May 30, 2018
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Center fielder Alex McKenna has been selected as the 2018 Big West Conference Field Player of the Year while catcher Nick Meyer was honored as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Both are juniors, landed on the All-Big West first team — McKenna for the second time — and are expected to be selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft next week.
McKenna hit .339 this season and led the Mustangs with 81 hits, 51 runs scored and 15 doubles. Meyer, a second-team all-Big West pick each of the last two seasons and Freshman Field Player of the Year in 2016, was the club's top hitter with a .344 average and was No. 2 with his 74 hits, 43 runs scored and 14 doubles.
Landing on the All-Big West second team this spring are junior shortstop Kyle Marinconz and senior southpaw starting pitcher Trent Shelton. Three Mustangs earned honorable mention accolades — freshman first baseman Tate Samuelson, freshman right-handed relief pitcher Taylor Dollard and junior righty relief pitcher Austin Dondanville.
The addition of McKenna and Meyer raises Cal Poly's total of first-team All-Big West honorees to 50 since the Mustangs joined the conference in 1997,
McKenna (6-2, 200, Canyon Country, Calif./Alemany HS) produced 23 multiple-hit games, including his third, fourth and fifth four-hit games of his Mustang career. He had a 12-game hitting streak near the end of the season and also compiled 17- and 20-game reached base streaks.
In Big West games only, McKenna was No. 1 in the conference with a .406 average and led the league overall in runs scored (51), hits (81), plate appearances (276) and at-bats (239) and was second in total bases (121), third in triples (5) and fifth in doubles (15) and average (.339).
McKenna (pictured at right), who committed just one error in 155 fielding chances, is the fifth Mustang to earn Big West Field Player of the Year accolades, joining Kyle Blumenthal (2005), Grant Desme (2007), Mitch Haniger (2012) and Mark Mathias (2014).
Meyer (6-0, 195, Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic HS) has thrown out 49 runners trying to steal and has picked off 16 other base runners in his three-year Mustang career. He is No. 3 in the conference and 49th in the nation in toughest to strike out (once every 11.3 at-bats) and, in three Mustang seasons, has struck out just 49 times in 600 at-bats (once every 12.2 at-bats).
Meyer's .344 batting average is No. 3 in the Big West while his 43 runs scored is No. 2 and his 74 hits No. 4. Over his last 27 games this season, Meyer went 47-for-116 (.405) to lift his average 70 points. He earned Cal Poly's lone Big West Player of the Week accolade following an explosive week as he hit .529 (9-for-17) with five runs scored and three RBI while slugging .706 over the four games against Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara.
Meyer (pictured at left) is the third Mustang named Big West Defensive Player of the Year, joining catcher Chris Hoo (2014) and shortstop Peter Van Gansen (2015).
On the second unit, Marinconz (5-10, 180, San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian HS) hit .305 with 14 doubles and 31 RBI. The 2017 first-team All-Big West and 2016 honorable mention selection was among the conference leaders in walks and fielding assists. Shelton (6-4, 205, Lafayette, Calif./Campolindo HS/Oregon State) posted a 5-1 win-loss record in Big West games and 6-3 overall with a 3.33 ERA. He was sixth in the conference in wins and strikeouts (68) and eighth in ERA.
Among the honorable mentions, Samuelson (6-2, 195, San Diego, Calif./Serra HS) led the Mustangs and was sixth in the Big West with his 38 RBI and finished with a .280 average with 10 doubles and five home runs, sharing the team lead with McKenna. Dollard (6-2, 175, Encino, Calif./Crespi HS) compiled three saves, a 3-0 record and 2.43 ERA.
Dondanville (6-0, 190, Walnut Creek, Calif./De La Salle HS) earned four saves and a 2-1 win-loss record, two of the saves and one of the victories during the final series of the season at UC Riverside. He finished with a 3.05 ERA and, despite having one more year of athletic eligibility, will graduate in June with a degree in business administration with a concentration in human resources.
Over his last six appearances on the mound covering 15 innings this season, Dondanville allowed one unearned run and 14 hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
McKenna and Marinconz were the only Mustangs to start all 57 games this season. Marinconz started all Mustang games as a freshman and sophomore as well and owns a streak of 169 consecutive starts.
Both Marinconz and Meyer earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper in 2016.
Cal State Fullerton, Big West Conference champion with an 18-6 record, collected two top conference awards while UC Riverside and UC Davis claimed the freshman awards.
For the Titans, junior right-hander Colton Eastman was named Pitcher of the Year and seventh-year head coach Rick Vanderhook garnered the Big West Coach of the Year award.
Eastman compiled a 9-3 record and 2.26 ERA with 108 strikeouts over 103 2/3 innings for the Titans, who will compete in the Stanford Regional this weekend, facing Baylor in the opening round Friday. Eastman tossed the fifth no-hitter in school history, allowing just one walk with seven strikeouts in a 3-0 win over UC Santa Barbara on March 29.
Shortstop Tanner Murray of UC Davis was named Freshman Field Player of the Year while right-hander Cole Percival of UC Riverside claimed Freshman Pitcher of the Year honors.
Murray finished sixth in the Big West in hitting with a .333 average. He started in 50 of UC Davis' 53 contests, scoring 27 runs while driving in an additional 22. Defensively he tallied 68 putouts and turned 26 double plays. Percival, son of former Major League relief pitcher and fourth-year UC Riverside head coach Troy Percival, posted a 5-4 win-loss record and 3.19 ERA with 14 starts. He struck out 63 batters.
Vanderhook earned his fifth Big West Conference Coach of the Year honor after guiding Cal State Fullerton to its 22nd league title. After dropping its conference-opening series to UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton ran the table and won the final seven league series to capture the crown. In earning the Big West's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Cal State Fullerton qualified for postseason for the 40th time in program history.
Cal Poly earned its second straight and fifth second-place Big West finish since joining the conference in 1997, posting a 15-9 mark. The Mustangs won their final seven games and 11 of 14 to finish 30-27 overall, their ninth 30-win campaign under 16-year head coach Larry Lee and 13th winning season since 2000.
Cal State Fullerton, Hawai'i and UC Irvine each landed three players on the All-Big West first team, followed by Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara with two each. UC Riverside, UC Davis, Long Beach State and CSUN each landed one representative on the first unit.