Meza, Hernandez, Sowder All Claim Top Honors As Eight Honored As All-Big West
Meza earned top honors for the second consecutive season.
Long Beach, Calif. - Cielo Meza was named Pitcher of the Year, Naomi Hernandez was named Freshman Player of the Year, and Kim Sowder shared Coach of the Year honors as eight LBSU student-athletes garnered All-Big West selection following the regular season.
Cielo Meza, who was named Freshman Pitcher of the Year one season ago, again claimed top honors as the star sophomore led the Big West in all major pitching categories with 22 wins, 217 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA. Her opposing batting average of .141 is nearly 40 points better than her nearest competitor.
Meza pitched a pair of no-hitters, including one against No. 21 Minnesota, and broke the Long Beach State single-game record with 17 strikeouts against Hawai’i. The sophomore becomes the ninth different player from Long Beach State to be named Pitcher of the Year.
Freshman Naomi Hernandez was named the Freshman Player of the Year, becoming the third 49er to receive the honor. Hernandez was the conference’s top hitter with a batting average of .388, and led the league in hits (71) and doubles (18) while scoring 47 runs and driving in 36 RBI with four home runs. Hernandez was previously selected to the watch list for the NFCA Freshman of the Year, and also tied Long Beach State’s single-game record with five hits in one game.
Both players were also named to the 15-player first team, as were sophomore Taylor Rowland and junior Nichole Fry. Rowland leads the Big West with 58 RBI this year, and Fry combined with Hernandez at the top of the order to provide a dangerous one-two punch, hitting .372 on the year and scoring 51 runs with 70 hits and 39 RBI.
Long Beach State also had four players named Honorable Mention. Two-way standout Jessica Flores was picked as a utility player, and was joined by catcher Lauren MacLeod, senior Grayce Majam, and pitcher Devyn Magnett. All three pitchers for the Beach this season were selected All-Big West after Long Beach State led the conference in ERA as a team this season.
Not to be left out was the leader of the Beach, head coach Kim Sowder, who shared Big West Coach of the Year honors, earning the award for the third time in her 12 seasons at the helm. Sowder led the Beach to their ninth 40-win season in program history as well as the program’s 24th NCAA postseason appearance, and seventh in her tenure. The Beach has been ranked through the majority of the season, moving as high as No. 17 in the coaches’ poll in 2018.
Long Beach State begins their postseason journey this Friday, May 18, when they face Ole Miss in the Tempe Regional at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
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