AKRON, OHIO -- The Mid-American Conference announced today the 2011 All-MAC teams, MAC All-Freshman team and the specialty award winners today at an awards ceremony during the 2011 MAC Softball Tournament at Firestone Stadium.
MAC Regular Season Champion and West Division Champion Western Michigan Broncos' head coach Kathy Leitke was named MAC Coach of the Year by her peers. Leitke is in her 11th season as the Bronco head coach, has taken the WMU team to the top of the West Division and the conference with a 14-6 record. Western Michigan claimed the regular season MAC title, its fourth in program history, first since 2006 and third under Leitke, after missing the conference tournament a season ago. The Broncos won eight straight after starting the MAC season 4-4. WMU did not lose in its final nine home games this season and won two games in its last at bat to take the division lead. WMU has played eight teams this season that are currently ranked or ranked at the time they played. The Broncos' defeated Notre Dame, now ranked No. 21 by ESPN.com, to snap the nation's fifth-longest win streak and defeat the Irish at Melissa Cook Stadium for the first time since 1999.
Leitke's junior third baseman Gracie Barstad was named Player of the Year. The junior has started all 20 MAC games this season, serving primarily as the Broncos' third baseman. As the third baseman, Barstad is hitting .444 with 24 hits, including six doubles and nine runs scored. She leads the team with a .476 batting average in conference play with only two strikeouts in 63 at bats. She also leads the team in hits (30) and doubles (7) in conference action. Barstad has 10 multi-hit games in MAC play with a season-best three hits in a game on four occasions.
Garnering Pitcher of the Year honors was Miami's Jessica Simpson. The record seven-time MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week, she finished the year 11-7 with a 1.43 ERA in 21 conference appearances (18 starts). She led the MAC in strikeouts (114), innings pitched (132.0), shutouts (6) and complete games (17). In addition to her six shutouts, Simpson allowed two earned runs or less in all but three of her appearances. Simpson held opponents to a .221 batting average against and threw three two-hitters, the last of which she held a perfect game against Bowling Green on Apr. 29 until surrendering a single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. She made up for that by pitching her first career no-hitter against Northern Illinois, which came into the game hitting over .300 as a team, allowing only two walks. In 132 innings pitched, Simpson has allowed only 109 hits, 27 earned runs and 32 walks.
Stephanie Tofft of Northern Illinois was named this year's Freshman of the Year. Tofft has had an unbelievable freshman campaign for the Huskies. Her .440 batting average ranks 14th in the nation and she is the second highest hitting freshman in all of Division I and her on base percentage ranks 34th nationally. She carried a 36 game hitting streak into the final week of regular season play, just six short of the all-time NCAA record and she also had a 16 game conference hitting streak through the final week of the season. Her .471 batting average in conference play leads the MAC and she hit safely in 19 of 20 games and against every MAC opponent with 11 multi-hit games. She leads the Huskies in batting average (.440), slugging percentage (.601), on base percentage (.515), RBIs (37), runs scored (45), hits (74), doubles (15), total bases (101) and steals (17).
Receiving the prestigious Nan Harvey Award was Holly Finchum of Kent State. Nan Harvey was an integral part of the University at Buffalo family for over two decades her dedication and passion for women's sports and the game of softball were shown through her everyday commitment to excellence. This award is given in Nan's honor to a MAC player, coach or affiliate who demonstrates the type of commitment, leadership, toughness, and tenacious attitude that Nan Harvey epitomized. Finchum displayed that never-give-up attitude at the beginning of the season after suffering a cranial fracture in a car accident in January. She was forced to sit out the first 10 games of the season, but continued to provide leadership for her teammates. After missing a month of practice time, Finchum worked her way into the starting lineup and hit .300 in conference play. A psychology major, Finchum is a two-time NFCA Scholar-Athlete and recently graduated cum laude. She was named Student Leader of the Year at Kent State's 2011 Spring Leadership Awards Ceremony hosted by the Center for Student Involvement. Finchum's off-the-field responsibilities included serving as vice president on Kent State's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and president of KSU's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.
Also being recognized this afternoon were the First Team All-MAC, Second Team All-MAC and All-Freshman teams. Award winners are listed below.
All-MAC First Team
1B - Taylor Rager, Ball State
2B - Brittini Merchant, Central Mich.
SS - Molly Coldren, Central Michigan
3B - Gracie Barstad, Western Mich.
3B - Jessica Richards, Eastern Mich.
C - Sarah Gerber, Eastern Mich.
C - Amanda Montalto, Ball State
OF - Alyssa Collins, Ball State
OF - Danielle Parrish, Northern Illinois
OF - McKenna Russ, Eastern Mich.
OF - Lexie Jager, Western Michigan
Pitcher - Jessica Simpson, Miami
Pitcher - Meredith Whitney, Western Mich.
Utility Non-Pitcher - Stephanie Tofft, Northern Illinois
Utility Pitcher - Emily Wethington, Ohio
All-MAC Second Team
1B - Paige Berger, Bowling Green
2B - Andrea Colosimo, Northern Illinois
SS - Alexis Joseph, Ohio
SS - Stacie Skodinski, Eastern Mich.
3B - Daniela Torres, Miami
OF - Mel Bonner, Ohio
OF - Kathryn Russette, Miami
OF - Macy Merchant, Central Mich.
OF - Lindsey Tobias, Toledo
C - Adriana Sanchez, Northern Illinois
Pitcher - Kara Dornbos, Central Mich.
Pitcher - Lauren Wells, Eastern Mich.
Utility Pitcher - Kari Seddon, Central Mich.
Utility Non- Pitcher - Kristin Waldron, Buffalo
Utility Non- Pitcher - Jennifer Gilbert, Ball State
Katie Gross, Akron
Jennifer Gilbert, Ball State
Taylor Rager, Ball State
Holly Luciano, Buffalo
Brittney Horan, Central Michigan
Lauren Wells, Eastern Michigan
Alex Marcantonio, Kent State
Kirstie Fehrenbach, Miami
Shelby Miller, Northern Illinois
Stephanie Tofft, Northern Illinois
Coach of the Year - Kathy Leitke, Western Michigan
Freshman of the Year - Stephanie Tofft, Northern Illinois
Pitcher of the Year - Jessica Simpson, Miami
Player of the Year - Gracie Barstad, Western Michigan
Nan Harvey Award - Holly Finchum, Kent State