Utah State head softball coach Steve Johnson has announced the addition of seven players to the 2018-19 roster. Kenzie Bolin, Gabriella Jimenez, Chloe Nightingale, Lexi Orozco, Hannah Sisul, Emily Tidd and Kapri Toone all signed with the Aggies this week.
Utah State's signing class is ranked 36th nationally by FloSoftball, including players who are ranked in the top 200 individually. USU is the second-highest ranked non-Power Five team and is one of two Mountain West teams to rank in the top 50, as UNLV's class is tied for 47th.
The signing class includes five players from California, one from Oregon and one Utah native.
"This is a very big class for us both in terms of talent and in the growth of our program. Top to bottom, this is the most talented class we have signed here at Utah State with multiple players ranked in the top 200. To have this class ranked 36th in the country says a lot about where this program is going," Johnson said. "Several of these signees are Power Five-level players and had interest and offers from some of the top programs in the country. Several of them committed early during their freshman and sophomore years, and really had an impact on our recruiting for the rest of this class, as well as classes in the future."
Bolin is a middle infielder from San Marcos, California, where she plays at San Marcos High School. Prior to her senior season, Bolin has a career batting average of .374, along with a .475 on-base percentage. She has helped her team to three league championships and is a two-time all-league honoree. Bolin has played the last nine seasons of club softball with the Athletics in Temecula, California, along with fellow signees Orozco and Tidd. Bolin is also a two-year letterwinner in volleyball.
"Kenzie is a versatile infielder who can play any of the four spots. She is very athletic with great hands and a strong arm. Offensively she has really developed into a strong hitter who can hit to all the fields and hit with power," Johnson said. "She had a lot of looks from bigger schools, and we feel that she is one of the top infielders in her class. Starting out she will compete for a spot up the middle but can play first or third if necessary."
Jimenez is a catcher from Sacramento, California, where she plays at C.K. McClatchy High School. In two years of high school softball, she is hitting .508 with 66 hits, 68 runs and 69 RBIs. Jimenez is a three-time all-Metro League honoree and helped her team to three-straight Metro League championships. At the club level, Jimenez currently plays for Batbusters Gomes.
"Gabriella is a very athletic catcher and that’s what caught my eye the first time I saw her. Offensively, she is another one in this class who has really grown into her body and become a strong hitter. She has power potential but does a great job going gap-to-gap," Johnson said. "Behind the plate, she sits really low and does a great job receiving pitches and helping get the borderline strikes for her pitchers. Her greatest asset is her arm. She’s already below a 1.8 pop time and will be a great threat to throw runners out."
Nightingale joins the Aggies from Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, California. The right-handed pitcher enters her senior season with a 2.48 ERA and 212 strikeouts, along with a .407 batting average. She is a two-time first-team all-league honoree and was named the league Pitcher of the Year as a junior. Nightingale has played club softball with both the Corona Angels and the OC Batbusters.
"Chloe impressed us during the recruiting process with her maturity and her vision for what she wanted to do with a softball program. She was a power pitcher when we started recruiting her with a good curve, screw and rise," Johnson said. "As she’s grown, she has had some tweaks to that, but now she has a roadmap back to being that power pitcher once again. We’re excited to see how she continues to grow and develop as she gets on campus with that same vision and maturity to help lead us to conference championships."
A high school and club teammate of Bolin, Orozco is also set to begin her senior year at San Marcos High School. The shortstop is hitting .378 on her career and has a .779 slugging percentage with 26 home runs. Orozco has earned all-CIF honors twice and all-league honors three times. She also played club softball with the Athletics in Temecula.
"Lexi is one of the best shortstops in the 2018 class and has been a big part of our recruiting success. Taller than most shortstops, she has deceptive quickness, soft hands and a cannon for an arm," Johnson said. "At the plate, she’s definitely a power hitter who has set several records for her very talented high school team. She can play any of the four infield positions but will start competing at shortstop."
A native of Oregon City, Oregon, Sisul is an outfielder at La Salle Catholic College Prep. She has earned all-league honors each year of her career and is a two-time all-state honoree. Additionally, Sisul was named the Northwest Oregon Conference Player of the Year last season. Sisul plays club softball for the Oregon Titans.
"Hannah is set to be another in the long line of speedy outfielders here at Utah State. She is extremely athletic with top-end speed," Johnson said. "Defensively, her speed and solid fundamentals help her get to balls many can’t. At the plate, her speed gives her multiple ways to get on, and then once on, she’ll be expected to continue the tradition of stealing bases."
Tidd is an outfielder from Temecula, California, where she plays at Temecula Valley High School. In her two seasons, Tidd has hit better than .350 each year, while tallying 66 hits and 47 RBIs. She is a two-time all-league honoree. Tidd also plays club softball with the Athletics in Temecula.
"As a right-handed hitter, Emily is not your conventional speedy, slapping outfielder. However, her power and ability to stay behind the ball are the keys to her offensive success. Defensively, she is very fundamentally sound and plays outfield the way you want an outfielder to play," Johnson said. "She reminds me a lot of sophomore all-conference outfielder Riley Plogger, in that while not the fastest outfielder, she always seems to get the job done."
Coming to Cache Valley from just over the mountain, Toone joins the Aggies from Bear River High School in Tremonton, Utah. The pitcher has seen success on the mound and at the plate, as she has an overall record of 29-7 and a 1.60 ERA, while hitting better than .450 each year. Toone is a three-time all-state honoree and was named the 3A MVP as a sophomore and helped her team to a state title and two second-place finishes. Toone currently plays club softball for Mountain West Fast Pitch and spent six seasons with the Salt Lake Pegasus. She also plays basketball at Bear River High School.
"Kapri is the best pitcher in the state of Utah for her class, and we are really excited to get her. It’s always our goal to go after the best players in the state and we got that with Kapri," Johnson said. "She’s been coming to our camps and clinics for several years now, so it’s been fun to watch her growth as a player first-hand. She is a true power pitcher who gets a lot of strikeouts. Her work ethic is tremendous, and along with her championship-level play, she has the chance to break into the rotation right away and be a big contributor for us."
The group of signees will play their senior seasons this spring and graduate in May. They will join the Aggies in the fall of 2018, playing in the 2019 season.
"We have addressed all of our needs with this class signing two pitchers, one catcher, two infielders and two outfielders. In addition to their great talent, many of the players in this class have competed for and won state titles at the high school level and national titles at the travel ball level," Johnson said. "That championship mindset will be critical as we continue to build this program into a national power. The expectations for this class will be very high coming in, and we’re excited to be moving one step closer to getting them on campus."
Utah State opens the 2018 season on Friday, Feb. 9, at the Titan Classic hosted by Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies return six starters and nine letterwinners from last year's roster while welcoming eight freshmen to the field. Last season, Utah State finished the year with a 33-18 record, including a 14-9 Mountain West ledger.
Megan McCuistion is an Assistant Media Relations Coordinator at Utah State.