UH's Wright named WAC Pitcher of Year
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
FRESNO, Calif. — Junior Steven Wright's mound mastery was rewarded last night when he was named Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, Hawai'i's first since the league separated the pitcher from player awards in 2000.
It was the first major individual award by a UH player since Kenny Harrison was the WAC Western Division Player of the Year in 1993. Pitchers Scott Karl and Billy Blanchette won Player of the Year honors in 1992 and 1993, respectively.
Hawai'i's Mike Trapasso earned his second Coach of the Year honor in three years.
Fresno State shortstop Christian Vitters was named the Player of the Year, and Louisiana Tech two-way player Jericho Jones was picked as the Freshman of the Year. The conference's coaches made the selections.
Wright, who was 10-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 110 strikeouts and 19 walks, will get the start today when UH opens the WAC Tournament against Louisiana Tech. The game is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Hawai'i time, and will be broadcast on 1420 AM.
Joining Wright on the first team for UH were first baseman Luis Avila, outfielder Robbie Wilder and relief pitcher Tyler Davis.
UH's second-team selections were second baseman Jon Hee, shortstop Eli Christensen, outfielder Matt Inouye and starting pitcher Justin Costi.
Wright downplayed his award, saying his success was a reflection of the team's success. The Rainbows achieved the 40-win mark despite having three games canceled by inclement weather.
"I'd rather have the WAC championship than the award," Wright said. "It shows how good our team is with the defense we have."
Wright was a 26th-round pick out of Valley View High in Southern California, but chose to attend UH. The payoff might come June 6, the first day of the pro draft.
"I wanted to sign out of high school," Wright said. "But it definitely would not have been the best decision, if I made that one. When I came here, I had a chance to get stronger, more mature — on and off the field — be more of an all-around player and understand the game more. Coach (Trapasso) helped me do that."
Wright's parents — Roy and Nancy Wright — as well as his grandfather, Robert Robb, were on hand when the announcement was made at a pre-tournament dinner for the teams.
Nancy Wright had mixed feelings about her son going to school an ocean away. "I was scared to let him go," she said. "Being my baby, the youngest in the family. But I'm glad he went to school. I'm happy about it."
Roy Wright noted that his son had been a teammate of Vitters on a number of traveling club teams in California when they were growing up.
Wilder, a senior, enjoyed an injury-free season for the first time in his three seasons with the Rainbows. He batted .343 with an on-base percentage of .494, fourth-best in the WAC.
Avila, a senior, batted .335, leading the team with seven home runs and 51 RBIs. Both also provided the good defense Wright spoke about.
Davis, a junior, solidified UH's bullpen with a 2.32 ERA and three saves. He started having strong outings when Rich Olsen's season ended early with elbow problems.
Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at email@example.com.