FRESNO, Calif. - At the 2011Western Athletic Conference (WAC) softball awards banquet hosted by Fresno State, New Mexico State head coach Kathy Rodolph received WAC Coach of the Year honors, freshman Valerie Swedberg won recognition as the WAC Freshman of the Year and six other Aggies earned All-WAC accolades, the league announced Wednesday morning.
Rodolph's recognition by her peers as WAC Coach of the Year is well-deserved. The Aggie skipper turned around a team that finished sixth in the league last year into a league championship squad this season. No NM State team had ever finished above third in the WAC prior to 2011. Rodolph led the Aggies to their first title of any kind last weekend with a regular season championship while earning the top seed in this week's conference tournament.
Along the way, Rodolph earned a pair of coaching milestones. She posted her 200th win at NM State as the Aggies defeated North Dakota 14-4 on Feb. 26 at the UTEP Invitational. A few weeks later, Rodolph posted her 400th career win as the Aggies defeated rival UTEP 1-0 on March 9. Rodolph's Coach of the Year Award is the first for any Aggie field general since 1996.
As part of the Aggies' milestone season, Rodolph guided the Crimson and White to match a program-best victory total of 40, set in 1996. It marked the sixth season of 30 wins or more at NM State, three of which occurred under Rodolph. The Aggies' 17 conference victories this season is also a program record. NM State won 21 of its final 25 games down the stretch to end the regular season that included a program-best 10 game win streak. Aggie players set numerous career; single-season and single-game records this season.
The Aggie head coach also claimed success off the field as the Aggies ranked No. 40 nationally by National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) with a team GPA of 3.305. Meanwhile, the softball team led all sports squads at NM State in community service involvement for the third year in a row.
NM State freshman Valerie Swedberg's WAC Freshman of the Year Award is just the second claimed by an Aggie in school history. In 2005, Sarah O'Neill took home the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Award while playing for Rodolph. That same year Aggie pitcher Sarah Seagraves won the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year honors.
Swedberg comes into the tourney after winning WAC Hitter of the Week Honors for her performance against Boise State when she hit .700 at the plate. Swedberg hit her ninth home run of 2011 and two doubles while batting in six runs versus the Broncos. She notched at least a pair of hits in each game against BSU.
This season the Albuquerque, N.M. native is hitting .353 on the year overall that rates seventh in the conference and ranks third in WAC games with a .417 clip at the plate. She is tied for second in the WAC with 13 doubles this season. Swedberg's slugging percentage of .684 ranks fifth in the WAC and her 43 RBI rate fourth in the league.
Swedberg's All-WAC First Team honor was one of six for the Aggies this season. She was the only freshman named to the 13-player conference first team. The seven Aggie All-WAC honors is a team record in a season. All four of the Aggies' four-year starters earned All-WAC recognition with three first team selections and a second team honor.
Senior Hoku Nohara earned her third All-WAC selection this year a first team member. Last season she received second team honors after being recognized on the first team as a sophomore. Nohara is the Aggie all-time home run leader and currently leads the nation in home runs (21) and home runs per game (.42) as of the last NCAA stat release May 8. Just as impressive, Nohara is second in the country for walks (1.18), slugging percentage (1.016) and on-base percentage (.621). Her career home run total of 61 is one shy of the all-time WAC home run mark of 62. Nohara leads the team with a .437 average.
Junior Tiare Jennings notched her third straight All-WAC selection as an Aggie. Last season, she was also a first team member after taking home second team accolades as a freshman in 2009. Jennings currently leads the WAC with 213 plate appearances this year. She ranks in the top four among eight other league statistical categories including home runs (15 - T-No. 2), RBI (53 - No. 2), on-base percentage (.516 - No. 3), walks (48 - No. 2), total bases (112 - No. 2), runs scored (55 - No. 2), slugging percentage (.709 - No. 3), batting average (.367 - No. 4) and hits (58 - No. 4). In each of those categories she stands second or third on the team this season.
Senior Kandis Jones registered her second All-WAC selection as a first team selection after earning second team honors a season ago. She owns the NM State single-season record with 78 hits this year. That count leads the WAC at the plate. Jones also heads the WAC with 25 multi-hit games in 2011. Earlier this season, Jones broke a pair of Aggie career records in hits and runs scored. Jones trails only Nohara at the plate this season while hitting .408 at the dish.
Senior Kylie Randall also received her second career All-WAC honor after nabbing a second team accolade last season. She currently leads the WAC with 34 stolen bases this season to rank No. 18 nationally. With 54 runs scored, she is third in the conference while her 68 hits rates second in the league. The Aggies' all-time bag robber is 34-of-36 on the season. Randall also leads the WAC with four triples this year. She ranks fifth in the league with a .366 batting average.
Rounding out the Aggies' 2011 All-WAC first team selections is sophomore Teresa Conrad who earned the first postseason selection of her career. She currently boasts eight home runs to rank fourth on the squad. The infielder also ranks fourth in the WAC with 42 RBI while her 39 runs scored ranks fifth in the conference. This season she has almost doubled her batting average from .183 in 2010 to .338 in 2011. She has also more than tripled her home run numbers from two as a freshman to eight this season.
Senior Ashley Maroda earned her first All-WAC honor as a member of the second team this season. Maroda received recognition by the league as a freshman at the 2008 WAC Tournament as a member of the All-Tournament squad. Maroda ranks the top five in 10 different Aggie career records. She is currently tied with Jennings for second on the Aggie all-time home run list at 40. As a result, Maroda ranks second all-time at NM State for career RBI and is also one from the top in total career bases as an Aggie. The third baseman also ranks second all-time at NM State in career assists and leads the WAC this season with 103 helpers. This year Maroda is hitting .337 with 57 hits, 35 RBI to go along with a .556 slugging percentage.
NM State (40-15, 17-4 WAC) earned a first-round bye as the top seed in the tourney after sweeping second-seeded Boise State for its first outright WAC title in Las Cruces last weekend. The Aggies will not play until Thursday at 12:30 p.m. MT in the double elimination tournament when they face the winner of the first-round matchup between the fourth-seeded Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine and the fifth-seeded Utah State Aggies.
Each Aggie contest of the tournament will be broadcast live by Kyle Doperalski of the Aggie Sports Radio Network on KSNM 570 AM in Las Cruces and on NMStateSports.com.
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