The Oklahoma softball program tied a school record by having all eight of its nominees named to the 2016 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-Central Region Team, including five first-team honorees, the NFCA announced Thursday.
Senior Erin Miller, sophomores Kelsey Arnold and Paige Parker and freshmen Caleigh Clifton and Shay Knighten were all selected for the All-Region First Team. Sophomore Lea Wodach and freshman Sydney Romero were placed on the All-Region Second Team, while freshman Fale Aviu was named to the All-Region Third Team.
It marks the third straight season that OU has had eight selections. The only other schools to have eight All-Region choices this year were Michigan and Oregon. Oklahoma’s five first-team honorees tied for third in the country, trailing Michigan and UCLA, who each had six each. The five first-team selections also tied a school record for Oklahoma, matching the mark set by the 2005, 2007 and 2015 squads.
The 2016 co-Big 12 Player of the Year, Miller was named to the All-Region First Team for the second straight season. She leads the Sooners in batting average (.401), runs (46), hits (71), doubles (20), triples (3) and slugging percentage (.701). She ranks second in the Big 12 in hits, triples, doubles per game (0.37) and total bases (124).
For the second straight season Parker has coupled being the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year with being named to the All-Region First Team. Holding a 28-3 record this season, Parker has a 1.45 earned run average with 211 strikeouts to just 46 walks in just 183.1 innings pitched, while opponents are batting just .178 off of her. She ranks second nationally in shutouts (12) and is fourth in wins. Within the Big 12, Parker leads all pitchers in ERA, wins, shutouts, opponent average, strikeouts, complete games (22) and hits per seven innings (4.39).
Like Parker, Arnold was named to the first team for the second straight season. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Arnold captained an OU infield that leads the nation in fielding percentage at .984, a figure that would set school and conference records and rank fifth in NCAA history. Starting every game this year at shortstop, she was perfect on all 56 chances during Big 12 season and committed just three errors on 186 chances during the season. Additionally, Arnold hit .388 with a team-high 14 stolen bases.
The Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Knighten has been OU’s biggest power threat this year, leading the team with 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in. She posted a .382 batting average during the regular season, along with a .674 slugging percentage and .438 on-base rate. She’s started the last 24 games at first base, but showcased her versatility by also starting games at second base, designated player, right field and left field.
For the second straight season, OU had a pair of freshmen make the first team as Caleigh Clifton joined Knighten. Clifton has reached base in 28 straight games entering the postseason. She leads the Big 12 and is seventh nationally with a .581 on-base percentage, a mark that would rank fifth in OU single-season history. The team’s starting second baseman, Clifton leads OU in walks (33) and hit by pitch (14), is tied for the team lead in triples (3), and ranks second in average (.390), runs (42), and stolen bases (12).
Wodach and Romero each earned All-Region honors for the first time in their respective careers.
The team’s starting catcher, Wodach has hit .331 this year with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in. She’s slugged .554 and gotten on-base at a .413 clip while scoring 31 runs with 10 doubles, a triple and three stolen bases. Behind the plate, Wodach has thrown out seven of 12 stolen base attempts against her this year.
Romero has played in 53 of 54 games this year with 52 starts at third base. She’s been one of the toughest players in the nation to strike out, having done so just four times in 176 at-bats. That’s the ninth-best strikeout rate in the country, and it would be the best at OU since at least the 1990 season. She’s hit .352 this year with six home runs, 13 doubles, three triples, five stolen bases, 30 RBI and 40 runs scored.
With Clifton and Knighten on the first team, Romero on the second team and Aviu on the third team, OU has four freshman All-Region honorees for the first time in program history.
Aviu, who has played in 50 games with 23 starts in right field and 21 as the designated player, was an All-Big 12 Second Team honoree and chosen for the All-Big 12 Freshman Team. She’s posted a .355 batting average to go along with a .580 slugging percentage and .406 OBP. She has 35 runs scored, seven doubles, eight home runs and 44 runs batted in.
The awards honor softball student-athletes from the Association’s 10 regions with first, second and third teams selected for each region. The all-region teams were voted on by NFCA member coaches from each respective region, and all the honorees now become eligible for selection to one of three 2016 NFCA Division I All-American teams.
The 2016 NFCA Division I All-America teams will be announced at approximately 4 p.m. CT on Wednesday, June 1, via NFCA.org.