an All-WAC second team member in 2014.
Donisthorpe, meanwhile, is having a breakout season in the circle for the Aggies. She is 20-4 on the season, becoming only the fifth NM State pitcher to reach the 20-win mark in a season at least once, and like McBride finished WAC play with a 6-0 record. Her 20 wins leads the team, as does her 3.01 ERA, three saves, four shutouts and 132 strikeouts.
The Aggies have little time to celebrate as they must now prepare for the WAC Tournament, which starts on Thursday. NM State’s first game of the tournament is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start versus the winner of Seattle U and Utah Valley.