May 4, 2012
BERKELEY - After a storied career that is hopefully far from over, California softball utility Valerie Arioto earned herself one of the most coveted awards in the Pac-12 - the Tom Hansen Pac-12 Conference Medal - which is given to the top male and female senior student-athletes at each member institution.
"This award is really a reflection of all of the support and guidance I have received from my family, friends, coaches and staff at Berkeley," Arioto said. "It's an opportunity for me to say thank you to everyone!"
Arioto joined men's basketball senior guard Jorge Gutierrez to accept the award at the Academic Honors Luncheon on May 3. The determination is based on the exhibition of the greatest combination of performance and achievement in scholarship, athletics and leadership.
Arioto continues to lead her No. 1 California softball team, which has now been ranked the No. 1 team in the country for six consecutive weeks and has spent 11 weeks at the top spot in at least one of the polls. She paces the Golden Bears in batting (.410), slugging (1.029), on-base percentage (.636), runs scored (54), RBI (54), homers (20), total bases (108) and walks (66). In the Pac-12, she ranks first in slugging, on-base percentage and homers as well as walks, and she is tied for second in runs scored, fifth in RBI and seventh in hitting. No slouch in the pitching circle, Arioto is first in homers allowed (1), third in the Pac-12 in ERA (1.31), opposing batting average (.187). She recently broke her own single-season record for homers with 20 and is now in second place on the career list with 51.
Arioto completed all of her degree requirements a semester early, enjoying graduation exercises in December, majoring in American studies with an emphasis in social and cultural history of technology and entertainment.
On the second day of spring practice of her true senior year in 2010, Arioto broke her leg sliding into second base and sat out the entire season. Though she could not play, that did not stop her from participating. All the while rehabbing her leg, Arioto attended every practice and every road trip. Though at first the injury was devastating, she found ways to contribute - whether it was a piece of advice to a fellow pitcher, lending her voice to a cheer or even something as simple as a high five, Arioto was there for her teammates. Following the conclusion of one of the most epic seasons in Cal softball, Arioto headed straight for tryouts with the U.S. senior national team. Despite not having played softball in six months, she successfully made the team and played all summer with the USA.
Arioto's senior year's trajectory can be best measured by her first at-bat after redshirting the year before. In that very first at-bat - against then No. 9/13 Tennessee no less - she homered. That homer set the tone for what has already been a stellar year for the senior utility. For her stunning performances, Arioto is a top-25 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, the March 27 NFCA Player of the Week, the March 26 Pac-12 Player of the Week, the Feb. 21 Pac-12 Player of the Week and the Feb. 14 USA Softball Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week. In January, she was also renamed to the USA Senior National Team.
As a junior in 2010, Valerie was named a first-team All-American and placed on the All-Pac-10 first team. In 2010, she was fourth in the Pac-10 and 31st in the nation with 19 homers and second in the nation and first in the conference with 81 walks. As a sophomore in 2009, she was a second-team Eason All-American, third-team NFCA All-American and first-team All-Pac-10 and All-Pacific Region selection. She was the second-leading hitter on the team, posting a .325 average with a .425 on-base percentage. As a freshman in 2008, she made the All-Pac-10 second team and was an NFCA All-Pacific Region second-team selection.
As if being a student and an athlete wasn't enough, Arioto continually gives back to the community. All season, Arioto and her Golden Bears have been collecting unopened toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner and body wash to donate to a local women's shelter. She has played an integral role in the team's adopting of a little girl, Bebe, with pediatric cancer through the Friends of Jaclyn. The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation (FOJ) is a non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families. Val and her teammates have had Bebe out to games and recently threw her and her family a holiday party. Valerie has also volunteered her time at Special Olympics softball clinics, served lunches to the homeless of San Francisco, sponsored local families every Christmas and participated in multiple 5Ks in honor of former Cal student-athlete Jill Costello, who passed away from lung cancer at the age of 22.