Matalasi Faapito, a former Great Oak softball standout, who was playing at New Mexico State this past year, was named WAC Freshman of the Year. Valley News/New Mexico State courtesy photo.

The Western Athletic Conference recently announced its 2021 All-WAC teams and former Great Oak standout, Matalasi Faapito, who was playing at New Mexico State, was named WAC Freshman of the Year.

Faapito, a pitcher from Temecula, earned the WAC Freshman of the Year honors after batting .379 with seven multi-hit games, four doubles, six home runs and 11 RBIs over 18 WAC games. She ranked third in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage (.759), sixth in hits (22) and seventh in batting average (.456). In addition to her performance at the plate, Faapito also dominated in the circle as she went undefeated to earn a league-best nine wins.

Matalasi Faapito signed on with New Mexico State after graduating high school in 2019. As a freshman in Las Cruces, she put together an outstanding 2021 season, but she admitted that it has always been a dream to play in the SEC. Despite the momentous year Faapito had, the red-shirt freshman made the difficult decision to enter the NCAA transfer portal.

“The first day that I officially got in the portal, colleges were contacting me,” she said. “Coach (Samantha) Ricketts was the first one to call me. It was all so intense and overwhelming. With the help of my family, I was able to stay calm through the process better.”

As great as the 2021 season went for Faapito personally, she feels that there are some things that she can improve upon that will make her an even better player at Mississippi State.

“I feel really good about the season, but obviously I can go up from what I did last year,” Faapito said. “I know that I can always get better. With hitting and pitching, I want to strive to get more batters out, hit more home runs and get more RBI. I am just going to continue to work for my team, my new team.”

Mississippi State ended the season on a real tear. A difficult season turned around and the Bulldogs wound up in the NCAA tournament. Faapito believes that she can come in and help the team build on those late season successes.

“When I first touched down in Mississippi, it felt like a home away from home,” Faapito said. “Even though it is a long way from California, it just felt like home. The coaches there accepted me and made me feel like I am their daughter. I felt a real connection with the team and all the coaches. Knowing that my cousin Chloe (Malau’ulu) is playing there and that I am going to be able to play with her just gave me the best home away from home feeling. I am going to work hard to represent my family, Coach Ricketts, and our team. It’s been awesome to go through this process, talk to schools and then find the perfect fit at Mississippi State.”

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.