Softball Preview: ‘Dogs rebuild team after disappointing season in the Mountain West


Alesia Denby runs the bases during the 2022 season. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

By Dylan Gonzales, Reporter

After finishing its disappointing 2022 season with a 19-36 record, Fresno State’s softball team suffered its first losing season since 2001, when it finished 18-19. Despite the down season, the ‘Dogs finished fifth in the Mountain West (MW) with a conference record of 10-14. 

Coming into the 2023 season, Fresno State is projected to finish fifth in the MW tied with Nevada and San Jose State per the MW Preseason Coaches Poll

The ‘Dogs are coached by Stacy May-Johnson. May-Johnson is entering her second season as head coach. Prior to being named head coach in July of 2021, May-Johnson was the head coach at Utah Valley where she led the Wolverines to a 36-35 record over two seasons in 2020 and 2021. 

Before finishing the Covid-shortened 2020 season at 12-7, the Wolverines hadn’t had a winning season since 2013. Over her career, May-Johnson has also coached at Eastern Kentucky, Purdue, Louisville and Iowa, her alma mater. During her time as a Hawkeye, she was named to the All-Big Ten team three times. 

Two of the Bulldogs’ top hitters from 2022 will be returning. 

Shortstop Alesia Denby was named to the All-Mountain West first team following the 2022 season. Denby led the team in several categories, including hits (44), tied for first in doubles (11), home runs (nine), tied for first in stolen bases (8/8), RBI (32) and slugging percentage (.547). 

Left fielder Keahilele Mattson built off her spectacular 2021 campaign, where she won MW Player of the Year and was named to the All-MW first team as a freshman, with another solid season at the plate. 

Mattson showcased her hitting for both contact and power. She led the team with a .305 batting average and on-base percentage (.437) while also finishing second with a .532 slugging percentage. Mattson was also the only hitter on the team to accumulate more walks (29) than strikeouts (27). 

On the mound, none of the top four leaders in innings pitched will be returning in 2023. The only returning player who pitched at all last season is Alyssa Orr, a player who was used almost exclusively on the field. Orr only pitched one inning and struggled mightily, allowing six hits and three earned runs in her one inning of work. 

As a team, the Bulldogs had a very poor season pitching. The ‘Dogs pitchers posted a very high ERA of 6.02, compared with a solid 3.77 ERA posted by opposing teams facing the ‘Dogs.

On the current roster, the ‘Dogs have eight players listed as pitchers per Fresno State athletics. 

Hannah Ortega (LHP), Orr (OF/RHP), Alyssa Ramirez (RHP/3B), Bailey Doherty (RHP), Taylor Gilmore (RHP), Kendal LeGrand (RHP), Shelbi Denman (RHP) and Serayah Neiss (LHP). 

Ortega played for Bethune-Cookman in 2022 and posted a 13-11 record in 183.2 innings pitched.

Orr, who saw very limited action on the mound in 2022, has a history of pitching in high school. In 2019 with Clovis North, Orr posted a 13-1 record.

At Saugus High School, Ramirez was brilliant on the mound, pitching two no-hitters and posting a dazzling 1.78 ERA.

Doherty didn’t play in 2022, but posted a 1.74 ERA with Cal Poly in 2021. 

Gilmore, a transfer from Colorado State, had a 3.07 ERA over four seasons with the Rams.

In 43 games, LeGrand struck out 71 hitters and only walked five while posting a 2.71 ERA with Butler Community College. 

In four seasons at Stony Brook, Denman had a 2.62 ERA and a 25-15 record.

In high school, Neiss was a two time all-state pitcher. In 2022, Neiss was nothing short of brilliant. Neiss recorded 357 strikeouts in just 168.2 innings pitched, which is slightly more than two strikeouts per inning. Neiss also posted a miniscule 0.88 ERA.

Fresno State’s season will get underway on Feb. 10 at the UC Riverside Tournament where it will face Montana twice, Middle Tennessee twice and UC Riverside once.