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Tuesday, February 1, 2011 - 6:49pm
The New Mexico State softball team placed two players on the 2011 preseason all-conference team and were selected to place fourth in the league by the coaches in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), the league office announced late yesterday.
Senior first baseman Hoku Nohara and junior outfielder Tiare Jennings earned preseason All-WAC nods for the second straight season. In 2010, departed senior Angie Ortega joined the duo in the preseason selections. NM State was one of just three 2011 squads with multiple all-league selections, alongside Hawai'i and Fresno State.
Nohara smashed the NM State all-time record for home runs of 29 last season as a junior with a career total of 40, after blasting 16 round trippers in 2010. The single-season mark of 16 homers ranks second all-time behind fellow honoree Jennings' 17 homers during the 2009 campaign.
A three-year starter, Nohara earned second team WAC honors in 2010 after garnering first team honors in 2009 and was named to the 2010 Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I All-West Region Team.
The powerful slugger led the Aggies in home runs (16), RBI (62), total bases (118), doubles (14), walks (37), slugging percentage (.825), on-base percentage (.518), putouts (329) and batting average (.378) last year.
On the national stage, Nohara ranked among the country's best in nine categories including two top-10 showings: RBI per game (1.15 - No. 9); slugging percentage (.825 - No. 10); home runs (16 - No. 37); home runs per game (0.30 - No. 34); on-base percentage (.518 - No. 30); walks per game (0.69 - No. 41); sacrifice flies (3 - No. 57); doubles per game (0.26 - No. 97) and batting average (.378 - No. 102).
She set three NM State career records last season in home runs (40), RBI (136) and putouts (1,010) prior to her senior season. Nohara also tied an Aggie single-game record with seven RBI at New Mexico on Apr. 20.
Junior outfielder Tiare Jennings earned 2010 first team All-WAC honors after earning second team honors in 2009. The junior played in all but one game last season, logging 54 contests in the NM State outfield with a .963 fielding percentage.
At the plate, she finished the year batting .349 with nine home runs, 31 RBI and a .581 slugging percentage. Jennings was the toughest to strikeout with just 15 K's in 172 plate appearances. She also led the team in runs scored with 48.
Jennings' 0.89 run per game average ranked No. 51 in the country while she finished among the top 300 batters in six other categories nationally: toughest to strikeout 11.5 - No. 148); home runs (9 - No. 217); slugging percentage (.581 - No. 231); home runs per game (0.17 - No. 255); batting average (.349 - No. 265) and triples (2 - No. 290).
After just two seasons with the Aggies, Jennings already ranks fifth all-time on the Aggie career home run list with 26 behind Nohara (40), current teammate Ashley Maroda (33), Ortega (32) and previous record holder Christine Stephens (29). The power hitter was also dangerous on the base paths last season with success in 10 of 11 stolen base attempts.
"Hoku and Tiare have consistently performed as top players in the WAC so they are very deserving of this accolade," Rodolph said. "We expect big things from our 2011 team and I expect Hoku and Tiare to help lead the charge."
In the preseason coaches' poll, New Mexico State received a total of 28 points to rank fourth place in the 2011 predictions. The Aggies were also picked fourth prior to last season with a similar total of 29 points.
Last season the Aggies finished sixth overall in the WAC with a 27-28 overall record and 7-14 conference ledger. The Aggies continued their home run success as a team by belting 62 balls out of the park, second all-time only to the 68 sent over the wall in 2009. The team also posted the second-best RBI total in program history with 280 helpers only behind the 314 mark set in 2009. The Aggies' 321 runs scored in 2010 were just eight home plate touches shy of the all-time mark set the year before.
Western Athletic Conference softball coaches chose defending champion Hawai'i to repeat their finish from last year. The Rainbow Wahine took the top spot in the preseason poll with 48 points and six first-place votes. Fresno State came in second, picking up two first-place votes and 43 points, followed by Boise State in third place with 33 points.
The coaches also voted on 2011 preseason award winners. Hawai'i junior hurler Stephanie Ricketts earned preseason Pitcher of the Year honors, while Rainbow Wahine sophomore outfielder Kelly Majam earned preseason Player of the Year accolades.
The Aggies begin their 2011 campaign Friday, Feb. 11 at 4 p.m. MT, against the Northern Colorado Bears to kickoff the annual Hotel Encanto Invitational that runs through Sunday. The Aggies follow that game up with a battle against Colorado State in the second game Friday evening.
2011 WAC Preseason Poll
Rank Team (first-place votes) Points
1. Hawai'i (6) 48
2. Fresno State (2) 43
3. Boise State 33
4. New Mexico State 28
5. Louisiana Tech 27
6. Nevada 24
7. San Jose State 13
8. Utah State 8