With baseball fever fresh in everyone’s mind, it was still hard to forget about Chris Eversley.
The senior men’s basketball standout was named Cal Poly’s male athlete of the year, joining freshman softball pitcher Sierra Hyland on stage at the Night of the Mustang Awards on Wednesday night, just three days after the baseball team capped the most successful season on record.
“To be honest with you, I was surprised,” Eversley said Thursday. “I was pretty sure it was going to be either Mark Mathias from the baseball team or Chris Frias from the track team. “At first when they called my name, it didn’t really register. So I didn’t even stand up.”
Though the baseball team produced a plethora of memorable accomplishments this season, including the first ever NCAA Division I regional hosted in San Luis Obispo, Eversley also helped deliver a crowning achievement to the town.
Leading the Mustangs men’s basketball team to its first Big West Conference Tournament, Eversley was an integral part of getting Cal Poly to its first NCAA Tournament appearance, where they Mustangs won their opening-round game in an improbable stretch that made them momentary media darlings in March.
“You look at them both, two great teams,” Eversley said. “Baseball being No. 1 in the country, we made it to the first NCAA Tournament. At the end of the day, I felt like that was a huge accomplishment as well. It just did wonders for our school as whole and for the community.”
Eversley was a second-team all-Big West honoree, finishing sixth in the conference in rebounds (7.1 per game) and 11th in scoring with 13.5 points per game. He leaves Cal Poly 12th on the all-time career scoring list with 1,192 points and ninth in rebounds with 609.
Frias, a standout in both cross country and track and field, was also nominated, as were Mathias, football senior defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz, golf sophomore Camden Price, soccer senior forward Mackenzie Pridham, swimming and diving sophomore Sonny Fierro, tennis freshman Ben Donovan and wrestling sophomore 133-pounder Devon Lotito.
“I feel like it’s kind of like the final stamp on my career,” said Eversley, who came to Cal Poly as a transfer from Rice following his freshman season. “It’s not just being known as the top athlete of your team but the best athlete in your whole school. It’s very humbling for me personally.”
Hyland also got stiff competition from sophomore women’s soccer forward Elise Krieghoff, who led the nation in goals per match (1.105) and helped the Mustangs to a regular-season conference title.
Hyland was unaware coming into the event that an award for the school’s top female athlete was being handed out.
“I really didn’t know what was going on at first,” Hyland said. “I was sitting in the back. I couldn’t really hear much. They probably called my name about six times.”
Accepting the award was probably the only rough adjustment to college sports that Hyland had in her first year on campus.
A product of Visalia El Diamante High, Hyland helped elevate slumping Cal Poly to a second-place Big West finish, posting a 26-8 record with a 1.51 ERA and broke program records with 263 strikeouts and 13 shutouts. She was the Big West Pitcher of the Year, Freshman of the year and led the conference in ERA, wins, strikeouts, innings pitched (264) and opponents’ batting average (.178).
Hyland is the second consecutive freshman to win the award after distance runner Laura Hollander took it last year.
“It’s awesome to know that I got an award at such a young age,” Hyland said, “and that people actually noticed the hard work and the things that I did.”