(Story by Griz Communications)
MISSOULA — Senior Maddy Stensby was named first-team All-Big Sky Conference on Tuesday and sophomore Cami Sellers, a transfer from Boston College, was voted the league’s Top Newcomer as well as second team.
Five players from Montana, which finished third in the Big Sky, were honored. Senior Colleen Driscoll, sophomore Jessica McAlister and freshman Kylie Becker received honorable mention accolades.
Stensby was one of 12 first-team selections, one of three who were unanimous choices, an all-star listing that is voted on by position.
Stensby earned the nod at pitcher/utility after winning six games and posting a 3.94 ERA while also batting .314.
Used almost exclusively as a pitcher her first three years, she has been a regular in the batting order this season, either hitting for herself at pitcher or as the team’s designated player. Or even pinch hitting.
“We knew when we recruited her that she had the ability to do both sides of the game,” said coach Melanie Meuchel, who didn’t always have Stensby’s bat available early in her career because of injuries.
“It’s been fun to watch her excel in both this year and be somebody that no matter the role we give her, whether she’s starting or pitching in relief, whether she’s in the game as a hitter or coming off the bench, you always know she is going to have some success.”
The pitching side has been a constant. She won four games as a freshman, two of which came in no-hitters. She won five games as a sophomore, five more as a junior and is 6-7 this spring.
She’s been at the plate in some key moments late in the season, as the Grizzlies have closed with 13 wins in their last 16 games.
She had a key pinch-hit, two-out, run-scoring single in the fifth inning against Northern Colorado that sparked Montana’s rally from a 4-0 deficit.
With her team facing another 4-0 deficit on Sunday at Southern Utah, Stensby had a game-tying hit, a two-run, two-out single that helped Montana rally for a 10-6 victory.
Stensby is batting .500 this season as a pinch hitter, .333 with runners in scoring position.
“She’s put in a lot of time and hard work to get to this point, so it’s been fun to watch her enjoy the game and do very well this year,” said Meuchel. “I feel like it’s really paying her back on both sides.
“She is someone her teammates rally around and have a lot of belief in. When she’s out there, we know we have a shot.”
Sellers ranks first in the Big Sky in hits (66), doubles (21) and total bases (113), and ranks in the top four in average (.375), runs scored (34), RBIs (38) and home runs (8). No one has more extra-base hits than her 30.
She batted a Big Sky-leading .484 during league games, which is when she hit seven of her eight home runs, but she was edged out of a first-team spot by Sacramento State’s Krystal Aubert, who is batting .347 and leads the league in home runs with 13.
It’s the nature of the position-based All-Big Sky teams. The league’s two best players could play the same position, and one of them is going to land on the second team.
“There are talented players in our conference. First base is a position that showed some depth this year,” said Meuchel.
Sellers was batting just .257 in early March, after a three-strikeout game against Fresno State. Nothing has been quite the same since, for her or for a team that’s gathered steam as spring has progressed.
She went on an 18-game hitting streak and will enter this week’s Big Sky tournament having reached base in 26 consecutive games. She has just seven strikeouts the last 30 games and just 18 all season in 176 at-bats.
That surge, both in power and volume of hits, has upped her batting average to a season-high .375. Not coincidentally, the Grizzlies have gone 19-9 since returning from Fresno’s tournament.
“Cami is someone who is pretty passionate about the game. When she is in the box, she definitely has a presence,” said Meuchel. “At any given time, she can do some damage.
“She is another player our team really feeds off of.”
Driscoll earned honorable mention honors for the second straight year. She leads Montana in both wins (nine) and ERA (3.75).
McAlister, who hit .256 as a freshman, has increased her batting average to .319 as a sophomore. She is also the team’s primary catcher. Montana’s staff ERA of 4.20 ranks second in the Big Sky.
Becker’s season at the plate has largely mirrored that of Montana’s overall performance. She was batting as low as .134 in mid-March before getting on a roll.
Her average is up more than 100 points since then, and Montana has become a different team with her batting leadoff, which she’s been doing the last eight games, all wins with the Grizzlies batting .410.
“She adds some feistiness to the top that sets a tone. It’s made us stronger offensively as a collective unit,” said Meuchel. “She’s in front of some people who can produce some RBIs.”
Defensively she’s been the source of web gems all season at third base. There isn’t a quicker player in the Big Sky at going from the ground or from her knees to delivering the ball to first base.
“She’s a competitor, probably one of the most competitive players we’ve ever had in our program,” said Meuchel. “She’s scrappy, she fights, and people can see that with some of the gold-glove plays she’s had.”
Takesha Saltern, of regular-season champion Weber State, was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player. She was one of four Wildcats on the 12-player first team, which was represented by players from all seven softball-playing schools.
Sacramento State’s Savanna Corr, who has 19 wins and 154 strikeouts, was voted Pitcher of the Year. Weber State’s Faith Hoe and Idaho State’s Autumn Pease shared Freshman of the Year honors.
First-team All-Big Sky Conference
Catcher – Emma Brockmann, Northern Colorado
First Base – Krystal Aubert, Sacramento State
Second Base – Kendall Kapitzke, Southern Utah
Shortstop – Darian Lindsey, Portland State
Third Base – Chloe Camarero, Weber State
Outfield – Takesha Saltern, Weber State
Outfield – Emma Bordenkecher, Idaho State
Outfield – Landi Hawker, Weber State
Pitcher – Savanna Corr, Sacramento State
Pitcher – Addie Jensen, Weber State
Pitcher/Utility – Maddy Stensby, Montana
Non-Pitcher/Utility – Nene Alas, Sacramento State
Second-team All-Big Sky Conference
Catcher – Rachel Menlove, Portland State
First Base – Cami Sellers, Montana
Second Base – Faith Hoe, Weber State
Shortstop – Aubrey Creekmore, Idaho State
Third Base – Dream Weaver, Southern Utah
Outfield – Suzy Brookshire, Sacramento State
Outfield – Makall Whetten, Southern Utah
Outfield – Tayler Gunesch, Portland State
Pitcher – Autumn Pease, Idaho State
Pitcher – Katie Schroeder, Portland State
Non-Pitcher/Utility – Kaela Morrow, Portland State
Catcher – Jessica McAlister, Montana
Catcher – Lauren Hoe, Weber State
First Base – Ashlyn Visser, Weber State
First Base – Mikelle Magalogo, Southern Utah
Second Base – Haley Harrison, Idaho State
Second Base – Katie Vretzos, Sacramento State
Shortstop – Shea Graves, Sacramento State
Shortstop – Sydney White, Weber State
Third Base – Kylie Becker, Montana
Third Base – Sydney Rasmussen, Sacramento State
Third Base – Sala Pedebone, Portland State
Outfield – Marissa Bruno, Portland State
Outfield – Brianna Bowers, Sacramento State
Pitcher – Colleen Driscoll, Montana
Individual Award Winners
Most Valuable Player – Takesha Saltern, Weber State
Pitcher of the Year – Savanna Corr, Sacramento State
Co-Freshman of the Year – Faith Hoe, Weber State; Autumn Pease, Idaho State
Newcomer of the Year – Cami Sellers, Montana