Kryn Masutani was a fairly safe pick for the top female at Cuesta College’s Athlete of the Year Banquet on Tuesday.
The sophomore softball standout obliterated Cougars’ records unlike any other.
Featuring three conference MVPs, three all-state honorees and three trail blazers in their own right among the candidates, the men’s award, however, had people guessing until the end, including the winner, freshman water polo standout Brady Moore.
“It was a really great field,” Moore said, “and I was nervous. I actually had no idea what to expect. It was a complete surprise to me. It’s a real honor to be the athlete of the year.”
Moore edged cross country runner Gordon Sturgess and ace baseball pitcher Andrew Nelson, both of whom were showered with individual praise for terrific sophomore seasons.
Masutani set seven single-season batting records and one career mark in little more than one season of play.
She competed in eight games during her freshman season before suffering a season-ending PCL tear in her left knee diving to second for a stolen base.
A Hawaii native, Masutani returned to the islands over the summer and rehabbed her knee before returning to San Luis Obispo to post some eyebrow-raising numbers.
She hit .542 and added 22 doubles, 13 home runs and 66 RBI, all single-season program records. Her 31 steals, 54 runs and 71 hits were also all-time single-season Cuesta bests.
Masutani began the season as the Cougars’ leadoff hitter, but midway through a 20-19 campaign, head coach Sheila McGuire moved her to the No. 3 spot to give her more RBI chances.
The move paid off, as Masutani made the all-state first team and was the WSC player of the year despite a fourth-place finish by the Cougars in the conference’s Gold Division.
Combined with the 10 RBI she had as a freshman, her 76 set a program career high.
“She definitely set herself apart from everybody else,” McGuire said. “She’s the hardest worker. Before practice, after practice, she definitely puts in the work.”
Said sports information director Pete Schuler: “She’s the most outstanding athlete we’ve had in softball probably ever.”
After narrowing her top two choices to Cal State Northridge and San Jose State, Masutani said she’ll be joining the Spartans for their first season transitioning to the Mountain West Conference.
She had a table full of family members who had flown in from Hawaii for the occasion, but Masutani said she wasn’t completely convinced she would get the top honor.
Basketball standout Alyssa Palma was another top contender.
Palma was a third-team all-state honoree who helped the Cougars to a second-place WSC finish while setting a scoring record
Palma’s 766 career points are a program high. The former Atascadero High standout ranks second in career scoring average (13.7 points per game), third in career assists per game (3.3) and third in career steals (164).
“There’s a lot of good athletes here at Cuesta,” Masutani said. “A lot of records were broken this year. I think it was a coin toss.”
That might have been true in the men’s race.
Sturgess finished eighth at the state championships last fall, was named Western State Conference runner of the year and was the first Cuesta all-state cross country honoree since Sergio Reyes in 1999.
Nelson was the WSC Pitcher of the Year and also earned all-state honors. Ranking second in program history with a career ERA of 2.93, Nelson helped the Cougars to an improbable conference title run that was capped by an 11-game winning streak.
Nelson, who signed with Kentucky, was 5-0 during the win streak, including two complete-game victories.
A freshman goalkeeper, Moore was the WSC Player of the Year and also made the all-state team. Leading Cuesta to a 28-10 record and conference title, Moore set a single-season program saves record with 442, obliterating the old mark by 72.
The difference-maker might have been Moore’s modest playoff success. The Santa Barbara native and former Dos Pueblos High standout got the Cougars to the second round of the Southern California regional playoffs while the baseball team was swept out of the postseason despite a complete-game effort where Nelson surrendered two earned runs.
Coming back for his sophomore season after grayshirting the 2011 season, Moore is almost certain to break Cuesta’s career record for saves. He needs only 138 to pass former teammate Thomas Ross, who had 579 as a two-year starter from 2010-11.
“I’ve been pretty blessed with goalies since I’ve been here,” said 10th-year head coach John Marsh, “and he’s by far probably going to be the best, and I’ve got four that have gone on to play Division I.”
Marsh said Moore is being recruited by UCLA, Pacific, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine, among others. All four of those named finished the season ranked in the top 13 in the NCAA last season.