Now that she’s learned to manage a troublesome elbow injury, Michelle Moses’ college softball career at Fresno State is on a familiar track.
Moses, the 2008 Tribune County Player of the Year, is putting up the kind of numbers she did in her four seasons as a Paso Robles High star.
After being brought up to the varsity as a freshman, Moses routinely led the Bearcats in home runs and ERA. Now healthy, she’s doing the same with the Bulldogs.
In her sophomore season with Fresno State (28-13, 7-2 Western Athletic Conference), Moses leads the team in home runs, runs scored, RBI, slugging percentage, ERA, winning percentage, opponents batting average and saves.
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“She means everything to our team,” said Bulldogs coach Margie Wright, an international hall of famer who won a national championship in 1998 and has coached with the Olympic team.
Power pitching and power hitting made Moses one of the most potent threats to come out of San Luis Obispo County. Only, a year-round throwing schedule through her junior season screamed overuse.
She quit her travel team after experiencing soreness her junior year, but in her final season with the Bearcats, Moses threw a career-high 1011⁄3 innings, striking out 204 batters.
Arriving in Fresno with an achy pitching arm, Moses was used almost exclusively as a position player last season, which gave her elbow plenty of time to rest.
She did attempt to pitch as a freshman but lasted only 10 innings and put up a 7.70 ERA before Wright decided to give Moses a year away from throwing underhand.
“It was a little bit of a disappointment,” Moses said. “It kind of sucked not being able to come here and throw. I was a pitcher mostly, but I had a great opportunity to help the team out on the field and really focus on hitting and my defense.”
Moses got the starting nod at first base. She was one of just five players and the only freshman to start all 58 games for Fresno State.
She batted only .223 but tied for the team lead with 37 RBI and had a team-high 10 home runs. Though it wasn’t the best batting average, it was a carryover from the power potential she showed in her senior season at Paso Robles.
That season, Moses batted .416 and slugged a county-high 11 home runs. It was the most any local coaches could recall being hit in a season, including San Luis Obispo’s Mike Lee, who’s spent more than 30 years coaching high school and college softball in the county.
Since she wasn’t pitching in Fresno, Moses spent all of her practice time that first year in college working on her batting.
“I was bringing her in as a hitter, too,” Wright said. “I just think it’s a little adjustment here or there, a year of experience and knowing what to expect once you got on the college level. She worked extra hard at it.”
So far this season, Moses is batting .325. With 12 more games left in the regular season, she has 12 home runs, and her 41 RBI are nearly double that of her closest teammate.
Her 22 home runs already rank eighth on Fresno State’s all-time career list and give her an outside shot at challenging for the program record.
But what’s truly made this a breakout season for Moses is her emergence as the team’s most effective pitcher.
Because of the team’s relative depth, Wright has been able to bring Moses along slowly. Morgan Melloh and Mackenzie Oakes have started most of the games, but Moses has come on to lead the rotation lately.
Undefeated at 6-0, Moses has a team-best 1.26 ERA. She’s struck out 86 batters in only 61 innings, and opponents are hitting only .171 against her.
Wright insists there is no set rotation and selects her starter based on matchups, but she’s finding Moses a more and more reliable option — one she knows can’t be oversused.
“I need time in between,” Moses said. “It’s not like I can go, go, go like I used to. I have to take rest so that my arm has time to recover.
“We’ve learned what I can do and what I can’t do. It’s taken a while to figure it out, but we’re getting there.”