BIG WEST RELEASE (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly center fielder Alex McKenna, shortstop Kyle Marinconz and right-handed starting pitcher Spencer Howard, all sophomores, have earned first-team All-Big West Conference honors.
McKenna (6-2, 195, Canyon Country, Calif./Alemany High School) was Cal Poly's top hitter with a .360 average, Marinconz (5-10, 185, San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian High School) was the Mustangs' RBI leader with 32 and Howard (6-3, 195, Templeton, Calif./Templeton High School) posted an 8-1 mark and 2.05 ERA as Cal Poly's Saturday starter.
Five other Mustangs landed on the All-Big West second team. They are sophomore catcher Nick Meyer, senior first baseman Michael Sanderson, freshman third baseman Bradlee Beesley, junior right-handed starting pitcher Erich Uelmen and sophomore relief pitcher Michael Clark.
No Mustang made the honorable mention list.
The addition of McKenna, Marinconz and Howard raises Cal Poly's total of first-team All-Big West honorees to 48 since the Mustangs joined the conference in 1997,
McKenna finished first in the Big West in at-bats (236) and plate appearances (264) and was second with his 85 hits, missing Cal Poly's all-time top 10 by one. He also contributed 11 doubles, five home runs and 31 RBI, stole 13 of 19 bases and did not commit an error in 145 fielding chances.
McKenna led the team with 30 multiple-hit games, including a four-hit contest against Cal State Fullerton, and 10 multiple-RBI games. Over his final 31 games this season, McKenna hit .396 (55-for-139) with 20 multiple-hit contests, elevating his batting average 51 points.
Marinconz finished with a .273 average after a late-season surge in which he went 28-for-83 (.337) over the final five weeks at the plate to bump his average up 39 points. He made just seven errors in 245 fielding chances at a difficult position and was a Big West honorable mention as a freshman a year ago.
McKenna and Marinconz were the only Mustangs to start all 56 games this season.
Howard finished second in the Big West with his 2.05 ERA and his eight wins also are No. 2. Howard struck out 97 batters, third in the conference, over 87 2/3 innings, averaging nearly 10 strikeouts per nine-inning game. Nationally, Howard was No. 23 in ERA, No. 71 in WHiP (1.08), No. 49 in victories, No. 58 in strikeouts and No. 91 in strikeouts per nine innings.
Howard won his last five starts and became the first Mustang starter since Kyle Anderson in 2012 to finish the year with just one loss.
On the second unit, Meyer (6-0, 195, Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic High School), 2016 Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year and a second-team All-Big West selection, caught 18 would-be base stealers (second in the Big West) and picked off four other runners (No. 1 in the Big West) as a sophomore. He finished with a .255 batting average, six steals and 31 RBI and was first in the Big West and 46th in the nation in toughest to strike out, fanning out once every 12.5 at-bats.
Sanderson (6-0, 185, Chico, Calif./Pleasant Valley High School/Feather River College), a second-team All-Big West selection for the second year in a row, was second on the team with his .323 average and produced 10 doubles, three home runs and 26 RBI. Second on the team with 18 multiple-hit games and seven multiple-RBI contests, Sanderson went on a 55-for-164 tear (.335) in the final 42 games to elevate his average 81 points.
After a .172 start in the first nine games of the season, Beesley (5-10, 165, San Leandro, Calif./San Leandro High School) closed out a .305 campaign by going .328 the rest of the way, including a pair of four-hit games. With 13 doubles, he shared the team lead with Marinconz.
Facing the best pitcher the opposition could field every Friday night, Uelmen (6-3, 195, Las Vegas, Nevada/Faith Lutheran High School) finished 4-8 with a 2.93 ERA, fifth-best in the Big West. His 100 strikeouts were No. 2 in the conference and No. 49 in the nation and Uelmen earned wins in his final two starts against UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.
Clark's 11 saves rank him third in the Big West, fourth all-time at Cal Poly, and he was 5-0 with a 2.59 ERA, one year removed from pitching in just two games and compiling an 81.00 ERA. Opponents hit just .197 against Clark (6-0, 170, Rohnert Park, Calif./Cardinal Newman High School) this season.
Both Marinconz and Meyer earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper a year ago.
Long Beach State, Big West Conference champion with a 20-4 record, collected three top conference awards and the other three awards were split among three other Big West schools.
For the Dirtbags, junior right-hander Darren McCaughan was named Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season, junior catcher David Banuelos was named Defensive Player of the Year and head coach Troy Buckley garnered the Big West Coach of the Year award.
Junior designated hitter Keston Hiura of UC Irvine earned Big West Field Player of the Year honors. Second baseman Sahid Valenzuela of Cal State Fullerton was named Freshman Field Player of the Year while Hawai'i closer Dylan Thomas claimed Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors.
Hiura concluded the regular season as the nation's top hitter (.442) and on-base percentage leader with a .567 mark. He finished 2017 with a league-high 24 doubles, seventh in the country, while his 88 hits lands him in the 11th slot.
McCaughan becomes the first player to earn back-to-back Big West Pitcher of the Year honors since UC Irvine's Daniel Bibona did so in both 2009 and 2010. During the regular season McCaughan (8-2) recorded a 2.66 earned run average in 108.1 innings pitched while striking out 94. The Downey, Calif., native pitched four complete games, two of which were shutouts.
Banuelos, the second straight Big West Defensive Player of the Year award winner from Long Beach State, committed just three errors for a .992 fielding percentage at catcher and hit .303 with seven homers.
Valenzuela led the Titans and ranks fourth in the Big West with a .344 batting average and is the lone freshman to make the 2017 All-Big West First Team. Thomas registered nine saves during his freshman campaign at Hawai'i to rank fifth in the league and posted a 2.01 ERA over 17 appearances.
Buckley is the first Long Beach State coach to earn Big West Conference Coach of the Year honors since Mike Weathers did so in 2008.
Cal Poly earned its fourth second-place Big West finish since joining the conference in 1997, posting a 16-8 mark. The Mustangs overcame 2-9 and 8-16 starts by winning 20 of their last 32 games to finish 28-28 overall.
Third-place Cal State Fullerton landed five players on the All-Big West first team, followed by Long Beach State with four and Cal Poly with three. UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside and UC Irvine each landed one representative on the first unit.